on the Edge (fall term)
What is a heroine’s journey, and how does it serve
and/or challenge society?
Cat ladies. Murderesses. Madwomen. In this course, we’ll hear about (and
from) several women who live on the edge of what various societies recognize as
normal, or right, or sane, exploring the reasons why these women might seek or
resist that edge, and why society might want to draw them back or keep them on
the margin. Through class discussions, written analyses, and fiction
exercises, students will explore the danger and charm, the limits and freedom
of radical behavior for women. Texts include several Grimm’s fairy tales,
Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Euripides's Medea, and Sylvia Plath’s The
Will’s World (fall term)
influences (personal, political, social, religious and literary) led
Shakespeare to write what he did?
How did Shakespeare
evolve and mature as a playwright over the course of his career?
What can Shakespeare’s
comedies and tragedies—and the differences between them—tell us about the way
he viewed the world?
Scholars are certain of very little about William
Shakespeare’s life and the circumstances of his writing. In this course we will
use that uncertainty to our advantage and invent our own Shakespeare. Our means
for achieving this goal will be to read three plays from
different eras of Shakespeare’s career—Twelfth Night
, and Shakespeare's final play, The Tempest
. We'll combine literary analysis, historical background, actors interpretations, and even swordfighting—yes swordfighting!—to help us put together the world of Shakespeare—fitting for a
playwright whose stage was called "The Globe."
The Literature of New York (fall term)
How has New York City
shaped and been shaped by literature?
Who is a New Yorker?
place of grit and greatness, poverty and power, immigrants and aristocracy: New
York's multitudes have given rise to countless stories. The city is an
icon for America yet exceptional by its very nature. Artistic movements
have coalesced here, from Harlem to Greenwich Village.
been drawn to New York, others have been repelled by it—just as it has provided
a home for countless characters' trials and triumphs. In this
course, we will explore the diverse role New York has played in literature as
well as the way literature has shaped images of the city. We will spend
time in the city itself, linking words and places. Authors may include
James Baldwin, E.L. Doctorow, Dashiell Hammett, Jean Kwok, Zora Neale Hurston,
Edith Wharton and Anzia Yezierska.
The Outsider (fall term)
Who is an outsider?
Who or what defines an outsider?
Is his or her journey one of self-acceptance or one of social
An individual who fits in and feels accepted by family and
community has the opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with the
world; he or she has the
confidence to explore new opportunities and develop his or her talents.
However, when the individual is not accepted by family and community, exploring
the world and having a healthy relationship with it can seem impossible. This
course will examine literature, both in and outside of the canon, written by or
about individuals who are marginalized from society. Students will reflect upon
the cultural and political structures in place that define an outsider's
marginalized identity and begin to understand that a person's identity is just
as much about who they cannot be as who they can be.
The Harlem Renaissance and its
Discontents (Spring term)
How can works of
literature participate in a political discussion?
How relevant is an
author’s racial, historical and geographical background to his or her writing?
As World War I was ending and the 1920’s roared in, a loose
association of idealist and elite black artists with a few white allies—poets,
essayists, painters, musicians—set out to “lift the race,” to change social
attitudes, and so to spark a self-conscious renaissance of black art and
literature. In this course we will not only steep ourselves in this exciting
era, but also join later black writers in evaluating the movement, and in
exploring the many purposes and effects of black literature in the first half
of the 20th
century. Since writers like DuBois, Hughes, Hurston, and
Ellison tended to agree that literature was vitally useful, but to disagree
passionately about what to use literature for,
our reading, writing, and discussions in this course will lead us to ask larger
questions about literature as a social and political force. We will also take
at least one fieldtrip to historic sites of the Harlem Renaissance. Texts
include The Harlem Renaissance
Reader, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes
Were Watching God
, and Invisible Man
by Ralph Ellison.
Reading and Writing Satire (Spring term)
What makes it satire?
How are form and function related in satire?
Are some topics off limits for satire, or is
everything fair game? How can words and images work together in
Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” strikes viewers as
innovative and fresh.Yet Stewart,
along with writers at The Onion
the makers of films like Team America
is actually a modern practitioner of an art form that is over 2,000 years old:
satire. Satirists use humor to criticize the vices of society. They know that
one good joke can do more damage than ten serious speeches. In this
course, we will examine the history of satire from ancient times to the
present. Working not with swords but with pens, the writers we will study
have delightfully and boldly attacked religious hypocrites, pompous elites, war
mongers, and misogynists, just to name a few. The skilled satirist is
perhaps more feared by those in power than any other foe; in this course, we
will learn why.
