Senior English at Another Course to College, with Mr. Comeau

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Unit 11: Modernity and its Discontents -- English romantic poets: Blake, Wordsworth, Byron

Readings: Selected poems

Primary Assessment: A creative piece of writing, providing indirect analysis and evaluation of one of the works in the Romantic or Modernist units.

-    At least two pages

-    Test grade for term 3

-    Your style must reflect and shape your content

-    Write a paragraph after the creative piece, explaining how your style choices connect to your work's content.


Unit Goals, Key Questions,

& Topics for Class Discussion

Activities in addition to class discussion / primary writing assignment

History of Ideas


The Romantic Movement -- its project of redeeming individual man through a "second innocence," after the promise and failure of the Enlightenment to create an earthly paradise through rationalism, and the French and Industrial Revolutions.

The Sublime and the Beautiful -- analyze and evaluate the Romantic pre-occupation with experiencing the lofty, the overwhelming, the terrifying, the remote, the exotic.... What do you make of the common settings of the poems, out in nature, amidst the ruins of ancient civilization, in distant lands, in memory, in the imagination?  

A New Identity -- to be formed in opposition to a corrupted society, an identity more full, whole, complete, creative, true, natural, internal and stable. What romantic notions of identity are still with us, in "the real" you?

A Revolution in Politics -- how is the Romantic movement linked with the promises and failures of the French Revolution, with the rise of 19th century nationalism, with the development of liberalism, with the development of modern imperialism?

Romanticism and the Other--  evaluate the construction of the female and the foreign. How is "Exotic Other" imagined in these poems, and what does that say about the Western culture's notions of itself, its others, its emerging imperial power, its nascent racial identity? What about the women in the poems, and the echoes of medieval chivalry, or Quixotic quests after purity?

Romanticism and Capitalism -- while often overtly critical of modern society's obsession with commerce, how might Romanticism be seen as one side of a single capitalist coin, in its notion of a self-possessed individual, its cult of the author as heroic genius, and its recasting of nature and far places as tourist destinations?

The Byronic Hero -- the bad boy of literature enters with the Romantics, and is still with us today. Analyze and evaluate the character of this intelligent, attractive, deeply flawed and troubled hero. Where have you seen him in literature and culture? Why?

The Neo-Gothic -- why the pre-occupation with medieval styles, pre-Enlightenment architecture, England's ancient Germanic roots, and an emerging English racial identity?

A Revolution in Style -- how do these poems work stylistically to achieve the Romantic project?

Brief Reading: selected Blake for intro

Video: The Western Tradition -- Revolution, Romantics

Resistance to Enlightenment rationalism and the industrial revolution.


Quest for more spontaneous, creative, imaginative self freed from "morass of inwardness" that is growing in modernity. (Bloom)


Restatement of Hebrew tradition of faith in revelation, in secular terms. The romantic poet is something like an ancient religious mystic. (Kramer)


Effort at revival of an allegedly closer connection with nature, supposedly lost in modernity

Individualism celebrated, along with a stable, core identity that the individual must quest after to "know" and more fully "be"



Unit 12: Modernity and its Discontents -- English Modernism: Joyce & Woolf

Readings: Dubliners (selections), and A Room of One's Own

Primary Assessment: A creative piece of writing, providing indirect analysis and evaluation of one of the works in the Romantic or Modernist units.

-    At least two pages

-    Test grade for term 3

-    Your style must reflect and shape your content

-    Write a paragraph after the creative piece, explaining how your style choices connect to your work's content.


Unit Goals, Key Questions,

& Topics for Class Discussion

Activities in addition to class discussion / primary writing assignment

History of Ideas


Analyze and evaluate early 20th century English and Irish literature -- as an expression of, and reaction to, the modern human condition, and its political and economic situations.

Narration -- gnomonic shadows, unreliable narrators, intense subjectivity, multiplicity of perspective, fractured consciousness

Navigation -- fragmented exteriors, claustrophobic interiors, epiphanic connections

Iconography & Iconoclasm -- idealism, innocence,  religion, sexuality, family, gender politics, race, class, heroism, nobility, nation, progress, democracy, fidelity, marriage, nostalgia, Romanticism . . .

