We strive to help students express themselves with clarity and power orally as well as in writing. We want them to be able to generate authentic, nuanced questions and original ideas. Reading literature with sensitivity and exploring varied cultural perspectives are also critical. Students write frequently. Readings range from the canonic to the contemporary and roam over a wide landscape of cultures and voices both in original English and in translation. Most genres are represented, including novels, short stories, essays, poetry, plays, graphic novels, and film. Classes are taught seminar-style. Lecture is rare. Class participation is essential as students try out their ideas aloud.
Composition: Forms of the Essay
Tenth grade students will spend this class writing nonfiction: short summaries, descriptions, longer analyses, profiles, and narratives. The course approaches writing as a multi-step process that includes prewriting, drafting, and revision. In developing their own voices, students learn to be deliberate, persuasive, and creative in all written work. In the second half of the course students will continue developing their voices as writers, moving from the personal to the analytical. Readings include plays, novels, short stories, and poetry by such authors as Tim O’Brien, Chinua Achebe, Marjane Satrapi, and Adrienne Rich. Students are introduced to skills of literary analysis and develop their analytical voices through writing essays in response to readings.
Students write daily in this course, experimenting in genres that may include poetry, short story, microfiction, plays, and creative non-fiction. Study includes readings in each genre as models with emphasis on learning craft. Students share work with one another. Students also focus on the process of revising creative work, producing multiple drafts and critiquing. Each writer will create a portfolio of work.
Ethics East and West
Have you ever wondered what is the right thing to do? Are you interested in the difference between western and eastern philosophies and religions? This course begins with a study of the fundamental theories of moral philosophy that have shaped western ethics, including virtue ethics, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, contractarianism, and the ethics of care. We will then turn to the ethics of the east, as expressed most distinctly in Mahayana Buddhism, which emphasizes the cultivation of character as the path to a fulfilling life. We will then consider what each of these traditions has to offer the other. Finally, we will consider contemporary moral and ethical challenges in the light of these traditions. How do each of these traditions understand and respond to the current ecological, social, and economic challenges with which we are faced? In addition to primary texts, we will read Sandel’s "Justice" and Wright’s "The Six Perfections".
Introduction to Media Studies
How does the way we consume media influence the way we think about the world around us? How do we understand our own power and privilege through lenses of race, class and gender? How much of our own sense of ourselves socially constructed? How do we learn to “read” visual information in still and moving pictures? This class will address these questions, equipping students with the tools to analyze and critique various forms of media. Students will use the language of critical thinking (premise, implication, inference, assumption, ambiguity and nuance) to pull apart the messages layered in film, television, music, advertisements, video games, and social media.
Say What You Mean
Do your ideas seem richer, smarter, deeper in your head than they do when you share them? Is it hard to make a persuasive point in conversation, even when your idea is clear in your head? Do you struggle to capture the complexity of your thinking when you write? In this course students will explore and practice rhetorical skills to strengthen the efficacy between thought and language. If you think of yourself as a scientist, artist, mathematician, political activist, or musician, you’ll need to write well to share your insights with the world. This course will make use of all kinds of reading and writing techniques to pursue the simple goal of clarity in writing and speaking.
Writing for the Theater
.5 credit - fall
This is a writing course focused on reading and writing plays and screenplays. Through reading and writing dialogue, students will have a greater understanding of how to develop a play or screenplay through studying diverse forms and themes. Students will study the arc of writing by developing characters and a storyline. Students will read and analyze the structure and dialogue of selected plays and screenplays. Students will write weekly and bi-weekly writing exercises in order to explore the range and complexities of writing for the theater and for film. This will involve using a variety of writing prompts and experimenting with a variety of styles. Most of these exercises will be read aloud and shared in class. The goal will be that the student will complete a one-act play or short screenplay by the end of the trimester. Student plays and screenplays will be considered for a formal stage reading or a stage or film production to be shared with the community.
In the eternal quest for understanding, humanity has worn many lenses in order to see the world more clearly. In this course’s quest for understanding, students will don the heavy two-way lens of Existentialism, turning us as deeply inward as it does broadly outward. It is a mode of thought that commits us to a greater sense of self, our world, and our place in it. Although it brings, or rather illuminates, a heightened measure of despair, anguish, confusion, and alienation, this modern perspective, even as it seems to imprison us, simultaneously liberates us into a creative expanse of freedom and responsibility. As Jean-Paul Sartre concisely expresses, “man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” Through a committed exploration of inspired essays, stories, plays, and films, followed by personal creation, we will attempt to make ourselves and resolutely confront the inevitable obstacles along the path of this noble journey. The world may be ours, so what will we do with it?
Feminist Perspectives in Literature
This course will investigate iconic and influential historical and literary writing by women. We will read classic, subversive, and enduring women’s writing and trace the emerging and evolving subjects, themes, and formal innovations to explore the goals and strategies of women writers in the 19th and 20th century. We will also investigate current feminist trends and topics in literature and media. The second half of the class provides the opportunity for students to design and pursue an original project related to the themes of the course. Authors and theorists may include writers such as Sojourner Truth, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, bell hooks, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Sanger.
Reading Contemporary Short Fiction
In this class students will read, discuss, and write about short stories by contemporary masters of the form, representing a wide range of stylistic approaches. Authors may include Joy Williams, Lorrie Moore, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami, Amy Hempel, Edwidge Danticat, Ottessa Moshfegh, Junot Díaz, Lydia Davis, and George Saunders.
The eminent literary critic Harold Bloom wrote: “Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage.” In this course, students will focus on three or four of Shakespeare’s plays in depth. Discussion, acting, and writing will serve as tools for interpretation. Students will have considerable input into which of Shakespeare’s plays we study.