In the quarter-century during which I worked as a teacher of English, Media and Drama, this cluster of domains always seemed most interesting – for me and more importantly for my students – when it was testing boundaries, exploring productive confusions, negotiating contested areas. The fault-lines between literature and linguistics, canonical and popular culture, literacy and oracy, fact and fiction, image and language, childhood and adulthood, English and ‘other’ languages, history and the contemporary moment, new and old, digital and analogue, school and not-school – these were the places which energised me, my students and my colleagues. We tried to organise our curriculum around some of these themes, generally ignoring the constraints of the National Curriculum as it was first introduced, though informed by the debates that preceded and accompanied its introduction.
At a simpler level, it has always seemed to me that the kissing cousins of English, Drama and Media education were best seen in parity, rather than as a master-discipline and its two more or less obedient subordinates. One of the articles below uses the metaphor of a three-legged stool to suggest this relationship. Much of my research work has been focused on media education, and particularly on the media of film, animation and computer games. Yet these projects often cast a new light on how the core business of English might be reconceived: what Shakespeare would look like if young people could adapt the plays as videogames; how literary texts might connect with popular horror; how the literacy debate looks from the perspective of the participatory internet; how roleplay in drama and videogames might be related; how media-based play in young children constructs the building-blocks of drama and literacy. The articles and book chapters on this page all, in one way or another, investigate these kinds of question.
This is an extended study of the relationship between (English) literature and videogames, with examples drawn from a range of research projects. The book includes chapters on: ludo-literary aesthetics and narrative; literature, games and multimodality; ludo-literary literacies; game adaptations of children’s literature; and game design projects based on Beowulf and Macbeth.
Here’s a sample chapter, which outlines a number of game-making projects based on the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.
HOGWARTS VERSUS SVALBARD
Burn, A (2017) ‘Hogwarts versus Svalbard: Cultures, Literacies and Game Adaptations of Children’s Literature’. In Beauvais, C and Nikolajeva, M (eds) The Edinburgh Companion to Children’s Literature. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
a chapter comparing JK Rowling and Philip Pullman in relation to the literary value of children’s literature, and media adaptations, with a close comparison of the videogame adaptations based on the work of the two authors.
Burn, A, Bryer, T & Coles, J (2016) ‘Playing Beowulf: Bringing Literature, Drama, Media and Computing together in English for the new curriculum’. In Teaching English, National Association for the Teaching of English. Issue 12: no 69.
An article co-authored with UCL colleagues Jane Coles and Theo Bryer, describing the project on Beowulf in which we worked together with students, schools, UCL Anglo-Saxon and the British Library, exploring how Beowulf could be experienced through a range of creative activities in literature, drama and game-making.
ENGLISH, LANGUAGE AND LITERACY 3-19: MEDIA
Burn, A (2016) English, Language and Literacy 3-19: Media. Owen Education.
One of a series of booklets edited by John Richmond, proposing an alternative English curriculum.
THE THREE-LEGGED STOOL
Burn, A., Durran, J. and Franks, A. (2006) ‘Stories of the three-legged stool: English, media, drama, from critique to production’, English in Education 40(1), 64-79.
This article, co-written with colleagues Anton Franks and James Durran, proposes how a three-way union of English, Drama and Media offers the best way forward in debates about literacy, literature, performance, representation and creativity, using practical examples from classroom work.
PICTURES FROM A ROCKET: ENGLISH AND THE SEMIOTIC TAKE
Burn, A and Kress, G (2005) ‘Pictures from a Rocket: English and the Semiotic Take – an Interview with Gunther Kress. In Burn, A and Nixon, H (eds) English Teaching, Practice & Critique, Volume 4, Number 1 (May, 2005): Special issue on English and the Visual, online at http://education.waikato.ac.nz/journal/english_journal/
This interview with Gunther Kress explores how a social semiotic and multimodal approach to English can provide ways to recuperate the long history of implication of language, literature and the visual.
FROM MONTAGE TO MANGA
Burn, A and Nixon, H (2005) ‘From Montage to Manga: English and the Visual’. In Burn, A and Nixon, H (eds) English Teaching, Practice & Critique, Volume 4, Number 1 (May, 2005): Special issue on English and the Visual, online at http://education.waikato.ac.nz/journal/english_journal/
This editorial piece provides a brief overview of the relationship between literature and the visual in the context of English, arguing that the longstanding neglect of visual elements of literary texts needs to be challenged, and that the new visual media of comics, film and games should be incorporated into the curriculum.
