The curriculum offerings for senior English change from year to year. English IV Honors courses are more narrowly defined, to make room for deeper, more complex analysis. Below are examples of recent courses.
Is colorblindness the key to racial harmony? Is White Privilege real? Why are some groups’ histories emphasized over others’? This course seeks answers through an investigation of the origin, function and evolution of race in the United States. It utilizes a diverse set of readings, music, and film to examine how power and economics influence history, culture, and identity. This course will develop students’ skills in media literacy, critical thinking, annotating, essay writing, collaboration, and dialogue. Ultimately, Burning Illusions will foster intellectual independence essential to not only critical thinking and academic success, but to becoming leaders in service of the greatest good.
What Moves in the Margin: Great Women Writers of the 20th and 21st Centuries
Grounded in the conviction that our shared humanity is more important and more powerful than the gender we may not share, this course will offer students the opportunity to turn the table on the patriarchal standards still embedded in current curricula through the study of texts produced by great women writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. These authors, like their canonical male counterparts, grapple in their texts with what it means to be human.
Built around works of literature that explore universal elements of identity, this course will provide students myriad opportunities throughout to reflect on the intersection of common, core identifiers such as gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation in the context of recurring themes related to: love; relationship (e.g. family, friendship, romantic); insider/outsider and the phenomenon of "othering"; and notions of beauty.
Aside from challenging stereotyped ideas of what makes a great writer, the course will also explore intersecting themes related to identity and personal agency in the context of community.
Possible texts for our consideration: Aphra Behn: "The Disappointment," Dale Spender: Women of Ideas: And What Men Have Done to Them (excerpts), Virginia Woolf: A Room of One's Own, Toni Morrison: Beloved; Playing in the Dark (excerpts), Jesmyn Ward: Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jeanette Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?, Zadie Smith: On Beauty, Elaine Scarry: On Beauty and Being Just (excerpts).
The Empire Strikes Back: Immigrant & Diasporic Voices in American and English Literature
This course will explore works of literature that have emerged from colonial and post-colonial territories during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will read works from representative English and American immigrant authors who work within the post-imperial framework, even as they assume the daunting challenge of cultural decolonization. Building on themes explored sophomore and junior year, we will consider questions such as: What effects did/does colonization have on individual identity and collective culture? How are those effects revealed in the works studied? What role does language play in the culture of imperialism? Is it significant that these authors write in the language of the colonial power? Authors and books for our possible consideration include: Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Chimamanda Adichie, Americanah; Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth; Tommy Orange, There There; Edwige Danticat, The Farming of Bones; Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You; and Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony; Ocean Vuong, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous.
1939: A World Recaptured
In this course, students examine the events of 1939, a year in which the world that we know was born. It offered earth-shaking moments of change, with the end of the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of World War II, and it anticipated later shifts with the introduction of television and the affirmation of big-time sports. The Depression ended, and the Holocaust officially began. The optimism of two great international fairs, one in San Francisco and one in New York, was tempered by Einstein’s belief, expressed to FDR, that the United States could and should build an atomic bomb. Labor unrest was both recalled by the release of Tom Mooney and limited by the Supreme Court ruling that sit-down strikes were illegal. The eventual end of colonialism was anticipated, peacefully by Gandhi in Mumbai and more violently by the IRA in Coventry, a city made famous a year later when the Germans blitzed it from the air. The United States officially looked to the past by declaring its neutrality as its allies mobilized to fight the Axis. It was a very good year for books (Day of the Locust; The Grapes of Wrath; Johnny Got His Gun; The Snows of Kilimanjaro; Pale Horse, Pale Rider; Farewell to Berlin; and Mother Courage to name just a few). It was an even better year for film with over a dozen absolute classics as well as some movies that have attained cult status. Some of the classics include Gone with the Wind; The Wizard of Oz; Stagecoach; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Ninotchka; Young Mr. Lincoln; Of Mice and Men; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; and Dark Victory. For cult films, you need to look no further than Mandrake the Magician; The Little Princess; Charlie Chan at Treasure Island; and Tarzan Finds a Son. Students examine a good deal of primary source material including newspaper and magazine accounts, movie newsreel reports, as well as footage from the German invasion of Poland and the free city of Danzig, from the New York World’s Fair, from Marian Anderson’s stirring rendition of the National Anthem before 75,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and from Lou Gehrig’s farewell to his fans. In addition, they read, they watch film, and they write. All students will end the course with a written research report on a topic of their own choosing.