Besides being just a great & riveting book to read, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly is also loaded with lots of material that can be tied into the classroom. It’s already full of discussion topics perfect for the English classroom (see the reader’s guide we featured yesterday for ideas) — but there are other subjects that can be addressed through Revolution — namely history and music. Here are some topics from both subjects that you can explore further through Revolution:
Though most of Jennifer Donnelly’s novel takes place in the present day, many of the characters are still deeply involved with researching and studying moments from the French Revolution. And most notably, it was during this tumultuous time that the diary Andi finds was written. She becomes obsessed with this diary and the story of its author, Alexandrine — all revolving around the political changes that took place during the French Revolution.
While the French Revolution is a broad subject, there are some events & figures which specifically apply more to Revolution than others:
- The Women’s March on Versailles
- The Fall of Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette
- Maximilien Robespierre & the Jacobins
- Napoleon Bonaparte (and his early rise to power)
- Duke of Orléans & his role in the Revolution
- The Palais-Royal
- Paris Catacombs
The story of Louis-Charles, the youngest son of Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette, is central to the story of Revolution. The tragic end of his life plays a crucial role in both the contemporary life of the character Andi and the historical life of the character Alexandrine. It was also the story of Louis-Charles that originally inspired Jennifer Donnelly to write Revolution in the first place — the story of his tiny heart kept in a glass case, and the cruelty he faced in the last years of his young life.
This is perhaps they key most central historical element that can be taken from Revolution. Further study can include looking into the Dauphin’s young life, how that changed with first his parents imprisonment (and their deaths) and then with his own imprisonment. There have also been countless rumors and stories that perhaps he escaped prison and survived, though most accounts have been disproven.
In Revolution, Andi is hard at work researching her senior these project, exploring what she calls “musical DNA” and how music of the past shaped music of the present. This is actually a really fun way to explore classical music’s influence on what you hear on the radio today.
The primary musical influence mentioned throughout Revolution is Amadé Malherbeau — a fictional 18th century composer. So while it’s impossible to study this particular figure, readers can explore other late 18th century composers and other musical influences mentioned throughout the book.
In the book, Donnelly specifically mentions Bach and Beethoven numerous times (though it should be noted that Beethoven was just beginning his musical career in the late 18th century). Here are some other notable composers from the late 18th century worth exploring:
These are some of the contemporary bands mentioned throughout Revolution that are also worth exploring:
You can follow in Andi’s footsteps and explore how real classical composers have shaped and influenced the music of today. Can you think of any examples of contemporary music that borrow from classical pieces?