TOWER HILL SCHOOL Upper School Academic Program 2012-2013 Upper School English Curriculum
(4 CU, required of all 9th graders) This course explores the ancient sources of myth and magic from many cultures, discovering the archetypes and themes that connect us all. To that end, the course is divided into six separate areas of concentration: creation stories and magical realms, major and minor mythical deities, heroes and quests, tricksters and devils, magical animals and objects, and wastelands and apocalypses. After tracing the origins of these tales, students will study the application of the myths in contemporary literature, film, and music, with an emphasis on learning how these stories reflect our human experiences. In establishing a firm foundation for strong critical thinking skills, students will write analytical papers in which they will formulate their opinions clearly and authoritatively, and they will begin to develop the skills necessary to write short stories, poetry, and personal essays. Works studied span centuries and hemispheres, ranging from William Shakespeare to Stephen Spielberg. Texts may include The Mythic Journey, Alice in Wonderland, Things Fall Apart, Much Ado About Nothing and Antigone, along with a variety of short stories and poetry. In general, the course seeks to raise students’ awareness of fundamental ideas prevalent in literature and film and to craft analytical and authoritative voice in their writing.
(4 CU, required of all 10th graders) This year’s American literature course will examine the many different perspectives from which American writing and culture can be viewed. Whether historical, geographical, political, spiritual or personal, such perspectives reflect the multifaceted American identities that comprise the national character and aesthetic. As part of this year’s intellectual journey, students will explore a range of texts, including East of Eden, Kindred, The Great Gatsby, Sula, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Death of a Salesman, as well as a diverse selection of short stories, poetry and films.
English Program for 11th and 12th Grades The aim of the 11th and 12th grade English program is to enable each student to think more critically, read more thoroughly and write more precisely as a result of challenging literary study. The courses are designed to focus in depth on particular authors, themes and areas of literature as a means of establishing critical skills. A sequence of four different semester courses in two years will provide each student with a comprehensive knowledge of various crucial aspects of American and other literature. The writing requirement for each course will be 1500-2000 words per month. This requirement will be met through several short papers, critiques, or a single long paper. Each course will require at least one major paper. The improvement of mechanical skills (e.g., spelling and punctuation) will continue to be stressed, as will the broadening of vocabulary, which will be an important component in the writing assignments.
Upper School Academic Program ~ English Curriculum ~ 2012-2013
First Semester Courses (each worth 2 CU) “Is you is, or is you ain’t?” Jazz is perhaps the only truly indigenous American art form. As it has developed, the emphasis has been on individuality and freedom of expression; consequently, it is not surprising that writers have responded to these ideas, which are also prevalent themes in American literature. In this course, students will explore the relationship between the music and the writing by studying the following: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo, Toni Morrison’s Jazz, Kerouac’s On the Road, and Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter. Fact and Fiction Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.”~Jessamyn West. This course will explore several works of historical fiction, examining both the “history” behind the story and the fiction created by the author. The course will include works such as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, and James Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. Planet Waves Students in this course examine the different ways in which authors have viewed “Spaceship Earth,” from the spiritual to the pragmatic, from the exploitative to the ecological, from the optimistic to the pessimistic. In encountering these different views, students will also be expected to develop their own visions of the world in which they live. Texts will include Desert Solitaire, Paradise Lost, The Songlines, White Noise, and Endgame. The American Novel and the Quest for Meaning in the Modern World This course will examine class struggle, moral dilemmas, alienation, madness, the absurdity of war, and spiritual longing as expressed in the nineteenth and twentieth century American novel. The novels will include John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Richard Wright’s Native Son, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Haunted Minds Horror writing has been seen as a genre that is “sensationalistic,” catering to the demands of the public for gore and violence. Yet, many notable authors, including Christopher Marlowe, Henry James, William Faulkner, and Joyce Carol Oates, have written well-crafted tales of the supernatural. The aim of this course is to explore what makes us afraid and why. Students will look at what elements of the genre allow us to tap into our individual and societal fears in a way that is both entertaining and “safe,” and examine whether those fears have changed or remained the same over time. Readings for this course include Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House, Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and James’s Turn of the Screw. 19 th Century British Novel The nineteenth century saw the novel develop into the dominant literary form that it is today. This course will try to establish what is particular about the nineteenth century novel by looking at representative works by major authors in a chronological sequence. Beginning with Jane Austen’s Emma, which typifies life and manners at the end of the eighteenth century, the course moves on to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and its analysis of destructive passion; Charles Dickens’ Hard Times will provide an insight into the novel of social responsibility; and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles will be studied as an example of the novel as it moved into the twentieth century.
