Course Information Page
Department of English
Department of History, Philosophy, Religion, & Social Sciences
Paul Mellon Humanities Center #205
Torrence Hunt Tennis Center
Choate Rosemary Hall
333 Christian Street
Wallingford, CT 06492-3800
COURSES TAUGHT AND TEACHING INTERESTS
Courses this term:
English 405: The Classical Tradition
[2023–2024 academic year]
This year-long course unpacks the influence of classical civilizations—especially Greek and Roman—on Western cultures, the responses to these traditions in the Renaissance and modern times, and how the surviving works of antiquity continue to inform our lives. As an in-depth exploration of the humanities, literature is at the heart of this study, but visual arts, history, and philosophy will be considered as well. Though many of the works are considered traditional, the approach to the subject matter is thoroughly modern, as we regularly tackle questions of gender and “otherness” throughout the year, wrestling with timeless questions of identity and meaning. The focus is primarily on the genres of the epic and drama. The course begins with Gilgamesh and selections from the Hebrew Bible and The Iliad and includes texts by Sappho, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Plato, Virgil, Ovid, St. Matthew, Dante, the Beowulf poet, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, as well as contemporary authors.
English 480W: The Shock of the Modern
[winter 2023–2024 term]
The second trimester of this year-long multi-disciplinary humanities course investigates the great intellectual and artistic revolutions of the past three centuries in the culture of the West. Following a fall term that explored the Romantic revolt against the Enlightenment in the late 18th- to mid-19th centuries, we consider the arrival of modernity, grappling with the ideas of Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Freud; art by the likes of Magritte, Picasso, Matisse, and Dali; and literature by Joseph Conrad, André Gide, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Franz Kafka, and Virginia Woolf. The term includes the development of a critical essay of length (9–12 pages) analyzing the themes and works studied in the course since September.
Political Science 555HO: U.S. Politics and Government II (Honors)
[winter 2023–2024 term]
This second segment of the politics and government sequence picks up where PS550 left off, exploring such topics as media bias, the role of bureacracy, lobbyists and special interest groups, gerrymandering, and the dynamics of modern campaigning. The focus shifts to a seminar format as students consider relatively recent works about the U.S. Supreme Court and electoral politics at the federal level. Students try their hands at policy development, culminating in an end-of-term Cabinet simulation exercise. In late January most years, the class takes a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., that includes interviews with major figures in the national government. This course, taken with PS550HO, should prepare students for the U.S. Government and Politics AP examination.
Political Science 600HO: JFK Program Tutorial (Honors)
[winter 2023–2024 term]
An intensive tutorial for sixth formers in the JFK Program in Government and Public Service. The heart of the experience is a series of close readings and the development of a portfolio of essays, to be critiqued and discussed extensively in weekly conferences featuring a cluster of 2–4 students.
Other courses this year:
Directed Study: Model Congress (Honors)
[fall 2023 term]
A trio of veterans of the PS550 course are tasked to run the Model Congress simulation for the sections of the class in the fall term. In addition to overseeing party organization and bill preparations, the Directors chair a dozen committee and House floor sessionns in the course of the exercise. They also produce a research paper associated with contemporary American politics.
English 418S: Imagined Futures and Alternate Realities: Literatures of Tomorrow
[spring 2023 term]
What will the future look like? How can literature be used as a tool to better understand the present and to discuss the futures people want, and, of course, futures people do not want? Writers, filmmakers, and other artists have tackled these questions in such diverse forms as novels, poetry, independent shorts, and blockbuster franchises, to interrogate contemporary socio-political realities by presenting future possibilities. In this course, students will read science fiction, Afrofuturism, Indigenous futurism, and dystopian literatures to explore the trajectory from the past to our present, and on to potential futures. Students might examine works by Omar El Akkad, Nnedi Okorafor, Cherie Dimaline, Bong Joon-ho, N.K. Jemisin, and Boots Riley to understand ways that manifestations of oppressions intersect. Additionally, works like Black Panther, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Kafka on the Shore may be examined to see the ways writers imagine possibilities for resistance across marginalized communities.
