Beyond IQ

Bread and Circuses:
Hunger Games, Oppression, and Resistance
(Section 2)

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Instructor: Lisa Fontaine-Rainen
3-10 students

Meets: Thursdays, 2:15-1315pm; 15 weeks, starts Jan. 28th.


Children vs. children sounds absolutely horrific – and it is, it must be, because that kind of horror is a tool to create the oppressive atmosphere of a controlling authoritarian government.  At the same time it provides the kind of dramatic mind-consuming entertainment the privileged in such a nation must experience to keep them placated.

Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series explores oppression and the inevitable resistance that rises out of such oppression..  The parallels to historical examples, particularly the Roman Empire, and much of the modern world, abound. In this course we’ll explore those parallels, working towards understanding effective resistance, and examining some of the problems that arise in revolution.  We’ll discuss Roman gladiators and reality television as different aspects of the same circus.

We’ll also delve into the developments that might lead from our current world to the world of Hunger Games, scientifically, environmentally, economically, and otherwise.  We’ll explore psychology, sociology, technology, biology, and architecture all through the lens of the books.


In this first course of the series, we will focus most on the tools of oppression used by authoritarian regimes as displayed in Hunger Games.  


Each week, we will compare some aspect of our reading to a particular historical or current event. 


Day 1: Chapter 1

Main comparison: Setting compared to current US, looking forward, what kind of apocalypse might have happened?

Topics:  Setting analysis, hunting ethics, cat symbolism historically, character analysis – Gale and Katniss, introduction to resistance, class divisions.


Day 2: Chapters 2 and 3

Main comparison: -NAI kids taking for education

Topics: The use of children  in oppression.  Role of the games in control.  Symbolism and the importance of symbols.  Sister relationships.  Technology analysis.  Role of tributes – comparison to sacrifices, Celctic rites.


Day 3: Chapters 4-5

Main comparison:  Alcoholism – both as a means of oppression and as a means of self-medication

Topics:  Addiction and alcoholism as forms of control, also in modern society .  Analysis of what we know of the district 13 rebellion.  Comparison – capitol vs. US culture.  Name analyses.  Circuses throughout history.  The role of appearance and fashion in culture and media.


Day 4: Chapters 6 and 7

Main comparison: White saviorism. 

Topics:  The role of story.  Coal and diamonds.  Avoxes – naming and maiming and oppression.  Rebelliousness as entertainment.  Talent and experience.


Day 5: Chapters 8 and 9

Main comparison: Gladiators – 1st half of Spartacus        

Topics:  Ratings analysis.  Relationships in YA books vs. reality.  Performance, interviews as entertainment.


Day 6: Chapters 10 and 11

Main comparison: Poverty theater as a current issue.

Topics:  Symbolism revisited.  Poverty theater and putting names and faces on issues to gain support, psychological impact of witnessing murder, technology and architecture of the arena,  using alliances as leverage – turning an ally.


Day 7: Chapters 12, 13, and 14

Main comparison: Chemical warfare

Topics: Analysis of technology/architecture of arena continued.  Psychological impact of being forced to kill someone.  History – drugs/mind-altering substances as weapons.  The use or shortages as a means of control.


Day 8: Chapters 15, 16

Main comparison:  Slavery and colonialism (globally)

Topics:  District oppression techniques.  Music, culture, and oppression of culture.  Hunger as a warfare tactic.


Day 9: Chapters 17, 18

Main comparison:  Reality television

Topics:  Survival skills analysis.  Reality television analysis.  How is love resistance?    Immigration issues around hunger and oppression.  Poverty and generosity.


Day 10: Chapters 19, 20

Main comparison: Political theater and elections

Paparazzi, politics (political theater), blood poisoning, symbolism and berries 


Day 11: Chapters 21, 22

Main Comparison:   Spartacus part 2.

Topics: Illusion of fairness, rules, why do romances capture our imagination.


Day 12: Chapters 23, 24

Main comparison:  Scarcity tactics

Topics: Implications of winning and oppression of the victors.  Comparison of the Western preoccupation with romance to how women are treated in some muslim countries – is it oppression or cultural differences?


Day 13: Chapters 25, 26

Main comparison:  Psychological warfare

Topics:  Bioengineering, muttations, psychological warfare, changing the rules as oppression.


Day 14: Chapter 27

Main comparison:  China under Mao Tse Tung

Book vs. movie – watch party.  Conclusions about Bread and Circuses.


Day 15: Review, student work, final thoughts.


There will be one break week.

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