It’s All an Allusion: Identifying Allusions, in Literature and in Life

New York Times, February 9, 2012, 3:06 PM

It’s All an Allusion: Identifying Allusions, in Literature and in Life

By SHANNON DOYNEKATHERINE SCHULTEN and HOLLY OJALVO
Illustration by Shannon MayGo to related essay »
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Teaching ideas based on New York Times content.

Overview | What is an allusion? How often do you spot them, whether in your reading, in pop culture, in advertising or anywhere else? In this lesson, students read a Book Review essay about allusions in literature, take a quiz in which they identify allusions made in New York Times articles and headlines, then choose from a variety of activities to go deeper.

Materials | Computers with Internet access and printing capability.

Warm-Up | Ask students to define “allusion.” Check that they understand it as a“brief, usually indirect reference to another place, event” or to words spoken by or that depict a person or fictional character. Give a few common examples, like someone being described as a “Romeo,” an allusion to Shakespeare’s romantic but doomed tragic hero, or a person saying, “I never thought I’d move back to my hometown, but I guess deep down, I’m a Dorothy,” alluding to the “Wizard of Oz” character who learns “there’s no place like home.” You can also ask what is meant by calling a group of women “the real housewives of (name of your city or town)” and asking the source (wealthy, drama-prone women who have a similar look to those seen on the “Real Housewives” franchise). Ask, what would you expect if I called a certain boy an Edward? What about a Jacob? (main characters of the “Twilight” book and movie series). Have students name more allusions, explaining their meanings and sources.

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