English Elective for Grade 12
This course is the culmination of a student's progress in critical reading and in the development of a mature writing style. Students choose two single-semester electives designed to delve deeply into a particular theme, author, or genre. All of the courses demand extensive reading, discussion, and writing.
Creative Writing: Contemporary Short Fiction
This is a course aimed at promoting the enjoyment and appreciation of contemporary short fiction. Students are expected to make informed literary responses to the readings - a skill central to every course in the English department - and to try their hands at the craft of writing the short story. This is not going to be a survey course, but instead concentrates on the works of some of the best known, and some lesser-known, writers working in the English language today. Though most of the artists are not those recognized as part of the more traditional academic canon, they invite rich academic study. The student understands how individual stories work, and how authors use the formal resources of narrative. The second aim of the course is to incite and nourish literary enthusiasms beyond the course's scope. The student also develops the ability to analyze texts within their social, political and cultural context. We also look at a few writers who are quite dead physically, but very much alive artistically.
Creative nonfiction is synonymous with memoir or autobiography. The conversation, however, has become one not necessarily about who a person is and what his or her experiences are, but how he or she tells the story. Inevitably, it often ends with a reader wondering, "How true is this?" We begin with Stephen King's On Writing before moving into Annie Dillard's An American Childhood, Tara Westover's Educated and David Small's Stitches. Students will both read and write a great deal of creative nonfiction essays and must be open to whole class essay workshops. Each student will write a short memoir.
Introduction to the Study of Shakespeare II
Introduction to the Study of Shakespeare II is a continuation of Introduction to the Study of Shakespeare I. It may be taken independently or as the second half of a yearlong course. Shakespeare II will look at the ways in which Shakespeare study and performance continues to evolve in the 21st century. We'll read plays in class and act out scenes according to the original rehearsal and staging practices of Shakespeare's day. This course will pay special attention to Shakespeare education. To that end, we'll read Ralph Alan Cohen's text Shakesfear and How to Cure It. This book is a contemporary guide to Shakespeare education by the director of the American Shakespeare Center. We'll also use the ASC method of reading and interpreting plays for staged performance. Throughout the course, you'll develop and use skills of reading, writing, rehearsing, and acting. Students will be graded on their participation and for the various papers and projects in the course. Different grading rubrics will be used for each project.
In this course, we will address our obsession with horror. We will consider some of the monsters of poetry, short fiction, novels, illustration, and film, addressing the various uses of the literary monster, as well as some of the most popular of our contemporary monsters: vampires and werewolves. We will pay attention to the romance-monster hybrid. We may read Beowulf, Shelley's Frankenstein, Rosetti's Goblin Market, Bram Stoker's Dracula, as wel as work by Anne Sexton and Angela Carter. Our study should bring us to consideration of Stephanie Meyers, Jonathan Stroud, and that now-cult-classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We could even consider Beowulf with the new reconception, The Mere Wife, a modern retelling from the perspective of Grendel's mother, a veteran of the Iraq War.
Edward P. Jones and Thomas Pynchon
Edward P. Jones and Thomas Pynchon represent two of the most distinguished, and enigmatic, writers in modern American culture. The literary critic Jonathan Yardley writes that Jones is "in the first rank of American letters" and "one of the most important writers of his own generation." Yardley describes Pynchon "as a giant, sui generis, of modernist fiction," representing the "new fiction of the new world." The class will explore the short story collections of these two MacArthur Fellows.
Hey, Big Brother, Watcha Watching? A Course in George Orwell
This course will give students the opportunity to read deeply in the work of a single, major author: George Orwell. He has had a global impact in the way we think about surveillance, political oppression, and free speech. Although his most famous work is set in 1984, he has never seemed more relevant. From the common adjective "Orwellian" to the terms "thought police" and "wrongthink" to the worldwide hit reality show Big Brother, this author continues to define the terms and frame the manner in which we think about oppression in modern society. Students in the course not only will read Orwell's major novels and essays but also apply them thoughtfully to the debates and conditions of our contemporary world.