English 480F: Reason and Romanticism
[fall 2023 term]
English 480, known as “the humanities sequence,” examines broad themes in the literature and culture of the Western world over the past three hundred years. The course covers a lot of ground: historically, conceptually, and aesthetically. There is much to read, and there are very different kinds of reading with which to grapple. As this year-long sequence is conceived as a study in the humanities, in addition to traditional works of literature (e.g., novels, short stories, drama, poetry) we make regular forays into philosophy, history, politics, critical theory, the visual arts, film, and music, and examine the intersections between them. We explore the relationship between culture and historical change. We also consider the assumptions and anxieties associated with notions of gender, race, nation, and empire as well as those regarded as “other.” This first term of the sequence explores the shift from the Enlightenment to the era of Romanticism. Authors studied include Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Frederick Douglass, Mary Wollstonecroft, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, English Romantic poets (Wordsworth, Blake, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, Shelley), 19th-century American writers (Emerson, Fuller, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Whitman), and Mary Shelley. We also explore Romantic composers (Beethoven, Berlioz) as well as the movement’s heroic and landscape painting in Europe and North America.
English 480S: The Age of Anxiety
[spring 2024 term]
The third term of a year-long multi-disciplinary humanities course focuses on the post-World War II era, tackling The Plague by Albert Camus, as well as other existentialist writers; the musical revolutions embodied by Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell; Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art; feminist poetry of the 1960s and 1970s; the films Dr. Strangelove and Do The Right Thing; and the graphic novel Watchmen.
History KI41: American Government and Politics
[summer 2023 term]
In this foundation course the Constitution and federalism are viewed through the lens of contemporary politics. Students learn how the offices of the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court operate in theory and reality. This course will focus on topics of current interest and major political candidates and their respective party platforms. Teaching interests include: Constitutional development; federalism; political parties; media issues.
History KI42: Foundations of Political Thought
[summer 2023 term]
The course presents a comparative analysis of three major political ideologies: democracy, communism, and fascism. Students examine theory and structure, as well as the historical development and contemporary forms of each ideology. Primary sources are used extensively, as the students are asked to explore the ideas of such major political thinkers as Socrates, Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson, Madison, Mill, Marx, Lenin, and Mao.
History MSH1: Democracy in Action
[summer 2023 term]
First imagined in ancient Greek city-states, democracy has evolved over the centuries into one of the most important and polarizing political ideals in the history of civilization. This course explores the earliest seeds of democracy, as well as its modern iterations. Students examine what democracy is and what democracy is not, focusing first on classical models in Greece and Rome, and then modern examples of Britain and the United States.
History 411HO: Constitutional Law (Honors)
[spring 2024 term]
This course documents the evolution of the United States Supreme Court and its influence on the American people. For the first half of the term, students read a history of the High Court and write several short papers on topics in constitutional history. In the latter portion of the course, the class resolves itself into a “Mock Court” program, in which students argue landmark cases decided by the real Court in the past century. When presenting cases as a lawyer, students research the legal background, prepare a one-page argumentative brief, and engage in oral argument before the rest of the class. The remaining students serve as the Court’s justices who deliberate on each of the several dozen cases handled over the course of the term.
History 432AD: Modern Japan: From Samurai to Sony
[fall 2022 term]
This course surveys Japan’s transformation from feudal state to Asian military power from 1800 to 1945 and then its rise from bitter defeat in World War II to become an economic superpower. Our exploration considers recent developments such as the so-called “Lost Decades” and the Triple Disaster of 3/11/11. We consider how traditional Japanese culture has shaped the nation’s business and industrial successes and failures in the postwar era. Other focal points of the course include the changing status of women, race and racism in the Pacific War, and Japan’s relationship with the United States. While its primary focus is historical, the course investigates many facets of Japanese life, including religious, artistic, and literary elements.
Political Science 430HO: Political Ideologies (Honors)
[spring 2023 term]
The course presents a comparative analysis of three major political ideologies: democracy, communism, and fascism. Students examine theory and structure, as well as the historical development and contemporary forms of each ideology. Primary sources are used extensively, as the students are asked to explore the ideas of such major political thinkers as Socrates, Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Jefferson, Madison, Mill, Marx, Lenin, and Mao.
Political Science 460HO: International Relations (Honors)
[fall 2022 term]
This course introduces students to the theories and debates within the discipline of international relations, providing them tools to examine contemporary global politics with a variety of lenses. In a range of case studies—from the Peloponnesian War through the Cuban Missile Crisis to recent U.S. engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan—students explore the classical underpinnings of competing interests and ideologies as well as the historical evolution of state sovereignty.
