Course ID EES88X8
Department English
Subject Core English
Can you take this course more than once? No
Periods per Day 1.0
Special Permission Yes
  • All of the following are true:
  • Fulfills the following graduation requirements
      Also in the following groups
      Syllabus No Syllabus Found


      In this intellectually stimulating course, students read literary texts from various epochs through the lens of cognitive and behavioral theories. The course focuses on such foundational work in the field of psychology as Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious based on his writings on dream analysis, Karl Jung’s concept on the collective unconscious, and Jacques Lacan’s insistence on the centrality of language in the construction of a sense of self. In addition, current and historical research in the field of social psychology will feature prominently in the curriculum. As a result, students will begin to see how various theories of human behavior can be used to read literature and gain a deeper appreciation for the ways some of the more influential psychologists have made use of literary conventions and techniques in developing and presenting their groundbreaking psychological theories. Throughout the course, students explore and learn to appreciate the many intersections between literature and psychology with the aim of furthering their understanding of the complex interplays between cultural, social and biological factors that contribute to shaping human personalities, behaviors and plot lines as represented in Western literature.  Students will offer primarily, though not exclusively, psychological readings of a diverse set of texts from medieval to contemporary Western literature and will take the AP English Literature and Composition examination in May.

      The official description of this course, taken from the College Board’s website, is as follows: 

      “The AP English Literature and Composition course aligns to an introductory college-level literary analysis course. The course engages students in the close reading and critical analysis of imaginative literature to deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language to provide both meaning and pleasure. As they read, students consider a work's structure, style, and themes, as well as its use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone. Writing assignments include expository, analytical, and argumentative essays that require students to analyze and interpret literary works.”

      Texts Studied (Not Including Secondary Sources)

      Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (Fall)
      Roy F. Baumeister’s Advanced Social Psychology (Fall and Spring)
      Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales  (Fall)
      William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Fall)
      Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (Fall) 
      Carl Jung’s “The Concept of the Collective Unconscious” (Spring)
      Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (Spring)
      Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint (Spring)
      Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? (Spring)
      Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (Spring)
      Sándor Szatmári’s Voyage to Kazohinia (Spring)


      Writing assignments are both critical and creative. Students should expect at least four major projects per term ranging from literary essays to creative writing to small group presentations. The assignments are intended to develop a connection between the literary work and the student. In the spring, the Senior Portrait will provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate creatively personal growth through the integration of literary texts and psychological concepts. In addition, students will present in pairs selected articles from Baumeister’s Advanced Social Psychology throughout the year with the view towards connecting major social psychological concepts to literary characters and situations.

      Some big questions we’ll address in class  

      • How can we make use of the vast scientific body of knowledge produced by various fields in psychology to read characters’ emotional landscape, choices, and thinking? (affect, behavior and cognition)
      • How does Freudian psychoanalysis (making use of the unconscious) help us read characters?
      • How does social psychology enable us to read stories?
      • What is the use of psychology in reading literature? In writing literature?
      • What gaps can we discover in the way the science of psychology treats human behavior that literature fills?