Year | Required 12th Grade
Course Description: The year-long senior program comprises two semester-long elective options. All Brentwood students must complete four full years of English, but they are welcome to enroll in additional English electives to meet their interests. Not all electives will be offered each year.
In Her Own Words: Women and the Stories They Tell
This course will explore the stories of women written by women in an effort to consider how societal pressures impact not only the formation of a woman’s sense of self but also her ability to narrate it. Students will be introduced to components of Gender and Feminist Theory to set up a framework for the course and consider such questions as, what is “feminine writing”? Is there a “feminine voice”? Who controls the rules of language? Representative texts might include Michelle Obama's Becoming and Sally Fields In Pieces or literary autobiographies like Amy Tan's Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir and Sandra Cisneros's A House of My Own: Stories from My Life. Students will engage these texts through discussion and analysis as well as utilize these texts to explore their own topics and personal narratives relating to identity.
Harry Potter and the Human Condition
What are the defining features of the human condition? What is our purpose, and how can we ensure a full and meaningful existence? What (if any) moral responsibilities do we have to others and to the world at large? Using Rowling's popular book series, this course will attempt to answer these questions, and more. Drawing heavily upon philosophy and psychology texts as secondary sources, students will explore what the novels have to say about being alive and the ontological challenges that come with the human experience. Supplemental resources will involve investigation into topics such as mind-body dualism, ethics, metaphysics, existentialism, eastern philosophy, psychoanalysis, Jungian archetypes, developmental theories, etc. As writers, students will engage in both personal reflections and analytical responses, seeking ways to apply these themes to their own growth and potential. The course will involve thought-provoking discussions, critical observation, and deep inward examination.
Prerequisite: Students must read the first 5 Harry Potter books prior to the course.
Creative Writing and Literature
What inspires great writers? How do they hone their craft? What other writers and techniques influence their work? In this course, students will engage in an exploration of creative writing through the reading and writing of fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry. Drawing on the work of various poets and writers, students will learn from their techniques and craft original writing, ranging from traditional poetic and prose forms such as the sonnet, the ode, or the short story, to more experimental approaches. Each week students will “workshop” with their peers and instructor, sharing their writing and soliciting feedback. Students will also have the opportunity to explore a poet or writer of interest in greater depth to consider issues of craft, style, technique, and vision. Representative works of literature include Letters to a Young Poet, Writing Down the Bones, and Flash Fiction.
Los Angeles in Fiction and Film
Through essays, novels, documentaries, and films, we will examine the city of Los Angeles as it is seen by others and as it sees itself. We will consider “place” as a concept and what it means to be from, live in or on the margins of, travel through or come to a place as iconic as LA. We will closely examine the historical representation of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, as well as the genres that most memorably represent the cultures and subcultures of this city. Writing for the course will include personal reflections and essays. Representative texts will include The Big Sleep, Chinatown, Sunset Boulevard, Devil in a Blue Dress, and Inherent Vice.
Coping with Chaos: Modernism and the literature of 1910-1940
Pericles Lewis, a notable Modernist scholar at Yale, defines Modernism as the period of “experimental literature” that began with Eliot, Joyce, Pound, and Wolf, and evolved into a “variety of movements in modern art and literature” that spanned from roughly 1890 to the late 1930s. Lewis sees Modernism as a cultural “phenomenon,” one whose scope is vast and impactful; it’s a movement that shook the world. Modernism is a period of experimentation, ambition, rejection, and manipulation. Systems that previously imparted meaning in the world became meaningless. Anything once thought sustainable and everlasting seemed to break down. It’s easy to see this era as one full of despair; however, our goal of the semester is to understand the ways in which these writers, artists, and thinkers rejected the past—both what they rejected and how they rejected it—in favor of finding new meaning in a world nearly subsumed with chaos. We’ll celebrate the weird, the salacious, the poetic, the dramatic, the angsty, and the visionary contributions of this period. Through literature, poetry, art, and film of the period, as well as through guest lectures by various faculty members, students will be engaged in learning about this exciting cultural phenomenon. Texts include: The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway), As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner), Dubliners (James Joyce), Mrs Dalloway OR To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf), The Day of the Locust (Nathanael West) as well as poetry and short stories from William James, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Ludvig Wittgenstein, Wallace Stevens, and Hart Crane.
Science Fiction and Film
This course offers a study of the genre of speculative fiction from literature to film, tracing the development of dominant themes: aliens/alienation, time-travel, "the future," and robots/cyborgs/androids in relation to humanity. The course will examine short stories and longer works such as Ender’s Game, and watch films in class and for homework to inform class discussion. Students will complete a research project involving film and literature each quarter.