Upper School Academic Program ~ English Curriculum ~ 2012-2013
What I Was: Representations of Childhood in Literature The poet William Wordsworth, looking back on his childhood, declares, “I cannot paint what I was then.” Yet many authors have tried again and again to recreate the lives and worlds of children in their novels, stories and poems. This course examines the presentation of children in literature written for adults from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Students will examine how the authors define childhood, develop their literary children, and express their ideas of society through the actions and voices of the youngest characters. Readings may include Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Henry James’ What Maisie Knew, Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, T.C. Boyle’s Wild Child, and William Faulkner’s The Reivers. The Fire and the Frying Pan Two pairs of decades in the history and literature of this country will be studied in this course. From the Great Depression of the 1930’s to the World War of the 1940’s, American literature chronicles the storms of poverty and violence. The burgeoning fortunes of the 1980’s and the broadening horizons of the 90’s bring with them a literature that addresses the sustaining complexity of this place—its diversity, difficulty, and paradox. How do American heroes journey across these years, their travels both eased and hindered by societal forces such as racism, war, and industry, to meet a new century—one of greater social awareness, digital prospects, and global interdependence? Texts, representing both American and non-American authors, will include Richard Wright’s Black Boy, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, Elie Wiesel’s Night, and sundry films, including Seabiscuit, Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix, and American Beauty. Shakespeare
This course rescues Shakespeare from the status of cultural icon, by exploring the psychological truths, the universal themes, the historical contexts, and the liberating paradoxes that inform the work of this extraordinary man of the theatre. Plays will be selected from among Hamlet, King Lear, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Henry V, Othello, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest.
Second Semester Courses (each worth 2 CU) The Writer’s Eye If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then what do we make of Leonardo da Vinci’s comment that “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen”? This course will examine the nature of the relationship between literature and the visual arts by studying works that feature those arts as central themes, settings and subject matter. The course texts will be chosen from Chip Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys, Ward Just’s Forgetfulness, Debra Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad, Dani Shapiro’s Black and White, Margaret Forster’s Keeping the World Away and Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty, as well as an array of film material. Modern American Poetry American physician and poet William Carlos Williams wrote, “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” Since Whitman, Dickinson and Frost, many American poets have published startling, transformative, and revelatory work—as varied as paintings hanging of the walls of modern art museums. This course will lead students through the gallery of modern poetry: Yeats, Pound, Eliot, Bishop, Sexton, Plath, Simic, Stern, Roethke, Kenyon, Olds, and many more. The inclusive look at this distinctly crafted short form will include post-modern forms such as rap, slam poetry and language poetry.
Upper School Academic Program ~ English Curriculum ~ 2012-2013
Chaucer and the Beginnings of English Literature This course aims to give students a firm grounding in some of the early works of English literature. The course will examine Beowulf and Arthurian legend, as well as a representative selection from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. An attempt is made to establish a sense of social context and to consider the authors’ ideas, humor, characterizations and narrative techniques. Adoption and Adaptation This course will examine the ways in which texts are reconfigured according to time, culture and context. To this end, students will read versions of the great Hindu epics, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, and discover what happens when these originally Indian works are retold elsewhere in Asia and in the West. Students will also use music, masks and puppetry to develop their responses to the work, both critically and through the act of storytelling itself. Myths and Motifs in Literature In this course, students will examine how classical and modern writers employ archetypal symbols to give their literature a universal and timeless quality. By examining multiple and diverse mythic narratives, the course will focus on the archetypes that form the basis of western literature. Texts will include Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. Literature of Social Justice This course uses literature and film to explore pressing social issues and ethical decision-making. The essential questions for the course include: What caused the financial crisis of 2008? On what basis do you make ethical decisions? What obstacles prevent people from achieving prosperity? Works in this course include Inside Job, Nickel and Dimed, Amazing Grace, The Sunflower, Hard Times, and The Crucible. In addition to the essays usually required in English courses, students will prepare short writing assignments, sharing their personal reactions to ethical issues as they seek to understand their own moral foundations and processes for making good decisions. “New York, New York!” In the span of four hundred years, Manhattan Island has been transformed— from a natural oasis to the urban bastion it is today. This course will trace that metamorphosis by studying the literature of New York along with the music, architecture, and economics that have helped usher this trading post into global status. Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Irving’s short fiction, Doctorow’s Ragtime, and the works of many others have all characterized the mythic streets of New York. These authors’ art, along with that of Scorcese, Lee, and Levinson, represent the core of our inclusive inquiry into New York’s literary history. The Iliad and The Odyssey Homer’s epic poems are an essential foundation of western literature. In this course, students will examine these poems and draw connections between the ancient world and the modern, as they explore the sweep and subtlety of these two genuine masterpieces. Shakespeare
Refer to the first semester course description.
English Elective Creative Writing (1 CU, limit of 8, 1st semester) We live in a world of images—pictures come at us from all sides in the form of advertising, television, and editorial vignettes. Words swim around us too— slogans, pitches, text messages, and screen crawls. This course seeks to restore the heft of the word—to make it new again to each of us with original daily writing exercises, reading, and adventures in language. Students will explore these genres, along with their own voices, by both reading examples and writing original work: poetry, flash fiction, short fiction, memoir, and screenplay.