Impact -- of World War I, urban life, mass culture, mobility and displacement, mechanization, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, women's suffrage

Epiphany -- the search for connection with a grounded reality beyond subjective experience, and the revelation of that reality

Resistance -- how do the texts prefigure and participate in modern revolutions in style, and in politics? How do they succeed, or fail, in their modes of resistance? How do these texts work within and against the Enlightenment project?

Identity -- less clear, more fluid, unstable and fragmented, but still at the center of a quasi-romantic quest (Bloom)

Physical analogy: illustration of confusion to epiphany

PPT: WWI, Social Upheaval, Picasso


Cynicism over failures of Enlightenment project, esp. in the light of WWI


Adrift from anchors of traditional beliefs


Fragmented experience of self and of the world outside the self, whose reality is increasingly out of reach, or all together suspect -- but with occasional "epiphanies" that bridge through to a grounded reality


Reflecting the 20th century's shifting demographics, this is a chiefly urban literature in the modern sense, reflecting all that the modern city means, with its crowds, anonymity, alienation, and sharp class divides in close quarters

At times a direct rejection of Romantic ideals, Modernism has also been called an extension of the Romantic project -- deeply dissatisfied with modernity, and questing for something more original, true, and pure


Unit 13: Modernity and its Discontents -- Existentialism: Dostoevsky & Camus

Readings: Notes from the Underground, The Stranger

Primary Assessment: Modernity paper, 1750 words. Analyze and evaluate one or more of the texts in the "Modernity and its Discontents" units, from the Romantics to the Magical Realists and McOndo. How does the text and its form reflect the difficulties of modern life in your experience, and suggest some way to navigate them?


Unit Goals, Key Questions,

& Topics for Class Discussion

Activities in addition to class discussion / primary writing assignment

History of Ideas


Work to understand this radical rejection of modernity, in light of our studies of the Enlightenment, and earlier forms of modern resistance.

Consider an early move toward Postmodernity -- calling into question the entire Enlightenment project, its hymn of human reason, its utopian visions for society, its dissecting and ordering and categorizing of the universe,  its "civilizing" of the "savages", its grand narratives that sought answers for everything, its binary understandings, its fascist abstractions, its dehumanizing modes of production and consumption

Examine estrangement - alienation in the texts, in our society, in our own lives

Evaluate the character of the existential protagonist -- hero, anti-hero, devil, rebel, victim, martyr, other?

Explore themes of Existentialism, adapted and expanded from T. Z. Lavine:

Existence precedes essence -- man is a conscious subject, exists as a conscious being, not in accordance with any definition, essence, generalization, or system.

As individuals, human freedom and choice are emphasized, along with moral responsibility, while the "herd" mentality of contemporary society is rejected.

Anxiety -- general anxiety, the dread of nothingness behind existence

Absurdity -- I am simply here, thrown into time and place, for no reason

Nothingness -- nothing structures the world

Death -- is the final nothingness, and hangs over me at every moment

Alienation -- from all otherness, from products of my labor, from social, governmental, commercial and religious institutions, even from loved ones

Phenomenology -- bracketing received ideas and traditional "givens," putting grand narratives "out of action," to see more clearly the perceptions of consciousness, and to approach a more pure experience of being

Liberation -- embracing nothingness, losing expectations, accepting a fate without meaning, and our existence, as all we have

Physical analogy: Have students act out the myth of Sisyphus, writing one line of poetry each on a paper, passing it along for the next student to add a line, then to a third, who adds the next line. They pass it along to the fourth student, who destroys it. Start again.

Video: The Western Tradition, New Public


Radically questions Enlightenment tradition of science, rationalism, and progress, in search of personal freedom apart from the restrictions of modern society


Casts modern world in a pale and sickly light, emphasizing its social alienation, artificial and absurd relations, meaningless drudgery, unselfconscious posturing, and herd mentality


The iconography of modern media enters literature, with ads and film in Camus. Watch how pieces of media are pulled from their massive streams, and made strange in the texts, for fresh  considerations. What to make of these fragments of popular culture, and their treatment in the text?


Consider the "myth of Sisyphus" in existentialism, and our futile strivings as a new good. Can ethics survive the dissolution of their foundations in Western philosophy? How can one live without appeals to teleology?


One might read the existentialist project as essentially an extension of the romantic and modernist quests for freedom of self under the strictures of modernity. How does this movement carry on, and how does it break from, these other counter-enlightenment traditions?


