Monday, August 11, 2008

satyrical maps and war dogs

If you are teaching the history of World War I, or war literature from the period, BiblioOdyssey features satyrical propaganda maps that make wonderful learning tools:

Maps that featured regional stereotypes, animals and assorted symbolic imagery and mythical and historic figures associated with particular countries became a popular vehicle in which prejudices, humour and political commentary could be assembled in a visual format.

The rise of the serio-comic map caricature genre, that had really begun in about 1870 (although the roots of the tradition stretch back at least to Munster's 'Geographica'** from the mid-1500s), reached its peak of popularity at the beginning of World War One.

The humorous propaganda maps stirred nationalistic fervour, mocked and belittled enemies and even served as a mnemonic tool for students to learn their geography. In many of the above maps you can see that the more distorted or grotesque depictions are saved for the least favoured nations while the home side is of course rendered as normal or heroic. The style declined in popularity as the war dragged on and film and posters became the more dominant media of propaganda. [quote from BiblioOdyssey]

Satyrical map publishers capitalized on visual appeal to inform the citizenry, but they also engaged their readers with the interactive appeal of a riddle:

Hark! hark! the dogs do bark!
The beggars are coming to town
Some in rags and some in jags
And one in a velvet gown

See if your students can solve the riddle.

Unfortunately, war is always relevant. Have your students draw a similar map depicting the current Russia-Georgia conflict, and write their own rhyming riddle.

Teachers of literature, here's the opening verse of Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" to get you thinking about a war poetry lesson plan with history and geography providing the structure:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares2 we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest3 began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots4
Of tired, outstripped5 Five-Nines6 that dropped behind.

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