Students will practice close reading skills, short
analytical essay writing, and discussion skills. Students will also study
the specific techniques of satirists and demonstrate their understanding of
these techniques by creating original satirical essays, editorials, stories,
and speeches. Authors to be studied include Molière, Twain, Swift, and
The Craft of Poetry (spring term)
What is really poetry?
What is poetry's role in contemporary life?
How can we use the reading and writing of poetry to make
us more attuned to the possibilities of the English language and become better
writers in general?
How can someone else's poems facilitate our development
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it
can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our
poems, carved from the rock of experiences of our daily lives.
Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”
Our reality is everything: feelings, thoughts, memories and
senses. We take all of who we are and, for most of our conscious life,
communicate through language. With this in mind, we will examine the power of
crafting music through language; we will put Audre Lorde's statement to work
and find out if poetry can give name to the nameless—that subconscious part of
will deepen our familiarity with poetic devices and explore in detail how
sound, rhythm, structure, and diction work together to make meaning in poetry.
We will study, imitate, and venerate- but not too much—poets of the past and
present from the east and west. We will read, recite, and perform poetry inside
and outside of the classroom and become infatuated with the meaning and sound
of words. Projects include: completing a poetry journal, creating a list of
poems you would take into outer space, and a portfolio of your best work, some
of which will be read publicly.
The Family Tree (spring term)
How do we decide what constitutes a family?
does it mean to be a “good” mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter?
What does our family owe us?
What do we owe them?
The term “dysfunctional family” comes up a lot in
literature classes, often acting as a stone thrown from glass house to glass
house. In this course, we will look at families of all different compositions,
examining how relationships bloom and shrivel and what people will do to keep
relatives close or push them away. Using class discussion, written analyses,
and creative work, we’ll also explore how and why society critiques familial
units in the way we do.
Pulling from texts like August Wilson’s Fences, Faulkner’s
As I lay Dying, the graphic novel One! Hundred! Demons!, and
short stories from John Cheever to Aimee Bender, who uses magical realism to
explore notions of family, we will find ourselves immersed in what Leo Tolstoy
meant when he wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is
unhappy in its own way.
are Americans willing to fight for?
America need a frontier?
What do you do?
Who is an American?
In this interdisciplinary team-taught course, we will explore
broad themes that span American history, culture, and thought. An
overarching goal of the class is to assess the critical experiences and
fundamental beliefs that have forged an American identity and to consider the extent to which this identity is distinctive. We will examine selected topics in-depth, rather than follow a single, chronological narrative; our readings will be drawn from a number of substantial primary texts. In pursuit of our goals, each quarter will have a guiding question to analyze themes at the heart of
American life, such as the question of national character, immigration and
assimilation, the color line, economic opportunity and the pursuit of the American dream, and
Americans at work and Americans at war. Assessments will be designed
to improve students' analytical writing skills in preparation for future college work and will culminate in a research essay and walking tours of NYC.
Students will read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction works, by authors
such as Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Jane Addams, Jacob Riis, Zora Neale Hurston, Kate Chopin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, and Toni Morrison; and from scholars such as Edmund Morgan, Jill Lepore, Steven Hahn, James McPherson, and Drew Faust.
writing the Short Story (1st semester)
What tools do writers use to tell effective short
How do writers read differently than the average
This is a course for those
who might consider themselves students of the human experience. We will write stories, and by
identifying the craft that goes into fiction writing, we will try to write good
stories that do justice to our characters and their worlds.
We will use three recent
critical texts, Reading Like a Writer
by Francine Prose, How Fiction Works
by James Wood, and Italo Calvino’s Six
Memos for the Next Millennium, to analyze the craft of modern short story
masters from Chekhov to O’Connor to Carver to Munro (and many, many
more!). Students will use the
narrative tools and tricks they learn in order to write their own work, and we
will use in-class workshops to continue to hone our narrative tools. The course will culminate in a public
The Essay (1st semester)
Where can self-reflection lead
How much help can I get with my
writing, and how much am I self-taught?
How does an audience shape my writing?
Most Berkeley Carroll seniors have
written dozens of literary critical essays; this course offers students a
chance to write all of the kinds of essays. Students will read and write
narrative, definitive, and exploratory essays, paying particular detail to
voice, detail, and structure as they pull together comprehensive writing
portfolios. All students who join this class must be willing to read
their work aloud and willing to give and receive constructive criticism.
