|"Nighthawks" (1942) by Edward Hopper via Wiki Images|
Sunday's chat featured a "reading" of Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" and is one of the most fruitful chats I've attended. Susan Barber (@susanclaireb) led the discussion, but Brian Sztabnik (@TalksWithTeachers) founded #APLitChat.
Each chat begins with a Warm Up (WU) question; this week's WU inquired about our favorite piece of art or artist. I mentioned Picasso's "Guernica," which I will be writing about later this month. And since Brian mentioned his love of Salvador Dali, I shared a photo of Dali's Girl in a Window," which I saw at the Museo Reina Sophia during my recent trip to Madrid.
|"Figure at a Window" by Salvador Dali (1925)|
Original photo of the painting.
For me the highlights of #APLitChat include learning my colleagues' thoughts about a text and seeing if their ideas harmonize with my own. Hopper's painting suggests isolation and loneliness in the midst of occupying space with others.
Other than reading a text prior to discussion, I don't study up for #APLitChat. I often join the chat with no idea of the topic, and I've never used Hopper's painting in class. The chat Sunday reminded me that I need to infuse more art into my AP Lit and Comp class.
However, I did note the absence of traditional plot and narrative structure in the painting after Susan asked where the "event" would appear on a plot line. Additionally, we discussed other texts with which we'd pair the painting. I thought of "All the Lonely People" by America, and someone mentioned "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Salinger are among the authors whose works my fellow AP Lit and Comp colleagues would pair with the Hopper painting.
Finally, some folks shared some amazing resources, which I have saved in my Diigo account for later use. I gleaned a lesson plan on Hopper's painting, a couple of articles about visual literacy and using art to teach critical thinking.
The chat spawned a lot of thought, including ideas about additional poetry I could use with "Nighthawks" and ways I can modify a poetry unit into the senior project my students most complete, and after the chat I found a good Kahn Academy video about the painting that would be a nice conclusion to a class discussion.
Hopper paints an image of isolation in modern America, but through PD on Twitter and #APLitChat, teaching feels a lot less lonely and a lot more congenial.
Further Thoughts on "Nighthawks"
"Nighthawks" is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, which offers the following commentary on it:
Edward Hopper said that Nighthawks was inspired by “a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet,” but the image—with its carefully constructed composition and lack of narrative—has a timeless, universal quality that transcends its particular locale. One of the best-known images of twentieth-century art, the painting depicts an all-night diner in which three customers, all lost in their own thoughts, have congregated. Hopper’s understanding of the expressive possibilities of light playing on simplified shapes gives the painting its beauty. Fluorescent lights had just come into use in the early 1940s, and the all-night diner emits an eerie glow, like a beacon on the dark street corner. Hopper eliminated any reference to an entrance, and the viewer, drawn to the light, is shut out from the scene by a seamless wedge of glass. The four anonymous and uncommunicative night owls seem as separate and remote from the viewer as they are from one another. (The red-haired woman was actually modeled by the artist’s wife, Jo.) Hopper denied that he purposefully infused this or any other of his paintings with symbols of human isolation and urban emptiness, but he acknowledged that in Nighthawks “unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.”