Viewpoints on Modern America

  • Welcome to
    Viewpoints on Modern America
    11th Grade interdisciplinary course.
    The history and literature of America.
    Advanced Placement English Language & Composition.
    Mr. Rosin & Mr. Wright


    Reading List    Textbooks    Film/Video List    Course Expectations

    Reading List (Tentative)

    American literature plays a central role in this course. The following list includes the novels, plays, stories, poems, memoirs, criticism, journalistic non-fiction, and general non-fiction that will make up your reading for the year. We may not read all of this; then again, we may read more than this.

    • Summer fiction: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Chabon
    • Summer non-fiction: (2019-2020) Just Mercy, by Stevenson; (most years) The Glass Castle or Hillbilly Elegy: a memoir from the approved list
    • "Western Star" by Benet; fiction from Yezierska and Wolfe; non-fiction from MacLeish; letter from McCain
    • Patriotic lyric by Katharine Lee Bates
    • Non-fiction selections from the likes of Zinn, Tuchman, McCulloch, Brands, and many other great historians
    • Frequent ventures into some of the top journalistic hives in our society: The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times
    • Major speeches: G. Washington, Cochise, Charlot, F. Douglass, Lincoln, McKinley, Beveridge, Wilson, B. T. Washington, King Jr., Malcolm X, others
    • Packets of articles on the political process in America
    • "Song of Myself" and other poems, plus the Preface to Leaves of Grass, Whitman
    • non-fiction from Emerson (from "Self-Reliance" and "Nature"), Thoreau (from Walden), Annie Dillard
    • "What Work Is" and "The New World", Levine
    • "The Yellow Wallpaper", Gilman
    • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston
    • Poetry of -- and leading up to -- the Harlem Renaissance (Dunbar, Hughes, McKay, and many others)
    • The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway
    • The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
    • Modernist poetry by T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams
    • Carter Beats the Devil, Gold Real or fiction?
      • Is the poster at right from the book -- an invention of author Glen David Gold -- or is it an artifact of the real world and the real Charles Carter? For the short answer, you'll have to venture around the internet. To be less mysterious: think carefully about the fiction you read in this course, especially the historical fiction. Ask yourself, as we will, not only How is fiction-writing like magic? but also What is the relationship between the individual and the world-historical? Historical fiction helps us address this essential and fascinating question. Modern non-fiction from across a variety of disciplines, from the likes of H.W. Brands (history), Michael Lewis and Bethany McLean (financial world), Dan Ariely (behavioral psychology).
    • Selection of outside-reading novels, including (in various years) options from Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ben Fountain, Ernest Gaines, Barbara Kingsolver, Thomas Pynchon, J.D. Salinger, John Kennedy Toole
    • Death of a Salesman, Miller
    • War poetry by E.E. Cummings, Randall Jarrell, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amy Lowell, Winfield Townley Scott
    • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain
    • Literary criticism on Huck, Sun Also Rises, Death of a Salesman, etc.
    • Poetry of the civil rights movement, including (but not limited to) works by Lucille Clifton, Robert Hayden, Dudley Randall, and Melvin Tolson
    • The Crucible, Miller (when possible)
    • Short stories (and short segments of longer works of fiction) by Carver, Cheever, O'Connor, Ortiz Cofer, Saunders, Steinbeck, and Walker, among others
    • Poems by the Beats, including Ginsberg and Corso
    • The Things They Carried, O'Brien

    You will be issued the following books for all or part of the year:
    • The American Pageant, Bailey
    • The Norton Anthology of American Literature, ed. Baym

    Reading will also include many handouts culled from magazines and newspapers.

    Films/Videos (Tentative)
    Film is a uniquely American genre, intertwined with culture, history, and literature. We will watch and consider -- very seriously -- a variety of cinematic pieces that range from drama to television shows to documentary.
      • The Godfather (1972) [Summer Viewing] 
      • Matewan (1987)
      • Iron Jawed Angels (HBO 2004)
      • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
      • Citizen Kane (1941)
      • Wall Street (1987)
      • The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
    • "Without Fear or Shame" (vol. 2 from I'll Make Me a World, PBS 1999)
    • The American Experience: "The Great Crash"
    • Propaganda: Triumph of the Will (Riefenstahl 1935), Why We Fight (Capra 1943)
    • A Family Gathering, documentary of a Japanese-American family and the WWII-era internment (Lise Yasui 1988)
    • The Red Scare: "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" (Twilight Zone 1960), Red Nightmare (1962)
    • Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (PBS 1999)
    Other films may be required for independent research paper in the spring.

    Course Expectations
    In this course, you will be expected to think broadly, creatively, and critically, and demonstrate your ability to think, write, and speak.
    CURRENT EVENTS: We will frequently cover a topic in the news. You are expected to read a newspaper and/or news magazine and keep up with American current events. We will look at politics, social issues, even sports; we will consider news, op-ed, even political cartoons. You should feel free to invite your teachers to have dinner with your family to talk about current events at the table.
    OUTSIDE READING: Each quarter, you will be expected to read a book in addition to the ones on the curriculum. Your teachers love to read for pleasure and hope you do too; you will have a wide range of options from which to select a book that suits you. For the first quarter, for instance, you will be welcome to read any American author you want (a novel)...oh, and the U.S. Constitution. Wright and Rosin are always thrilled to offer suggestions. The Outside Reading list (posted on Schoology, available upon request) shows our current draft of quarter-by-quarter expectations and reading lists/suggestions; this document may be updated with new suggestions as the year goes on, so you may want to check back occasionally.
    PREPARATION FOR AP ENGLISH LANGUAGE EXAM: It is not an explicit requirement of the course, but much of our text study and language study correlates well with the AP English Language & Composition curriculum, which we are leveraging as much as we can. This class will prepare you to take that AP exam. Since 6/4/2010, Viewpoints has been authorized to call itself an AP English Language & Composition course; the "AP" designation will appear on your transcript.
    ASSESSMENTS include (but may not be limited to):
    • Discussion, including the relatively formal "Socratic Seminar"
    • Analysis of political cartoons
    • In-class essays
    • Development of media analysis (done as a Wiki in 2010)
    • Poetry analysis
    • Text analysis
    • DBQ (document-based questions) analysis
    • Independent projects (for midterm and final exams)
    • Research paper: 11th grade required assessment
    • Creative writing
    • Quizzes
    • Performance (simulations, plays)
    • Presentation
    • Contribution to blogs