How does existentialism speak to the experience of race in America, in Ellison's 20th century novel, and today?



Unit 14: Modernity and its Discontents -- Magical Realism and McOndo

Readings: Selected works from Borges, 100 Years of Solitude by Marquez,, and short stories from contemporary "McOndo" writer Fuguet.

Primary Assessment: Modernity paper, 1750 words. Analyze and evaluate one or more of the texts in the "Modernity and its Discontents" units, from the Romantics to the Magical Realists and McOndo. How does the text and its form reflect the difficulties of modern life in your experience, and suggest some way to navigate them?


Unit Goals, Key Questions,

& Topics for Class Discussion

Activities in addition to class discussion / primary writing assignment

History of Ideas


A Revolution in Style: Analyze and evaluate the groundbreaking, trendsetting style of Borges, who blends realism and surreality into a style that comes to dominate Latin American literature.

Magical Realism: Trace the permutations of this genre through Borges to Marquez. How does it work broadly, and how does it work in each text? What made it such a presence in Latin American literature, in particular?

The Boom: in the 1960s, Latin American authors like Borges and Marquez became sudden hits with U.S. and European audiences. Consider America's consumption of "exotic" fiction, and our current relationships with Hispanic culture inside and outside of our borders.

Latin American History: How does Marquez's tale of a Colombian village speak to the story of Spanish colonialism, Latin American independence, and U.S. domination? How is Colombia's history reflected, and re-imagined? How is this story universal, aiming also at a Biblical time frame, starting with Genesis, and ending with Revelations?

Race: What are the racial dynamics within the texts, between Indigenous Americans, Spanish descendants, the African diaspora, White Americans, and multi-racial mixes? What do they reveal about current racial realities in our communities today?

Tradition vs. Modernity: Marquez and Esquivel portray a more rural, simple time in Latin America, seeming to lament the period of modernization and globalization that's transforming the world today. What's your stance between the old and the new?

Identity: Fuguet says Latin American literature has been asking the question, "Who are we?" He says he wants to start asking, "Who am I?" From Borges onward, Latin American literature has been preoccupied by questions of identity, which often gets blurred, effaced, erased and redrawn. What do these works teach us about the nature of identity? How do you define yourself?

McOndo -- Globalization and the New Generation: Analyze and evaluate the work from a new generation of Latin American authors, exampled in Fuguet, who resist rural nostalgia and magic fictions, in favor of an urban, gritty, and globalized realism. Consider their more ambiguous and apolitical positions.

Brief reading: magical realism, Marquez

Mini-lecture: Latina American history, from colonization, to neocolonial American influence, to globalization, with its proponents and critics

JLB, 1899 - 1986




Is Magical Realism a revival and permutation of Romanticism? Of a mythic understanding? Of a spirited, Quixotic Renaissance in Latin America?

Magical Realism as part of a broad assault on mundane visions of reality, in the theater, painting, and philosophy of the 20th century

Consider 100 Years of Solitude as a condensed history of ideas, tracing the transformations of our understanding of the world and ourselves, though generations of the Buendia family, and their village as it is born, matures, ages, and dies.

Resistance to globalization in the elder generations of Latin American writers, compared with a more ambiguous and apolitical treatment by today's younger writers.



Unit 15: Postmodern theory -- Nietzsche, Barthes, Foucault, Said, Deleuze & Guattari, and Baudrillard.

Readings: "On Truth and Lying...," Nietzsche; "The Death of the Author," Barthes; Discipline & Punish, sel., Foucault; Orientalism, sel., Said; A Thousand Plateaus, sel., Deleuze & Guattari; Simulacra and Simulation, sel., Baudrillard

Primary Assessment: Participation in class discussion


Unit Goals, Key Questions,

& Topics for Class Discussion

Activities in addition to class discussion / primary writing assignment

History of Ideas


Work to grasp this trend in contemporary thought, and some of its key motifs:

Truth ... reverse-engineering its construction in language, culture, and power

Language ... tugging at the lynchpins of meaning, at the arbitrary nexus between the signifier and the signified

Deconstruction ... exposing the frames, the architecture, the scaffolding, the skeletons, of seemingly solid structures in art, knowledge, science, philosophy, and culture

