Archives For Jules Verne

Tandem Reading _GVLExcluding ‘The Floating City,’ ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ is our second Jules Verne classic utilising a tandem reading out loud strategy.

For our first tandem reader our 3rd and 5th grade homeschoolers, journeyed through ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Seas.’ Each took turns at reading a page, stopping at key points to investigate significant historical events, including geography and marine biology.

This came about because I had decided to revise our reading out loud time after a time management crisis; I was trying to fit a lot of exciting themes and educational opportunities into such a small timeframe. The individual reading of different books out loud, at different times during the day, was not as effective as I’d hoped it would be.

Reading Verne out loud and in tandem offered me a way to implement a more rounded reading routine. The aim was to deal with a large amount of new information in small, fun and interesting pieces. A primary part of this process was journaling about each chapter, focusing on the action (verbs).

I was then able to monitor the progress of reading and comprehension more closely. By creating opportunities for discussion about the current status of the characters and where they think the storyline is headed, I’ve also been able to partake in the joy of the adventure without adding more pressure to the workload.

The added bonus here is that Verne was French. As a well-travelled French novelist his perspective is broad and insightful. It meant that when we sat down to watch the American movie version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, our homeschoolers were able to discern the cultural and literary differences. For example: the screenwriters wrote for an American audience, whereas Verne’s audience was primarily European.

Our kids pointed out that Ned Land’s behaviour, dialogue and character in the novel is more humorous. Whereas the Disney movie presents a more serious and restless character. They came to their own conclusions about the differences between film and book, taking serious issue with some scenes and the ending of the movie.

Rather than buy duel copies of each book, we’re utilising e-readers. For this job the Kindle readers have served us well. The benefits of the Kindle outweigh its drawbacks. The benefits being an inbuilt dictionary, Kindle for P.C., highlighting for future reference and cost. The drawbacks are battery life, location numbers and the loss of that book-in-hand experience. As for the location numbers they are sometimes matched against actual page numbers, but I’m probably not alone in wishing that Amazon would just drop the former and stick with the latter.

Adding to the benefits of reading these 19th Century classics out loud is the language. Each book has its own unique set of verbs, adjectives and nouns. So much so that they are great for vocab building. Not only are our homeschoolers spelling the words and working with definitions, but they are reading them in a firm historical context.

This said, our journey hasn’t been without its struggles. Being over 120 years old, Verne’s use of vernacular and the depth of his vocabulary shows it’s age. So, the progress can be slow going. When this happens it’s up to me to make an extra effort so that these hard parts are as much fun to get through as seeing what happens in the story next.

In order for this to work well I’ve had to make sure that I am clear with our homeschoolers about what I expect and don’t expect. For instance it’s not vital for them to retain things like the Latin names of categories that Verne throws our way.

The outcomes so far have been some improved reading, comprehension and further familiarity with scientific concepts. If I’m forgiven for being bold enough, I’d even follow this up with increased appreciation for teamwork, communication and the benefit of being introduced to historical events otherwise overlooked in some history curriculums.

Tandem reading out loud is new for us. The teaming up of a more advanced reader with a less advanced reader has helped both. It’s a learning technique that we’re still exploring.

As much as I like it, we won’t being using this technique with any and every book.The format seems to best fit big adventures and older style writing. For us, Jules Verne has been a good fit, preparing us for a time when they’re more than ready to tackle something like John Bunyan’s, 1678, ‘Pilgrims Progress.’


Related posts:

Brunel, Verne & The Great Eastern

Flying Cohesion

God’s Grace, Jules Verne & The World That Revolves On The In-Between

Jules Verne BrittanicaDespite what might be a popular conception for those of us, raised in, by, and with pop-culture, author, Jules Verne (1828-1905) was neither American nor British.

Verne, the author of ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Around The World in 80 Days,’ was French.

He wasn’t a curious atheist or even a fierce agnostic. Not that being an atheist or agnostic disqualifies anyone from having anything of value to say.

It’s just worth noting that there is a distinction between the man and any perpetuated assumptions that deconstructionism, selectively-applied-to-support-an-agenda might create. (Through, say, it’s presumed, superior grasp of authorial intent?)

By which, I mean, the inadvertent creation of a long-winded meaning, in order to explain a meaning, but which ends up having nothing to do with the author’s actual, original and intended meaning.[i]

Verne was, according to common belief, a deist.  An unorthodox Christian belief that became popular in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries.

Evidenced by the concept that, ‘God helps those who first help themselves’.[ii]

Or as is understood by our Muslim neighbours in the Quran as,

‘Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.’[iii]

More precisely, deism is

‘a movement of rationalistic thought that acquires knowledge of God solely by the use of reason as opposed to knowledge gained through revelation (God’s making himself known; Jesus Christ) or church teaching.’[iv]

With some amount of caution about oversimplifying deism, it is, in a sentence, Christianity without Christ. It has little to nothing to do with grace, gospel or the relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has chosen to establish, rescue and then secure, with humanity.

The five points of deism are:

  1. ‘the belief in a supreme being
  2. the obligation to worship
  3. the obligation of ethical conduct
  4. the need for repentance of sins
  5. divine rewards and punishments in this life and the next’[v]

It could be argued that deism is syncretism, landing somewhere in the middle of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Their similarities fused together in a way that allows for the possibility of an absolute reason-in-unison between the three. Not quite universalism.

It’s easy to see why deism was attractive. It advocates an easy tolerance.  Appearing to be justified by reason it’s seen as a useful tool for mediation, one that ignores differences. Conveniently, God’s relationship with us is reduced to a utilitarian, religious checklist that is then imposed back onto Him.

Effectively, God’s reconciliationMaritime steampunk in the uniqueness of Christ is displaced. He is reassigned to the role of under-Lord who exists to meet the desires, wants, progressive goals and universal happiness of His human-overlords.

