Hanging Back with the Brutes

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Fall semester

This course attempts to probe human beings’ most brutish core. As we challenge our understandings of the terms “savage” and “civilized,” we consider what it means to be human on the most fundamental level. We’ll delve into the idea of “going native” as revealed in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King,” and William Shakespeare’s King Lear. We’ll contemplate the notion of the “noble savage” through the science fiction lenses of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. We’ll explore the construction of “the other” in two versions of Medea: Euripides’s classical version, and Christa Wolf’s modern retelling. Finally, we’ll examine Blanche Dubois’s urge not to “hang back with the brutes” in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and question her dependence on such things as “poetry and music” and “tenderer feelings.” We’ll supplement our literary texts with theoretical readings by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.


Unit Essential Questions Content Skills and Processes Assessment Resources
Hanging Back with the Brutes
  • What does it mean to be human on the most fundamental level?
  • How can we challenge our understandings of the terms “savage” and “civilized”?
  • In what ways does the notion of the “noble savage” appear in literature?
  • What cultural factors influence the construction of “the other”?
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes
  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • Euripides, Medea
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
  • Rudyard Kipling, “The Man Who Would Be King”
  • William Shakespeare, King Lear and Othello
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  • Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Christa Wolf, Medea: A Modern Retelling
  • Direct class discussion
  • Develop critical abilities as readers
  • Improve skills as writers of analytical prose
  • Prepare and present class meetings, both in collaborative groups and as individuals
  • Apply principles of unguided peer reviewing and metacritical self-review for both content and style
  • Use techniques of active reading, class note-taking, and test-taking
  • Three analytical essays are assessed for both content and style in individual conferences
  • Tests emphasize reading comprehension and synthesis
  • Peer reviews
  • Metacritical writing
  • Discussions about critical analysis and persuasive writing
  • Class presentations are assessed for both class plan and execution

Consultation of departmental handouts from grades 9-11