We’re going to have a great year this year, focusing on how to establish your own dialogue with literature, and to recognize the dialogue that happens between literary texts from different periods.
I was reminded of this dialogue at midafternoon yesterday while driving with my eleven year-old daughter and listening to Chris Brown and Lil Wayne’s new work, “Loyal,” on the radio. I couldn’t help but think about how the dilemma of the hoes mirrors that faced by Antigone in the third part of Sophocles’ Oedipus trilogy. Even in Ancient Greece, a young woman could be forced into having to choose between loyalty to a person and loyalty to an idea. Perhaps CB and Lil Wayne had been reading Sophocles, or had recently attended a performance of that classic Greek tragedy when they were inspired to collaborate on this song. (Incidentally, collaboration will be a big part of our classwork this year.)
As much as I admire this recent homage to Antigone, the teacher in me can’t help but offer some suggestions for improvement. Perhaps you’ve noticed by the end of the song that the hoes are clearly not loyal; if this is Chris and Lil’s purpose, then they use repetition effectively to achieve it. But I think a more compelling inquiry for the song would have been, “why aren’t these hoes loyal?” Such an inquiry might have probed the tension within the hoes, the inner conflict that occurs when one set of values is placed in opposition to a new set of values. Perhaps Chris and Lil could have reflected a bit on whether or not they, or the ethos of their “club” subculture, is at all culpable for the hoes’ apparent disloyalty. Such an inquiry might have allowed them to use the song to gain some insight into themselves and the contemporary cultural context.
Certainly, in one way or another, each one of us can connect with Chris Brown’s hoes, or with Chris and Lil themselves, as we navigate the tricky currents of loyalty to people and to principles in a high school setting. Regardless, as far as our class is concerned, CB and Lil have done a fabulous job in helping young people establish a dialogue with a text that has aged oh-so-gracefully over these past 2,500 years.
As you can see, the classical texts we read in this course are almost directly connected to your own experience; all we’ll learn this year is to think in a way that allows us to see those connections. I can’t wait to get started.