Course ID EES88X4
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


      This yearlong class is designed for dynamic seniors who are eager to challenge themselves as readers, to experiment with a variety of writing assignments and to contribute to our daily discussions about the literature. It is considered an Advanced Placement course, and students are encouraged to take the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition exam in the spring. Applicants for the class must have at least a 92% English average.

      Books: While the syllabus may vary slightly from year to year, Great Bookies should expect to study at least fifteen major literary works over the course of the year. Despite the diversity of cultures, eras and styles that they represent, these books are linked thematically, and we will explore the connections among them. We will also focus on how the Modernist and Post-Modern movements used increasingly sophisticated narrative techniques to convey increasingly complex ideas. While the vast majority of these works were written within the last century, many of them are universally hailed as classics, but several are so new that there is no critical consensus to establish their enduring merit. Over the course of the year, we'll come to our own conclusions about the meaning and value of Great Books, and the role that literature plays in our own lives. Texts studied in the 2017-18 school year include: 

      The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1929)
      American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1996)
      Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1925)
      Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges (1960)
      Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov (1962)
      Swann's Way "Overture" (1913)
      Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1847)
      Hamlet, Shakespeare (1600)
      Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
      A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (1916)
      One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967)
      Beloved, Toni Morrison (1988)
      The Sellout, Paul Beatty (2016)
      The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
      Angels in America, Tony Kushner (1991)
      Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino (1972)

      Assignments: Great Books writing assignments are both critical and creative, and students should expect to experiment with a variety of genres: literary essays, short stories, personal reflections and multi-genre pieces that resist easy categorization. Many of the assignments include a personal element; a couple of them entail literary and historical research. All of the assignments are intended to help students to become more effective and engaging writers and to explore the relationship between form and content. All require a facility with sophisticated language and literary techniques.

      Format: The class is largely discussion-based. Students enrolling in the course should expect to complete a substantial reading assignment each evening and to participate in the class discussions on a daily basis.

      Some big questions the course addresses will include:

      • What does it mean to be an artist? What do we consider “art”?
      • What is the relationship between our public and private selves, and in what ways do we see it dramatized in the canon of Great Books?
      • In what ways are our own perspectives limited? In what ways are they dynamic/unstable? What are the implications of this for our relationships (familial, romantic, etc.)?
      • How can writers use shifts in perspective/narrative to deepen/complicate their stories?
      • How do writers best mimic, reflect and shed light on our thought processes?
      • In what ways might writers challenge conventional/accepted versions of historical eras and events?
      • How can we describe the relationship between fiction/writing and reality?
      • In what ways do works of literature reflect the zeitgeist?
      • How can we best understand the passage of time, and how do we see that dramatized in the canon of Great Books?
      • In what ways does the canon of Great Books dramatize the tension between order (the Apollonian) and chaos (the Dionysian)?
      • What power dynamics are dramatized in the canon of Great Books?
      • How are crime and punishment dramatized in the canon of Great Books?
      • In what ways are writers engaged in a conversation with each other, and how can we best participate in that conversation?