Attilia Gogel, who teaches IB European History, worked with me on a timeline of 20th century historical events central to a novel that my IB class reads, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Isiguro. I want students to look more closely at the Europeans’ developing ideas of government after WWI (as portrayed in the novel).
In preparation for this unit, students receive a brief introduction to the Treaty of Versailles and subsequent events in Europe that developed between 1919 and 1956, the primary years covered by the novel. I ask students to find the specific passages from The Remains of the Day that signify how the characters contributed to or were affected by each event on the historical timeline. This gives students an understanding of the developing ideas in Europe regarding dictatorship, democracy, and government; the underlying causes of WWII; the economic chaos that ensued in Europe after WWI; and the underlying reasons for the decline of the British Empire. In addition, students become more critically aware of the characterization, dialogue, setting, and tone as these elements create theme and contribute to purpose.
Students discover how “the remains of the British day” in Europe transpired in relation to all European events in Ishiguro’s novel, and they present their findings orally, recording their passages from the novel on a greatly enlarged visual replica of the historical timeline.