English Department

English 4: Reading Disney

Most of us encounter the stories and characters of the Disney empire as children. But where does Disney get those stories, and what do the “Disney versions” teach us? In this course, we will investigate Disney’s powerful role in shaping the many worlds—physical, social, emotional, commercial—that we inhabit daily. To chart this ever-expanding cultural geography, we will draw from a variety of readings: literary sources (including Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, the sixth- century Ballad of Mulan, and versions of “Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast” from all over the world), Disney’s feature-length films, essays in literary criticism, media literacy, and critical theory, and discussions of the architecture and design of the theme parks. Frameworks from cultural studies and film studies will challenge us as we advance our own critical perspectives on Disney’s representations of nature, race, gender, love, violence, progress, individualism, [...]

English 4: The Postmodern Storyteller

Artists and writers of the late 20th century had witnessed the horrors of the First and Second World Wars, the Holocaust, the Cold, Korean and Vietnam Wars, the torturous progress of the civil rights movement and the upheavals and inequalities of late-capitalist society. They were confronted with a world fragmented and transformed by technology and conflict, seemingly devoid of the meaning that had grounded the grand narratives of Western culture. This course will explore the innovations in language and form that postmodernists used to construct this altered reality while deconstructing identity, reason and even truth itself. In class discussions and analytical and creative writing assignments, students will consider the use of metafiction, paradox, intertextuality, subjectivity, black humor, time distortion and other tools of postmodernist writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, Joseph Heller, Kathy Acker, Thomas Pynchon, Italo Calvino, Heinrich Boll and George Saunders.

2022-01-12T06:27:39+00:00Categories: Grade 12 - English|

English 4: Iconic Novellas: Less is More

The British author Ian McEwan wrote that “the novella is the perfect form of prose fiction...long enough for a reader to inhabit a world or a consciousness and be kept there, short enough to be read in a sitting or two and for the whole structure to be held in mind at first encounter...” He also noted that “to sit with a novella is analogous to watching a play or a longish movie.” In this class, we will read iconic novellas from the 20th and 21st centuries and examine their adaptation to the screen. We will focus specifically on how authors structure and execute this particular form, create plot and subplot, develop character and convey theme(s) in a relatively short amount of space. Additionally, we will examine the transition of the novella to screenplay and eventually to film, seeing how the screenwriters and directors construct their adaptations. In-class and evening screenings of the films will occur. Readings have included Stephen King’s The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Steve Martin’s Shopgirl, Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, and Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

English 4: The Gothic Imagination

Gothic literature delights readers through its tantalizing combination of suspense, secrecy, the supernatural, and—sometimes—romance. In this course we will trace the development of gothic fiction from its origins in eighteenth-century England to present-day expressions of the macabre on the large and small screens. Students will explore the ways in which frightful stories often reveal the underlying fears and anxieties of an era, from the concerns about reverse colonization in Victorian England to the ways in which slavery and Native American removal haunt the literature of the United States. Readings will include Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stoker’s Dracula, and short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Angela Carter, and Carmen Maria Machado. The course culminates in an examination of the many strains of a more contemporary gothic style in Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Peele’s Get Out, and Childish Gambino’s “This is America.”

English 4: The Family Drama on Stage

From Greek tragedy to contemporary drama, we will consider 2000 years of dramatic representations of love and betrayal, family secrets, sibling rivalry, and the pursuit of power within the microcosm of the family unit. We will view the family dynamic at its best and worst and consider the relationship between the past and the present, collective and individual memory, and the depth of what it means to belong. We will also consider the effect of social and historical contexts on the creation and reception of the genre by studying various texts and schools, including realism, tragedy, absurdism, and verse drama. We will spend time performing scenes in class, writing one-act plays, and engaging in analytical responses, including a comparative essay. Our texts may include Euripides’ Medea, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, August Wilson's Fences, Quiara, Alegria Hudes’ Water by the Spoonful, and Paula Vogel’s How I [...]

English 4: The California Dream

The natural, social and political landscape of California has served as the muse for some of America’s greatest writers, working against a backdrop of striking beauty and under threat of earthquake and fire. Joan Didion’s Sacramento is a tense, frontier experiment: “things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.” Angie Chau’s immigrant San Francisco is a fantasized place of new beginnings and disappointing realities. Jack Keroac’s Bakersfield is “the land of lonely and exiled and eccentric lovers come to forgather like birds… where everybody somehow looked like broken-down, handsome, decadent movie actors.” Through a diverse collection of readings, frequent class discussions and analytical and creative writing, this course will explore the literature of California and the role that the California dream plays in the American consciousness. Course materials may draw from the work of Joan Didion, Angie Chau, John [...]

2022-01-12T06:23:11+00:00Categories: Grade 12 - English|

English 4: The Art of the Essay

A lasting and relevant art form, the essay endures as a popular and useful genre of writing, executed by students, academics, writers, journalists, and politicians all over the world. Due to many essays’ relative short length and topicality, it may become the type of writing you read—and compose—the most in your adult life. By applying simple concepts of observation, reason and common sense, or intellect, essayists make illuminating discoveries and explore disparate topics, examining them from myriad angles to see what they might uncover and hoping to open readers’ minds to new ways of thinking about themselves and the world. In this course, students will learn about various types of essays—personal, political, and opinion—how to read them well, and how essayists use particular forms of argumentation, as well as rhetorical skills, to effectively persuade. Students will also learn how to compose a well-crafted personal essay for college applications. The [...]

Go to Top