The outcome being totalised subservient coexistence.

Held out at a distance God is detached. His transcendence over-emphasised, He is thought to be unmoved until we choose to move.

Consequently, God’s free act in Christ is stolen. Like the prodigal son’s father, God’s decision to move before we do is overlooked. His reach and run towards us rejected as foolish, embarrassing and undignified.

Driven by hypocritical intolerance, this empowers a push towards the slow annihilation of the Christian. God is enslaved, Christ subsumed. In its place is established the quintessential, dysfunctional kingdom of man or woman. The unexpected result being the embodiment of terror; power held in place by the tyranny of suspicion and the misuse of appearances to manipulate reality in order to maintain such power.

In truth this easy tolerance is a ruse. At best it’s only an uneasy truce between those in the West who seek to displace Christianity and elements of fascist ideology that, in part, still marches on through the desert sands of the Middle East and the halls of Western academia.

As for Verne, perhaps his later works are an enquiry into this. Perhaps they are a judgement on humanity about what can happen when progressive optimism turns into human arrogance.

The caution and detail within Verne’s tales show that he was a keen observer, not a prophet. His words are a reminder to the over-confident, self-assured and tenured wise.

Not a lot of accessible contemporary debate[vi] appears to exist about how much his theism was influenced by deism, and how heavily or not, deism or theism might have influenced his work.

Most commentators seem to settle comfortably on the point that Verne rarely mentions Jesus Christ, so his deism is considered unquestionable.

On the surface they appear right. However, doubt about their conclusions is justified. For example: Verne had apparent fascination with Mormonism.[vii]

In the relatively unknown, 1871, publication ‘A Floating City’, Verne, in response to the sails of the Great Eastern being drawn out of respect for a Sunday Church service at sea, writes:

‘I thought myself very fortunate that the screw-propeller was allowed to continue its work, and when I inquired of a fierce Puritan the reason for this tolerance, “Sir,” said he to me, “that which comes directly from God must be respected; the wind is in His hand, the steam is in the power of man.” I was willing to content myself with this reason, and in the meantime observed what was going on, on board.’[viii]

In addition, certain parts of ‘A Floating City’, ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Around the World in Eighty days’ provide us with evidence of Verne’s respect for traditional Christian devotion, it’s place in society mixed with a healthy criticism of the church-as-institution.

For now, outside quick token mentions of deism, those details are left to trivia and the footnotes of historians.

Yet, without real enquiry, or interest in it, any debate about Verne’s faith and theology will remain locked in speculation.Relegated to the rubric of opinion. Any conclusions will remain quietly hidden within the realms of mysticism, steampunk fashion, and the realm of science-fiction, a category that Verne is too easily assigned.

 

“Static objects mustn’t be confused with dynamic ones, or we’ll be open to serious error.” – Captain Nemo [ix]

 


References:

[i] Wordy, I know, but…it makes sense when you think about it.

[ii]  A quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, this is, however, more than likely a proverb which originated in Classical Greece.

[iii] Quran 13:11

[iv] Mcdonald, M.H in Elwell, W.A (Ed.) 2001 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed. Baker House Publishing Company (p.329)

[v] Ibid.

[vi] It’s difficult to find any.

[vii] Verne mentions it with an air of fascination in both A Floating City, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

[viii] Verne, J. 1871 A Floating City (Illustrated) Kindle Ed. (p.45)

[ix] Verne, J. 1869 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, BookRix GmbH, Kindle Ed. (p.29)

Images:

1. Jules Verne, Brittanica.com

2. Photo of an old divining suit I took in Ballina, NSW. Filtered using picmonkey.

Flying Cohesion

April 30, 2015 — 1 Comment

Flying cohesion.

Faith and science in unison.

Tin cans in motion.

‘I have noticed that many who do not believe in God, believe in everything else’

– (Jules Verne, ‘A Floating City’ 1871, p.26)

Flight

Lesson collage_Industrial Revolution_Maritime travel and technologyWith a little help from Jules Verne and a Netflix documentary [ii], our homeschoolers researched, drew then wrote about engineer, and visionary, Isombard Brunel’s, passenger liner, ‘The Great Eastern.’ The first ship made mostly of Iron.

This massive ship was built between 1852 and 1858. Deemed a commercial disaster, due to low demand, it was utilised to lay the transatlantic cable, being the only ship afloat that could carry the load. The Great Eastern was later refit to once again carry passengers.

In 1867, Jules Verne travelled on board the boat from Liverpool to New York [ii]. Documenting his travel and noting almost every detail of the ship, inside and out, he wrote,

‘this steamship is indeed a masterpiece of naval construction; more than a vessel, it is a floating city.’ [iii]

In 1889, The Great Eastern’s days were over. The ship was scrapped and its material recycled.

In addition to discussing this monumental building and design project, we examined both the human and environmental costs of iron shipbuilding, coal and steam-powered engines.

Of course, on paper, all of this sounds complex. Even, over the top.  It wasn’t.

Throughout this our homeschoolers were able to point out three things: the mistreatment of people, and the pollution produced in making and running the ship. This added a whole new element to the discussion.

Consequently, we were able to briefly look at the lack of workplace safety considerations and the lack of workers rights in that age. Included in this was the issue of child labour and the ever relevant concept that challenges even the most compassionate of capitalists: the constant challenge to balance cost, profit and vision, with the safety and rights of the people involved.

 


Sources:

[i] BBC, 2011 ‘Seven Wonders of the Industrial World’

[ii] University Of Bristol, 2006  ‘Brunel’s Great Eastern: A Floating City’

[iii] Verne, J. 1871, ‘A Floating City’, Kindle Ed.  (p.2)