Reading War (1st Semester)
Why do nations
go to war? And even more importantly, why do individuals serve in battle,
often willingly giving their lives?
Is there such
a thing as a“moral war”?
What is the
effect of war on those who lead it, those who serve in it, and those who stay
at home waiting for news of it?
This course will examine these
questions from a primarily literary perspective, rather than a purely
historical or philosophical one. We will study the ways writers of drama
and fiction have attempted to answer these questions from Ancient Greece to the
Renaissance to the 20th century. The Roman philosopher and poet Horace
wrote that “it is sweet and noble to die for one’s country,” a line so
memorable and important that two thousand years later, it is engraved above
Arlington National Cemetery. In our study, we will ask whether WWI poet Wilfred
Owen is right when he calls Horace’s line “The old Lie.”
Real Love (2nd semester)
What can literature’s great lovers teach us about how
This course acknowledges
that the most important lessons often involve how to build meaningful and
lasting relationships with others. Here we will focus on love—love that works,
love that doesn’t; love’s poets and philosophers; its cautionary tales. Major
texts will include Plato’s Symposium,
Shakespeare’s As You Like It, García
Lorca’s Blood Wedding, García
Márquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera,
and Nabokov’s Lolita.
Documenting the World (2nd
perspective do we get in a story, and how does perspective shape our experience
of a story?
What is a
Are “right” and “wrong” absolute terms, or relative ones?
When is no
decision still a decision?
What are the
responsibilities of the individual to his or her society? Of the society to the
ethical dilemmas every day, in ways large and small. At the supermarket,
we wonder, “Is it more environmentally sound to eat tomatoes flown in from South
America or beef raised in upstate New York?” Seeing a homeless person, we
ask ourselves, “Should I give a needy person a handout and make an immediate
impact, or get involved in an organization that addresses the root causes of
homelessness?” The goal of this new course is not to impart answers to these
questions, but rather to examine what processes each of us can use to think
through such questions and arrive at a principled ethical worldview. The course
is built around a demanding reading list of nonfiction books, supplemented by
documentary films. Both genres make claims to truth, but what exactly is a
“true story” anyway? Any writer or filmmaker faces countless choices:
whose story is told? from what angle? which characters are developed, and which
are not? which facts are presented, and which are not? These
choices reflect both conscious and unconscious biases of the writer or
filmmaker. In this course, we will explore the very nature of truth
discussion, personal reflection, critical analysis, persuasive writing, and
service learning, students will be challenged to develop a personal ethical
framework and apply it to their daily lives.
Political Writer in Exile (2nd semester)
How and why does a book or other literary
work become a threat to a country's political ideology?
Is the political writer's voice the same
voice of the disenfranchised?
How does a writer's political identity shape
his or her experience in the world?
What does it mean to leave home and never
Of or pertaining to citizens; political rights.
Expulsion from one’s native land by authoritative decree. Anyone separated from
his or her country or home voluntarily or by force of circumstance.
course explores numerous accounts of political exile: both voluntarily and
involuntarily. Writers and artists who live in exile may be considered the
voice of a political or cultural movement that is a threat to a country’s
political stability. Often times, his or her voice is valued by the people of
the country: namely, the poor and working class. This class examines the exiled
voice from all parts of the world and investigates the phenomenon of the
refugee in various political and cultural circumstances. Seniors read works of
literature that address the relationship between the individual and
the country, including Anchee Min's Red Azalea,
Shakespeare's The Tempest
Kundera's, The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting.
As students learn about the
political context of each author, they will develop their own political
identity and create writings that give voice to their concerns.
Science Writing (2nd semester)
can good writing help us to communicate important scientific topics to a
does science writing provide that technical scientific writing doesn’t?
are the differences and similarities between how scientists and writers “know”?
can we discover when we look very, very closely at the world?
Scientists want to know how everything
works, so they form and test hypotheses, collecting facts and developing
theories; writers want to know how everything feels and what it all means, so
they notice details and write them all down as a way to discover more. In this course, we will be both
scientists and writers. We will
make observations and sift through scientific data, and we will also learn how
to write personally and memorably about our discoveries and their
significance. We will address a
number of current science topics together, but each student will also be able
to choose a particular area of interest as we practice writing personal essays,
investigative articles, and even a few poems. We will observe the world with fierce attention in our
attempt to know--everything. There are no prerequisites for this course.