English 12: Ways of Seeing: Narrative Genres and the Cultural Imagination (Film and Fiction)

Upper School

Grade 12


Credits: .5

What do the stories we tell and the ways in which we tell them reveal about us, our culture, and the way we view the world? This course examines the tension between themes of alienation and community, violence and regeneration, and optimism and doomed love, through a close reading of various narrative forms. Locating texts at the intersection of theory, criticism, and historiography moves them beyond their isolation and into a conversation about social, political, and literary forces.

Students will read the work of such critics as Jim Kitses, Greg Rickman, Toni Morrison, Laura Mulvey, Richard Slotkin, and André Bazin, and use their theories as lenses through which to analyze novels, short stories, creative nonfiction, and film. Students will write papers and present their findings, but will also try their hand at various creative forms of expression. In the process, they will develop an understanding of the immediate and direct power stories have over their audiences. Ultimately, they will write a story and publish it.

Texts studied may include: Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, The Orchid Thief  by Susan Orlean, Fences by August Wilson, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.