Authority ... pulling back the curtain on modernity's myths of the author, the individual, volition, authority, identity

Power/Knowledge ... tracing the history and the present of how we are formed as subjects in modern culture, as docile subjects created and caught in webs of diffuse power, woven of the very ways we come to know ourselves, and to be known by the state, science, schools, medicine -- the extensive "carceral" system

Orientalism ... how do the constructions of power shape the way Europeans have seen the colonized "other"? How can the tools of postmodern thought help us to understand, and work against, racist and imperialist discourse? Can we begin with our own "knowledge" of the world? How might this help the current crises, called by some a "clash of civilizations"

Multiplicities over Binaries ... how do the traditional Western ways of knowing and being, from Plato's idealism to the Enlightenment's hierarchical categories, contribute to the fascisms of modernity, the schizophrenia of capitalism, a constricted and stunted existence? How might we instead grow free as a rhizomatic weed?

The Real ... in a media driven, prefabricated culture, has the signifier replaced the signified? Has the copy become more real than the "original" it replaced? Can this critique help to lead us back to something more "real"? What could that mean for us today?

Physical analogy: Use 360 web cam to monitor class, correct behavior, award points/demerits, then discuss.

Physical analogy: Contrast Newtonian notion of physics with quantum physics, contrast subject/object notion with idea of complex web of effects, without "cause"


Rejection of modernity's scientific objectivism, and modernism's romantic notion of a stable, creative self, in favor of a world seen as fragmentary, unstable, contingent, and in flux (Kramer)


Rejection of master narratives, such as religion, Marxism, Enlightenment (Kramer)


Deconstruction of the "self," via analysis that traces functions, discourses and webs of power/knowledge, through which identities take and change their shapes


What does postmodernism have to say to Smith, and to Marx? The Romantics, Modernists and Existentialists?

What hope, and/or hopelessness, does postmodernism hold as an avenue for change -- in our lives together, and/or in your individual life? How might postmodernism advance individual freedom, and/or social justice?




Unit 16: Postcolonial literature and theory

Readings: "The Secret Sharer" and Heart of Darkness, Conrad; "Image of Africa," Achebe; Season of Migration to the North, Salih; The Colonizer and the Colonized, Memmi; Wretched of the Earth, selection, Fanon; "Minute on Indian Education," Macauley; Pedagogy of the Oppressed, chapter 2, Freire; Nervous Conditions, Dangarembga; The Intended, Dabydeen; Lucy, Kincaid.

Primary Assessment: 2,000 word researched position paper, combining the complex thesis from a scholarly article with your original analysis of one novel or theory from this unit. Counts for 50% of your term 4 grade.


Unit Goals, Key Questions,

& Topics for Class Discussion

Activities in addition to class discussion / primary writing assignment

History of Ideas


What is "postcolonial" literature? How do we do a "postcolonial reading"?

Examine multiple "images of Africa," from Conrad, Achebe, Salih, Memmi, Fanon, and Dangarembga. What is the image of Africa you start with in the unit? How can we complicate and enrich that image?

How can postcolonial theory, from Achebe, Memmi, and Fanon, help us to understand the literature we'll read? Analyze and evaluate the portraits of the Colonizer and the Colonized. How do the players in the process of colonization construct the self, and the other? What does it mean to analyze, to break down these structures? What are the psychological and cultural dynamics? How can we help make them better?

Postmodernism: Trace the philosophical shifts from Enlightenment thinking, through their permutations in postcolonial literature and theory, with particular attention paid to Said, Foucault, and Baudrillard. In what ways does postcolonial thought participate in, and take issue with, European philosophy?

Identity and Assimilation: How is the native self constructed in the texts, compared with the identity of the colonizer? What happens on each side when the two spheres meet? What are your experiences of the dynamic? Is there a pure, original self to which one must stay true? Is identity more fluid, changing, and contingent? How do our readings present the dynamics of identity in the postcolonial world? In what ways is a clear, distinct and stable identity useful in revealing and healing colonial wounds? In what ways might we want a more nuanced, complex understanding than "He's a colonizer," and "She's colonized."

