O, Brother, Where Art Thou?

Kriss Heiks
Day/Time Taught: 
MWF 1:00 – 1:50 pm
Course Number: 

O Brother Where Art Thou is an incredibly reference-rich film that is by nature multi-disciplinarian. Additionally, the film is a useful tool for demonstrating connections between past and present, personal and cultural perspectives, hoodoo and Christianity, traditional gender roles and feminism, and the universal narrative of “trying to get home.” By referencing such seemingly disparate subjects as The Odyssey, the civil rights movement, Grimm's fairy tales, the history of radio, the Wizard of Oz, Marx's declaration that “religion is the opiate of the masses,” and the myth of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil, the film inevitably opens the door to a great deal of discussion and debate. By pairing both fiction and non-fiction works with particular scenes in the movie, students actively engage in a critical “close reading” of both written and film texts, learning in the process how to see beyond the surface and the obvious. Students will consider a variety of universal themes including the desire to “go home,” how society defines persons as “bona fide,” cultural definitions of the “devil,” and the American love-affair with the open road. Students will be asked to explore the ways in which these universal themes are played out historically and in contemporary life, creating clear connections between ancient myth (The Odyssey) and current events ( “The road home is through Bagdad”).   Finally, the film provides a rich musical review and soundtrack of both traditional mountain music as well as original Mississippi delta blues, providing students with an additional “text” to explore.

Since we are living in an age that is both increasingly inter-connected and isolating (Why talk face-to-face when we can text? Let me “friend” you on Facebook from the relative seclusion of my living room), I think it is important for students to discover the broader inter-relatedness between multiple disciplines, time periods, and belief systems.


Contact FYS

The First Year Seminar is part of the General Education Program located in Anne Belk Hall, Room 250.

Phone: 828-262-2028

Our mailing address:
First Year Seminar
ASU Box 32065
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608

Director of First Year Seminar:
Dr. Martha McCaughey

QEP Global Learning