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Students get ‘Lost’ in literature classes

Professor Sarah Clarke Stuart (top) teaches a class about "Lost" (below)

Smoke monsters, time travel and alternate realities are the topics of discussion in UNF Professor Sarah Clarke Stuart’s
English classes.

Many UNF students are getting the chance to discuss and write about the television phenomenon “Lost,” comparing the show to
works of literature similar to or talked about in the hit ABC show.

Stuart, an adjunct English professor, began incorporating themes and elements from ABC’s hit show into classroom discussions two years ago. She enjoys watching science fiction shows such as “Fringe” and “Battlestar Galactica” but said she also enjoys watching “Glee” here and there.

Stuart felt using television shows would allow easier consumption of the complex books used in the course, such as Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw.”

“It’s the most passive form of entertainment, you just sit there,” she said.

She feels the students benefit from this method tremendously, and the craze which comes with the show increases vocal interactions between students.

“They benefit in that they’re doing a critical reading, a critical interpretation of something that normally you would passively consume: television,” Stuart said.

One of the works the students talked about in Stuart’s spring 2010 class “Lost and Found: Finding Religion in Science Fiction
Television,” was “Alice in Wonderland.”

The students received the chance to compare the themes of altered identity and different states of reality to “Lost” and conduct analysis of the parallels between the different forms of media. When discussing the connections between ‘Alice’ and “Lost,” Stuart said one similarity is the use of “holes” — the rabbit hole in ‘Alice’ and the hatch in “Lost” — to enter new and unfamiliar areas.

Two students who took the ‘Lost and Found’ class weighed in on their experience in the classroom. Leigha Carter, a psychology
junior, found the class intriguing and used other shows such as “Dexter” and ‘Battlestar’ to discuss themes found in the shows. Carter enjoyed studying the topic of fate versus free will in relation to the television shows.

“It made me take an academic standpoint on something that I was just a crazy fan of,” she said.

Christian Telmosse, an education sophomore, said he will be looking closer at the programs he watches on television.

“There’s certain aspects of television that you watch, and you don’t necessarily find religion,” Telmosse said. “There’s hidden messages [or] hidden symbols in the movies, in the television that you don’t necessarily find when you watch it sitting down at home.”

“Lost” is not the only television series discussed in Stuart’s classes. The ‘Lost and Found’ class also used other popular shows, including “V,” “Flash Forward” and ‘Battlestar’ as tools to reignite interest in the books the students were required to read earlier on in the course.

Stuart uses Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” in many of her classes to discuss the topics of time travel, identity and redemption.

Religion is a topic discussed frequently in her “Lost”-centric classes, and — spoiler warning — with the reveal that the characters in the show all end up in the afterlife, it seems like an appropriate topic to discuss about the show.

The class finds theological concepts and imagery from several major world religions — including Christianity, Hinduism and
Buddhism — to spark discussion in the show.

The professor hopes her classes will get students to look at other media like you would a classic work of literature.

“They can go back to other forms of media, maybe even video games, other television shows, films and engage actively rather than just being a passive viewer,” Stuart said.

She is currently working on a book, “Literary Lost,” which discusses themes the show delved into during the show’s six-season run. She discusses books like ‘Slaughterhouse’ and “Robinson Crusoe” to explore the ideas of group dynamics and rebirth.

E-mail Tyler White at
[email protected].

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