Curriculum » Literature


IB English Literature

The IB English course gives students the exciting opportunity to study a wide range of diverse world literature. The course is built on the assumption that literature is concerned with our conceptions, interpretations and experiences of the world. Students are encouraged to appreciate the artistry of literature and to develop an ability to reflect critically on their reading. Works are studied in their literary and cultural contexts, through close study of individual texts and passages, and by considering a range of critical approaches. In view of the international nature of the IB and its commitment to intercultural understanding, the study of works in translation is especially important in exploring other cultural perspectives. The response to the study of literature is through both oral and written communication, thus enabling students to develop and refine their command of language.

American Literature A and American Literature B

American Literature A and B is a mixed-cohort, two-year cycle that addresses critical reading and writing, genre recognition, creative writing, and literary terminology as well as philosophy and the history of ideas. This course is run seminar style where students engage each other as they read challenging, thought-provoking literature. The course follows a workshop approach that emphasizes writing as a process by attending to strategies for generating interpretive ideas for essays, writing effective and authoritative essays, and revising and rewriting essays to sharpen both acuity and expression. Assignments include informal response papers, in-class critical analyses, longer essays, and class presentations. Students are also responsible for keeping a reading journal throughout the year. Authors we will read include: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Flannery O’Connor, Richard Wright, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tim O’Brien, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Cormac McCarthy, Billy Collins, Jhumpa Lahiri, Gene Luen Yang, and Audre Lorde.

World Literature

World Literature is run like an intensive seminar. Lecturing is at a minimum: Students are responsible for active class engagement and initiating and leading discussions. The course focuses on close, critical textual analyses; intertextual studies (how different works influence and “speak to” each other); historical context; and performance. Using a wide spectrum of literary works (poetry, drama, short and long fiction) students synthesize and analyze information and sharpen their critical reading and writing skills. Assignments vary from informal response papers and short essays to longer research papers (using secondary resources), creative projects, and class presentations. Students also maintain a reading journal throughout the year. Our texts will include: Hamlet, Jane Eyre (Brontë), The Stranger (Camus), Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Márquez), Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), as well as some poetry and other shorter fiction.

The Russian Novel: Tolstoy and Dostoevsky

We will read, analyze, and discuss War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov within the broader intellectual and historical context of Russian history and culture. Our primary focus will be on literary form and the novel as a medium for philosophical investigation. Our primary inquiries will include: the genre of the novel, depiction of history, concepts of the self, and religious experience in fiction.

Ways of Seeing: Sight, Interpretation, and the Rise of Visual Culture

We live in a visual culture that favors pictures and images over other related forms of expression. And yet we all know not to put blind trust in what we see in the age of Photoshop and CGI. Sight is, was, and will be enormously important—but also limited and problematic. We will see this vexing combination in material ranging from cave paintings to an article so new it won’t be published until next autumn. This interdisciplinary humanities course will investigate how this specific human sense has been valued, questioned, maligned, and abused. We will consider some of the major debates around sight in order to understand, given the meteoric rise of visual culture in the last century, the solutions and successes as well as the thorny, troubling topics that persist. Our journey will show us how we got to where we are today, and along the way we will become more knowledgeable, nuanced, and self-aware interpreters of visual culture.

Given our investigation, it should come as no surprise that we will explore a broad range of material, requiring that we embrace diversity of media, field of inquiry, and opinion. We will study films, graphic novels, advertisements, YouTube, plays, paintings, television, photographs, video games, poetry, and social media. We will compare and synthesize ideas from fields of inquiry ranging from philosophy to anthropology to art history to neuroscience. We will encounter a wide range of perspectives and debate a plethora of controversies and dilemmas.

Just about everything we do, from major projects to daily discussions, will be created collaboratively. In fact, students will play an essential role in determining the precise trajectory of the course beyond the opening weeks. Assessments will vary between traditional and non-traditional, obvious and unusual, typical and weird.

Senior Seminar: Exploring the Human Condition

In this interdisciplinary humanities course we will explore fundamental questions about the human condition:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • How do we define – and understand – who we are?
  • What are our responsibilities to others?
  • How did we, and others, get to this place in the world?
  • How can we think about our lives in this world and discover our roles in it?
  • How ought we, both personally and communally, respond to the world and its demands?

We will read and study texts by Aristotle, Karl Marx, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Hobbes, Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and Emmanuel Levinas (among others). This course will be run like an intensive college seminar. Students will be responsible for thoughtful class engagement and initiating and leading class discussions. The material will be complex, the pace rapid, and the standards high – just like college.