Humanities

(English, history, art history, music)

The Humanities Department has integrated the study of literature, history, religion, art, and music in a four-year sequence: Ancient Studies, World Studies, European Studies, and American Studies. English and history teachers may team-teach these courses with the School’s music teacher and other guest lecturers.

All Humanities courses are writing intensive, which means students will write often in a variety of different genres, and teachers will evaluate them both for their finished products as well as for their engagement in a purposeful and reflective writing process. For example, one representative unit is our Jazz Age Unit in American Studies. In this unit, students read The Great Gatsby, study the history, art, and music of the 1920s, learn to dance the Charleston, dress as flappers to visit the Grove Park Inn (where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald frequently stayed), and write an integrated research paper tying all of these experiences together.

With such multifaceted units, we hope to develop students’ imaginations and creativity as well as their ability to think and write clearly using specific and compelling evidence.

Ancient Studies (Regular only)

Guided by essential questions, such as “What is truth?,” “What is beauty?,” and “What is goodness?,” this course aims to provide students with the skills and knowledge they will need to navigate the core Humanities curriculum, and, in a larger sense, to navigate the responsibilities of being an informed citizen in the 21st century Western world. Students also study, analyze, discuss, and write about selected Greek myths and tragedies, Old and New Testament writings, and various historical documents from the time of the emergence of civilizations to the fall of Rome. Intense writing workshops at the beginning of the year introduce students to the rigors of high school level composition; at other times during the year, students write essays, research papers, journal entries, news articles, and response paragraphs.

World Studies (Regular and Honors)

World Studies picks up where Ancient Studies left off, around 600 A.D., and catapults students through the Middle Ages. As in Ancient Studies, students begin the year with intense writing workshops to hone their writing skills. From there, they explore core works of literature, art, and music in all the major world cultures. A survey of major world religions is also a central unit in this course. Students continue to wrestle with the essential questions raised in Ancient Studies — What are truth, beauty, and goodness? — and they also weigh the pros and cons of the emergence of the Renaissance ideal of the fully autonomous individual while dealing with various historical documents. Throughout, the emphasis is on clear, concise writing and logical argumentation. Students write essays, research papers, short stories, poems, movie reviews, parodies, and journal entries.

European Studies: Literature (Regular and AP)

Challenging students early and often, European Literature teaches critical reading, writing, and thinking skills in the context of European history. Students approach writing as a process, and writing assignments emphasize careful revision, creation of a demanding thesis, and thorough support for that thesis. Representative literary pieces include Hamlet, Gulliver’s Travels, The Death of Ivan Ilych, The Metamorphosis, Candide, Heart of Darkness, and Pride and Prejudice. Students view literary works in the context of the times in which they were written as well as in the context of the human experience today. AP students prepare for the examination in English Literature and Composition.

European Studies: History (Regular and AP)

This course surveys the key events and themes in Modern European History from the Renaissance to the present. Students examine political, cultural, and religious themes and events, including the Reformation, the French Revolution, and Napoleon’s reign, as well as Nationalism and its impact on the 19th century and beyond. Students sharpen their ability to interpret key events and to analyze historical evidence while heightening their awareness of the consequences of European contact with other areas of the world. To prepare students for the 21st century, this course encourages them to examine more closely the socioeconomic and political partnerships formed between the U.S. and Europe. AP candidates prepare for the AP examination in European History through intensive document-based writing assignments.

American Studies: History (Regular and AP)

This course examines the development of the United States from the colonial period to the present. Students analyze and interpret both historical and modern events from political, cultural, economic, diplomatic, and social perspectives. Throughout the course, a clear emphasis is placed on understanding the essence of American democracy. Key topics include the American Revolution, the philosophy of government, Jeffersonian America, the link between domestic policy and foreign policy, the Civil War, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and post-war America. As students develop their critical thinking skills, they begin to understand both the continuities and discontinuities in American history. AP candidates interpret primary sources and the historiography of specific periods as they prepare for the AP examination.

American Studies: Literature (AP only)

American Studies offers a unique perspective on the American Dream and its meaning for our lives. Students cultivate critical thinking skills and are prepared to articulate questions, analyze and synthesize information, distinguish fact from opinion, and write and speak intelligently about American literature and American cultural development. Reading works from a wide variety of sources and perspectives, American Studies students analyze The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and The Adventures of Huck Finn, as well as the writings of Jefferson, Franklin, Thoreau, and Emerson, among others. Students utilize the principle of writing as a process and develop analytical and critical essays about specific texts. As students interpret the thoughts and words of various literary figures, so too are they better able to interpret and articulate the meaning of their own lives. All students will be prepared to take their examination in English Language and Composition.

Honors Humanities Seminar: (Semester Course: 6th Form Elective)

The Humanities Department offers an Honors elective course for students with an interest in further Humanities study. Past topics have included women in world literature; major works of world literature; illness, medicine, and literature; the 1960s; and the constitution and the Supreme Court.

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