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.
Global Politics This year-long course will provide students with an understanding of the world around them and how globalization and conflict link people from different countries, continents, and locales together. Students will use current events, brief glimpses of history, research, and map reading to explore political, social, and cultural trends in the world.
Introduction to U.S. History U.S. History is a broad subject, and at the high school level typically assumes significant prior knowledge of what it means to be an American. This course is meant to assess what students from other cultures know about U.S. History, and to teach that which they may find most useful about U.S. History as they return to their own cultures. Special attention is paid to the events and structures–slavery, immigration, class, natural resource distribution, etc.–that have shaped the inherent attitudes and characteristics of citizens of these United States.
Literary Forms Literary Forms is a discussion-based exploration of various styles and genres of poetry and fiction. The course will explore and identify literary expressions in the historical and social context in which they were written. In addition to a dialogue about the assigned works, students will develop skills with regards to writing “critical” essays finding patterns of meaning through biographical, historical and contextual analysis. This semester long course starts by examining poetic forms as well as samples of short fiction from the 19th and 20th centuries. The semester includes a look at longer works of fiction: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and George Orwell’s 1984.
Minotaurs & Matadors: The Spanish Civil War The Spanish Civil War has been called a dress rehearsal for the Second World War because German, Italian and Soviet military forces used it as a testing ground for their planes, tanks and battle tactics. It was also a war of ideas and political ideologies that attracted artists, philosophers and fighters from around the world. But the conflict is nevertheless a very Spanish event, with ancient roots and contemporary consequences. Students will select several novels to read independently throughout this course in addition to weekly assigned reading and several research projects on writers, artists and artworks. The objective of this class is to enhance students’ critical thinking skills by emphasizing and improving writing and research techniques.
Murder and Mayhem: A Brief Survey of Native American History and Literature This course will investigate Native American history, from the initial European invasion to Indian Removal to current events that impact Native Americans in today’s society. We will use a number of primary source documents to launch this investigation, as well as literature from Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich and Linda LeGarde Grover to supplement our studies. Film will also be used to address stereotypes of Native Americans, in order to give students a multimedia opportunity to approach these subjects.
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman dynasty governed a multicultural, multilingual empire lasting from the Late Medieval to the Late Modern period. The Ottomans greatly influenced the history of three continents and perceptions of the exchange between East and West, ceding a legacy as complex and dynamic as the diverse people, practices, and cultural forms held in their sway. At once warlike and tranquil, dogmatic and worldly, authoritarian and tolerant, the Ottoman world still ripples in contemporary cultural, ethnic, and geopolitical currents. Students will explore the empire’s roots in declining, medieval Islamic and Christian kingdoms; the changing aspects of its cultural and political life; its unique position as a primary interface of Western and Eastern economic, religious, social, and military spheres; its relationship to Islam as the last Islamic world power; and how the consequences of its buckling to an accelerating modernity still resonate today. Students will complete one major research paper, a research presentation, and a creative project. The class will make significant use of primary sources in their research and class discussion. Students will also read Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, a novel which will serve as a touchstone to Ottoman creative and social practices.
The Brontës: A Flash of Brilliance This course is a semester long examination of three English writers who in a very brief period of time turned the English publishing world upside down. Anne, Emily and Charlotte defied norms; they published fantastical poems under a pseudonym and soon produced several powerful and beloved novels. In addition to exploring the poems, this course will also look at three novels, Agnes Grey, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. In addition to reading scholarly essays about the Brontës, the course will take moments to look at the socio-political climate of the early Victorian period. Landscape plays a critical role in our study as in remains a central theme in all three writers’ poems and prose.
The Enlightenment The Enlightenment ushered in a profound shift in the foundations of European and American power, which still shape the world today. The era not only re-invented Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History and Theology, but also ushered in the birth or maturity of new academic disciplines: Science, Sociology, Anthropology, and Fine Art. The promoters of Enlightenment not only valued science over superstition, logic over tradition; they created whole new methods, institutions, and vocabularies to produce and regulate knowledge, and to make that knowledge available to those in power. The new values they were promoted include religious freedom, liberal education, the rule of Science, political equality and democracy – a world “enlightened” by knowledge and led to a more ethical and happy life. Yet the age of Enlightenment was also that of rampant colonialism, racism, persecution abroad, and within Europe was used to justify vast extensions of state power, widening gaps between rich and poor, the destruction of rural lifestyles and economies, and the incarceration of the poor, diseased, politically dissident, and all those considered “mad” by rationalist logic. Paradoxically, one of the greatest tools of this most logical of all movements was humor. Satire was used both to support Enlightenment goals and to critique its failures and excesses, sometimes in the same text; it was also full of the whimsical imagination, laughter, cynicism, passion, and absurdity kept out of the movement’s more “rational” texts. We will use two great Enlightenment satires, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Voltaire’s Candide, to explore how and why this intellectual movement transformed its world – who benefited? Who was exploited? How are we to interpret the contradictions and hypocrisies? Do they continue to exist within our own globalized world, shaped by the world of the Enlightenment?
Trojan Truths and Myths Homer is said to have given the Greeks their gods and Europe its literature. The Iliad is a Homeric epic poem which would take three days to perform, and yet only covers several weeks of the ten year long Trojan War. Students in this class will read the Iliad, learn about the myths that provide the necessary backstories of the Trojan War, and will examine the homecoming tales of some key survivors. Later in the semester the students will read about the discovery of Troy, including the archeological explorations, and the crimes conducted in the name of science. Students will close-read the Iliad, and examine the culture, language, religion and humanity expressed in this epic poem. Students will also read sections from Finding The Walls of Troy by Susan Heuck Allen. The objective of this class is to instruct students in useful close-reading strategies, effective note taking and methods of constructing a persuasive argumentation in ancient Greece and today.
U.S. History for Upperclassmen In this course, students will examine the history of the United States from the arrival of Europeans and Africans in North America to the present day. This is a college level survey. It is not, however, an Advanced Placement course. In order to carry that title, we would have to suspend independent research papers, projects and presentations, all central pillars of college level work, and replace them with drills and timed essays, which are not. If we are to take time to consider anything subtly, or to allow students to explore and research on their own, we have to make choices, and our goals are not the mere regurgitation of facts. In addition to mastering some of the basic historical narrative of these United States, to understanding how and why we came to be shaped as we are culturally, ethnically, ideologically and geographically, and to grasping the means and rationale for our mode of government, students will be introduced to the tools and methods used by historians to generate that mastery and understanding, and use those tools to ask original questions and do original research. In other words: We want our students to begin to know what History is, and how to do it.
Writing for the Stage Writing for the Stage is an independent study of the craft and art of playwriting. Starting with an examination of sample plays, participants will explore various forms of dramatic structure and story telling through dialogue. Participants will keep a journal of observations and thoughts and begin to tackle ideas for the creation of pays. Over the course of the semester, students will complete three projects, including two ten-minute plays followed by a longer one act play, which could be developed from one of the earlier efforts. Participants will explore works from such diverse writers as William Shakespeare, Jean Baptiste Moliere, Anton Chekov, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Wendy Wasserstein, Tony Kushner, August Wilson, and Sarah Ruhl among others. Attending and reporting on area theater productions will also be a part of this course.