We offer our students a college preparatory humanities curriculum in a different format from that of many schools. Our courses are generally offered by semester, and conducted in small, multi-age seminars. While we do target specific developmental skills for underclassmen in more conventional courses such as American History or Expository Writing, most classes contain both literary and social science content so that students are required to approach the course’s subject from a variety of academic perspectives. Critical writing, independent research, seminar discussion and close reading are all emphasized.
Students are required to take classes in which they encounter several cultural regions (including, specifically, the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Eastern Asia, Southern Asia) and eras (which divide by region). No class could reasonably contain all modes of inquiry—archaeology is more applicable in some courses, political science in others, for example—but over the course of their time at the school, students will be exposed to the research methodologies of a wide variety of social sciences. Similarly, students will be exposed to a wide variety of literary forms that we believe are too often neglected in conventional English classes. These are not presented abstractly, but in their appropriate historical, formal, and cultural contexts. In aggregate, students master much of the same material they might have encountered in broad survey courses, but by approaching that material in a thematically centered, intensive, and cross-curricular fashion, students learn to make different connections, to examine and deliberate and to independently investigate as scholars do.
American Consumerism The student will examine historical changes in government and economy and mark the effects it has on the consumer. We buy governmental, economical, natural, technological change, whether triumphant or tragic, we buy. Status and stigma alike, we buy. The consumer in culture is nothing new and though we will at times slide back before the scope of this class as well as jump into the present, this class will do its best to contain itself in the era when Vietnam is slowing, deindustrialization is increasing and through when we invest past our means and create the housing bubble crisis.
American Politics and Society Since 1950 Course looks at the American political process to understand who wins elections and why. We will talk about what makes a successful candidate and a successful campaign, as well as what makes a successful president. In other words, how did we get to where we are today?
Crazy Rich People This class will explore the impact affluence may have on mental health. Through exploring social stratification theory and other sociological impacts of wealth, as well as case studies from Ethan Couch to John Paul Getty III, we will ask the question if having too much creates an environment in which social norms cannot be expected.
Jewish Immigration The Great Emigration to America begins with the unique year of 1881—following the assassination of the Czar, Alexander II—causing first major of pogroms in Russia and throughout Europe. This course examines the existing Jewish culture in Europe (already considering itself in exile—the great diaspora) though fictional and non-fictional accounts. Following the mass movement to the so-called New World, the course will focus on the experiences of immigrants in New York (its famed lower east side) and the impact these immigrants would have on American culture and commerce. Additionally, the course will focus on the assimilation process Jewish immigrants either found necessary for survival or refused as some desperately held on to old social and religious customs.
The Iliad In this course we are going to plunge deep into the origins of Western Literature- nearly 3000 years deep. If you are interested in Greek Mythology, the Trojan War, Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations, or just want to know more about the Bronze age collapse this is the course for you! Homer’s Iliad is more than just a book to read that is incredibly graphic (in violence) and visual (in metaphors). It is a great place to learn some essential skills for being a successful student: close reading techniques, effective note taking strategies, evidence evaluation, persuasive writing and critical reasoning. Students will examine Stanley Lombardo’s translation of the epic poem, read articles presenting evidence from the scholarly perspectives of archeology, anthropology and linguistics. There will be an assignment due for each and every class and those are listed below in this syllabus. There will be a mid-term and final exam, but don’t worry as we will also discuss test taking strategies that will help you study.
Irish Mythology Persian life through the lens of the family. In this class students will closely read and discuss poetry, short fiction, long fiction and serial graphic narratives by Persian authors. They will identify and analyze aspects of these differing literary forms; sharpen comprehension, research, study, discussion and testing skills; read forty to fifty pages a week; and complete several writing assignments geared toward their unique needs as developing writers.
Paradox of Poe Do you think you know Edgar Poe? He was not only the father of the horror genre, but a pioneer of the science fiction and mystery genres, a critic and satirist, a poet, a metaphysician, one of the first to propose the Big Bang theory, a hoaxster – and a deeply bigoted, greatly flawed, and often unlikeable human being. We will explore all these aspects of Poe, and his massive, diverse influence on American and European culture. Students will explore both the elements of Poe’s literary work and his complex relationship with the emerging national culture of an America still trying to define itself against Europe, and grapple with the many unavoidable contradictions in his life, work, and legacy.
Roanoke Studies Students will be introduced to a wide array of research skills, focusing on archival and primary-document research, while coming into a deeper appreciation of the place they live and the ways politics, culture, and economics affect daily life for everyday citizens. They will come to understand historiography from the ground up, by pursuing the entire historical process from identifying relevant archival documents all the way through curating and presenting material in oral presentations, papers, and museum-style exhibits. They will come to understand the social dimensions of academic work, both through the civic nature of the content and through collaborative research and continuous sharing of their findings with their peers. Students will finish the course with a strong and confident grasp of research methodologies, citizenship, and historical processes, preparing them for future success in the Humanities.
Russian Absurdists Russian Absurdists: Leningrad’s Interwar Literary Hooligans explores the turbulent politics and culture of early 20th century Russia from an artist’s-eye view, with a particular focus on the work of the OBERIU group – the direct inheritors of Russian Futurism and Suprematism. Close reading and discussion of poetry, short fiction, prose miniatures and visual art will help students to build their contextual interpretation and critical analysis skills. Students will read twenty to thirty pages a week, author one essay, give a class presentation and complete a take-home exam essay.
Shakespeare & The Globe Our semester comes with a focus on the rise and fall of the Globe Theatre and a few of Shakespeare’s plays that were performed during its first run. In addition to analyzing how elements of the plays were determined by the limits and advances the Globe provided, the next twelve weeks explores the socio-political environment in which theater artists operated from the years 1599-1613. “Shakespeare & the Globe” gives attention to important military triumphs like the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and one its infamous military disasters—campaigns in Ireland. For the former, such an unlikely victory opened for Elizabethan Englanders great optimism, economic growth and the new ideas about odd vagrants roaming the English streets, actors. The later haunted Londoners as the Globe rose by the Thames. Viewing actors as perhaps viable professionals allowed for the first permanent theaters in England to pop up like mushrooms as England begins to rise as a colonial and economic world power. The course will include close readings of As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, The Tempest and Henry VIII, the show that was on the boards when the Globe burned to the ground.
U.S. History In this course we will survey the political, economic, and cultural history of what has become the United States between European colonization and living memory. First semester, students will be introduced to historical method and perspectives as we explore how the initial interactions of European colonists, Native American societies, and African slaves affected the shape that the future nation would eventually take, and examine the growth of major colonies, the founding and territorial expansion of the United States, and the many developments in American culture, self-image, and economics up through the Civil War. We will trace struggles for equality in race, gender, and class within the country, and its effect on other societies with which it has interacted. In the second semester, we will follow these threads up to the present day, while consolidating skills in historical analysis and research. Students will develop their historical literacy and critical sensibilities, in order to understand the processes of historical change and the roles and effects of the U.S. on its citizens and the world, laying the groundwork for responsible citizenship and for their further studies in the Humanities.