(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, art and dance teachers, along with 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 downtown Asheville and write an integrated research paper tying all of these experiences together.

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

Ancient Studies

Ancient Studies explores the roots of Western Civilization by studying ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and Jerusalem. The course is reading and writing intensive and promotes growth as thinkers and writers.

The core question for Ancient Studies is, “What Does It Mean to Lead a Good Life?”

Asheville School values character formation, and the ancient world offers many examples of lives to emulate or avoid, and multiple ideas to engage and confront. Through extensive study of the classical past, students encounter numerous figures that ask and answer this question through their words, their actions, or their creations. Students not only grapple with the complex legacy of the ancient world, they also have the opportunity to develop their own answers about how best to lead their lives.

The history component of Ancient Studies focuses on classical Greece in the first semester and on ancient Rome in the second. Readings include Thucydides’ “History of the Peloponnesian War,” Plato’s “Apology of Socrates,” and Simon Baker’s “Ancient Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire.” The literature component of Ancient Studies focuses on major works from the Western canon, including Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” Aristophanes’ “The Clouds,”
Sophocles’ “Antigone,” and the Hebrew Bible.

World Studies (Honors)

In World Studies, students delve deeply into the eight major world religions and the regions that gave rise to them. With each culture that we investigate, students explore the world and their role in it by navigating art, architecture, poetry, philosophy, geography, current events and—most importantly—foundational literature.

Students read epics such as “Beowulf” and “The Epic of Sundiata” as well as religious scripture such as The Holy Bible, The Bhagavad-Gita, and the Tao Te Ching. Major assessments include analytical papers examining authorial intent, poetry, art presentations, movie projects and creative fiction that wrestles with moral dilemmas.

Research Seminar

While students are taking World Studies, they will also be taking Intro to Studio Art during one semester and Research Seminar during the other semester. The art and research teachers work closely as part of the World Studies team to integrate the study of art and research with the content of World Studies.

For example, when the students are studying China, they will read Tang Dynasty poetry in English, and they will make Chinese landscape paintings in art. They will also be studying the three religions that influence this art and literature—Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Students will learn how to use and apply the terminology of art criticism, and they will learn the research skills needed to explore complex topics thoroughly.

Research Seminar focuses on writing two research papers using an intensive writing process. This course begins to provide students with the writing and research skills they will need to be successful on the Senior Demonstration, which is the capstone senior project in humanities.

European Studies: Literature (AP)

A challenging and rewarding course, 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.

It is through this intense writing process that students learn to deeply engage with the course’s reading list. Representative literary pieces include “Hamlet,” “Candide,” “Frankenstein,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Death of Ivan Illych,” “The Metamorphosis,” and “To the Lighthouse.” Students view literary works in the historical context in which they were written as well as in the context of the human experience today. All students prepare for the examination in AP English Literature and Composition.

European Studies: History (Honors)

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 interpret key events and 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 students to examine the socioeconomic and political partnerships formed between the U.S. and Europe. This course emphasizes the study of art and what it can tell us about a given movement or era.

American Studies: Literature (AP)

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.

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.

The course culminates with the Senior Demonstration. Students read three books of their choosing, write two papers analyzing those books and sit for an oral defense. This capstone project affords students the opportunity to pursue a subject of their interest and then put into practice their scholarly independence.

American Studies: History (Honors)

This course examines the development of the United States from the colonial period to the present. Students analyze and interpret 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.

A spring trip to Washington D.C. and its museums and government buildings brings our study off the pages of our books and into students’ lives.

Humanities Seminar (Honors)

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