Teaching A Death in the Family
Agee is a complex and fascinating writer to study in the classroom. Students will discover that his writing encompassed many genres -- film criticism, journalism, poetry, letters, fiction, and autobiography. A poet at heart, a journalist by trade, and a lover of cinema, Agee infused his writings with all these sensibilities.
A Death in the Family, his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that was published posthumously, weaves together many of these strands, and connects them through a deeply rooted sense of place and time. It is a chronicle of childhood, a childhood irrevocably and suddenly changed after the loss of a dearly loved father. Though it is sad, Agee manages to infuse his story with compassion and at least a small sense of hope. Both the film and the novel provide rich subject matter for discussion in the classroom and can lead to further exploration and writing assignments in many genres.
This section provides suggestions for how to segment the 84-minute film into two or three parts for classroom viewing.
Before Viewing: Questions and Activities
Here you will find ideas for discussion questions and activities to get students thinking before watching the film in the classroom.
After Viewing: Questions and Activities
This section features questions and activities to prompt discussion, writing, and thinking after students have watched the film.
Investigations and Extensions
Choose among these activities to broaden the study of Agee's works. Included are some ideas for students to experiment with genres such as film reviews, photography, plays, or poetry.
Novel to Film
Students can compare a scene from the written work to the analagous scene in the film. Use this feature to discuss the adaptation process and the types of artistic choices made by writers, filmmakers, and actors.
This lists biographies, literary criticism, and Web links about Agee and his works that may be useful for teachers and students.
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