POETS, SKATER AND AVATARS
Burn, A (2003) ‘Poets, Skaters and Avatars: performance, identity and new media’, English Teaching: Practice and Critique, Vol 2, No 2, Autumn 2003
This piece juxtaposes examples from English classrooms, considering what kind of creative making we could develop, how it can connect with literacy practices, but also with oral performance, poetic composition, and game-authoring.
Burn, A (2003) ‘Two Tongues Occupy my Mouth – poetry, performance and the moving image’, English in Education, Vol. 37, No. 3, Autumn 2003, pp 41-50
This article analyses poems written by bilingual students in my last GCSE English group (in 2001). The poems were a response to a poem by Sujata Bhatt about bilingualism. The students write their own poems, reflecting their own experience of bilingualism in English-Bengali, English-French, English-Mandarin. They also make films of their performance of the poems. The articles considers how they employ the two languages in conjunction with the semiotics of the moving image to convey their experiences, thoughts, feelings.
SPIDERS, WEREWOLVES AND BAD GIRLS
Burn, A (1996) ‘Spiders, Werewolves and Bad Girls: children reading horror’, in Changing English, October 1996
An article analysing my own classroom work on a school English and Media project based on Angela Carter’s Company of Wolves and Neil Jordan’s film adaptation.
Burn, A & Durran, J (2006) ‘Digital Anatomies: analysis as production in media education’, in Buckingham, D & Willett, R (eds) Digital Generations, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum
Written with my colleague James Durran, this book chapter explores how 13-year-olds remix Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet, and what they learn about Shakespeare, drama and the moving image in the process.
Burn, A (2006) ‘Multi-text Magic: Harry Potter in book, film and videogame’, in Collins, F and Ridgman, J (eds) Turning the Page: Children’s Literature in Performance and the Media, Bern: Peter Lang
This chapter, for a book on children’s literature, considers the Harry Potter phenomenon in the context of children’s literature, literacy and media. It draws on interviews with 12-year-olds who have read the book, seen the film and played the videogame of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It asks what kind of notion of literacy we would need to account for the ways in which these young people engage with the mythos of Harry Potter across these three media.
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT
Burn, A (2010) ‘A Very Long Engagement: English and the Moving Image’, in Wyse, D., Andrews, R. and Hoffman, J. (eds) The Handbook of English, Language and Literacy Education. London: Routledge. Pp 354-366.
An essay on the place of film in the English curriculum.
RULES OF GRAMMAR, RULES OF PLAY
Burn, A (2010) ‘Rules of Grammar, Rules of Play: Games, Literacy, Literature’, in Locke, T (ed) Beyond the grammar wars: A resource for teachers and students on developing language knowledge in the English/literacy classroom., London: Routledge
This is a contribution to a book about grammar and language resources for English classrooms. It considers the benefits of looking at grammar from the point of view of videogames, suggesting that such a strategy (coupled with a social semiotic view of grammar) might refresh classroom practices in this area, and engage with young people’s cultural experience.
CHILDHOOD, CHILDLORE AND THE MEDIA
The Introduction to an edited book representing a project on the work of the Opies, and on playground games as we found them in 2009-12.
Burn, A and Durran, J (2013) ‘Playing Shakespeare: Macbeth – Narrative, Drama, Game’. In Teaching English, National Association for the Teaching of English. Issue 1, February 2013.
An account of a project with Shakespeare’s Globe, developing a game-authoring tool for Macbeth, used by 13-year-olds to make their own games.
MEDIA LITERACY AND ENGLISH 1
Burn, A (2011) ‘Beyond the heuristic of suspicion: the value of media literacy’, in Goodwyn, A and Fuller, C (ed) The Great Literacy Debate. London: Routledge
A contribution to a book on the state of the literacy debate in the context of the history of the National Curriculum in England. This chapter puts the case for Media within English, arguing – as I have elsewhere – for a balance between attention to the rhetorics and poetics of the media.
MEDIA LITERACY AND ENGLISH 2
Burn, A (2010) ‘From Beowulf to Batman: connecting English and Media Education’, in Davison, J, Daly, C and Moss, J (eds) Debates in English Teaching. London: Routledge
Another book chapter on Media within English, this time using the example of a a game version of The Tempest made by 13-year-olds to make the points.