Hybridity: What does it mean to be between the colonizer and the colonized, to be both and neither? Is this a negative space, defined by what it is not? Is it a positive space, primed with potential for self-creation, for new ways forward? What are the special dynamics of subgroups within neocolonial situations, such as the colonized woman, a relatively privileged ethnic minority, or a middle-class member of the oppressed? Consider the dynamics described in Memmi's portrait of the "small colonizer."

Education: Compare and contrast the model for colonial education in Macauley vs. methods for liberation in Freire. Compare them to the formal schools of the colonial system, and the informal education of characters outside the classroom. What are the pedagogical motives and methods of colonization, and of the informal education sought by the colonized students? In what ways are these curricula met with compliance, and resistance? Analyze your own experiences in education, inside and outside school. Can you see neocolonial agendas? Postcolonial rebellions?

Critical Consciousness: Central characters in several of the novels are able to see what others cannot, or will not. How does analysis, vision with a critical eye, affect the lives of the central characters, as well as the ones who tell their stories? Can you demonstrate the ability to see critically, with analytical depth, our own culture?

Neocolonialism: Is America an Empire, with similar motives, hierarchies, and consequences of colonialism -- outside, and inside, our borders? What are some important similarities and differences between traditional colonialism and the uneven power structures we see in today's global economy, and growing class divisions?

Gender: How is gender used in the construction of the colonial situation, and of postcolonial resistance? What does it mean to deconstruct gender while deconstructing colonial myths about the feminized subject? In the resistance to colonial oppression, how does that resistance spread into critiques of traditional patriarchies?

What are your personal experiences of oppression and privilege, within the power structures of neocolonialism, racism, classism, and other power dynamics? How do your experiences inform your politics? How do they fit within, or outside, the frames of this unit's theory and literature?

What do we do? What are the effects of refusing, or accepting, privilege? Faced with oppression, what does it mean to rebel, or to comply, or to assimilate? How do Marx and Smith weigh-in? The Enlightenment philosophers? The Romantics? Modernists? Existentialists? Postmoderns? What hopes do contemporary left and right wing politics hold? What, in the face of increasing globalization, will you do?

Formal structures: How do politics and style, revolution and form, interact in the texts? How does hybridity affect their structures? How do the texts respond to European and indigenous literary traditions, from the Qur'an to the Romantics to Conrad, while marking out their own form?

Discussion: talk about talking about race, and creating a safe space to analyze texts, while handling the discomfort that racial discussions often bring

Read and discuss "White Man's Burden"

Video: Apocalypse Now

Read "Minute on Indian Education"

Video: Battle of Algiers

Analyze student selected media for knowledge/power


Calling into question the Enlightenment project of rationalism and progress, in part by pointing out the flagrant contradictions of the "civilizing mission" of European powers in colonized states, and in "developing countries" today

Deconstructing the roots of Enlightenment thinking in the postmodern tradition, in a more grounded, vital and local context of concrete situations

Using tools of postmodernism to deconstruct categories into which Europe has imagined its "other"

Resistance of Enlightenment's tendency to make "native" a passive object of study, and of Postmodernism's portrayal of the subject as an inactive "effect" of historical forces. Actively seizing language, and "the master's tools to take down the master's house"

Move from Enlightenment, Romantic, and Postmodern notions of self, toward new ways of thinking about identity, through postcolonial hybridity and irony

New units, based on student interests, reflecting polling:

Racial & Ethnic Identity Development




Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Thought and Critical Consciousness

Old chronological units, some of which are still in the mix:


Central theme


Day 1: Critical Consciousness


Unit 1: Religion and Theories of Liberation


Unit 2b: Ancient Greece: Pre-Socratics

 nit 3::Ancient Greece:   Plato


Analysis: Do and Don't


Unit 4: Ancient China: Poetry and Philosophy


Unit 5: Ancient Rome: The Aeneid


A Sketch of History


Unit 6: The Arabian Nights


Unit 7: High Medieval  Italy: Inferno

Unit 8a: High Renaissance Spain:: Don Quixote


Unit 8b: High Renaissance England: Hamlet


Unit 9: European Enlightenment

 nit 10:: Modern Economics: Smith v. Marx


Unit 11: English Romantic Poets


Unit 12: English Modernism


Unit 13: Existentialism


Unit 14: Magical Realism and McOndo


Unit 15: Postmodern Theory


Unit 16: Postcolonial Literature & Theory



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