Political Science 550HO: U.S. Politics and Government I (Honors)
[fall 2023 term]
Students consider the organization and operation of the three branches of the United States government and their interaction, both theoretical and actual. Federalism is explored, as are the places held by the states and by indigenous sovereign nations in the system. The roles played by extra-governmental institutions—political parties, the media, special interest groups, PACs, pollsters, lobbyists, et al.—are studied as well. In the fall portion of this two-term sequence, students spend a day in Hartford exploring state government by meeting with Connecticut officials and also participate in an extensive Model Congress exercise, simulating the process of developing legislation in a political context. In addition to this simulation and a Mock Supreme Court experience, our approach in the classroom primarily involves close reading of documents and thoughtful consideration of historical case studies.
Capstone Project Advising: Analogue Revival in a Digital World
[fall, winter, & spring terms, 2020–2021]
Capstone Project Advising: Branding, Psychology, and the Big Business of Division College Athletics
[fall, winter, & spring terms, 2020–2021]
Directed Study: Migratory Labor Policy (Honors)
[fall 2021 term]
How can policy in ‘Kafala’ systems be amended to better protect migrant workers’ rights? Can we apply an Anglo-American understanding of labor rights to developing countries on other continents? This course will draw on case studies in international labor migration, governance, and public policy debates around employment-based migration to form a deeper understanding of twenty-first century international labor and employment-based migration.
English 437: Shakespeare And The Death Of Kings
An immersion into William Shakespeare’s history plays: Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II, Henry V, and Richard III. These plays have endured for over four hundred years because they offer a timeless examination of the structures of power and because they contain some of the Bard’s best poetry and most vivid characters. The primary focus of the course is literary, paying careful attention to matters of language, but the study also is informed by an understanding of the relevant historical background—principally the Plantagenet kings and the Wars of the Roses—as well as appropriate theatrical considerations (i.e., stagecraft, production design, directorial choices, etc.). Most of the term is spent focusing on Shakespeare’s portrayal of the historical events between 1398 and 1485, beginning with Henry IV’s usurpation of the English crown, covering his son’s conquest of France, and ending at the conclusion of the War Of The Roses, as Henry Tudor assumes the throne, uniting the feuding houses of Lancaster and York. The course examines such recurring themes as the nature of heroism and kingship, politics as performance, the personal and the political “bodies”of the ruler, and the relationship between leader and citizen.
English 477: Satire: Literature of Protest and Change
[fall, winter, & spring terms, 2019–2020]
Disruptive, uncomfortable, and often funny, satire provides keen commentary on the social, political, and cultural context from which it originates. This course exposes students to a variety of satires from different historical and cultural settings and questions whether satire can effect change. In addition, students investigate the modes and tools of satirical texts—understatement, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, etc.—in order to gain a deeper sense of how satires are successfully created and executed. The course studies satire in a variety of forms and media such as novels, plays, television shows, films, and graphic novels. Authors studied include: Aristophanes, Petronius, Jonathan Swift, Benjamin Franklin, Oscar Wilde, Flannery O’Connor, and Kurt Vonnegut.
English 478: Pandora’s Box: Humans and Machines
[fall 2021 term]
Human beings always have been interested in the impact of technology on human life. Even the Ancient Greeks imagined robots that would serve humans and free them from the drudgery of daily life. But they also imagined machines possessing consciousness, one of the defining traits of what makes us human. Thus, anxiety about the boundaries between humans and machines has a long history, though it has taken on new urgency today, as we constantly rely on and interact with machines. Examining fiction, non-fiction, and films, we will explore what it means to be human by asking two major questions: First, are humans just biological machines (or "neural computers”) with a complex engineering designed by evolution and ultimately with mechanical explanations of our mental lives? In other words, can human emotions be explained in terms of evolutionary selection as Steven Pinker argues? Or are we more than that because of consciousness and subjectivity? Second, as we see artificially designed and programmed machines that do more and more of what we do, what is the relationship between biological machines like us and artificially built, non-biological machines that we create? Are we in danger of losing our humanity as technology takes over our lives, as genuine human interactions diminish and we lose contact with nature? Will we become the tools of our tools as Thoreau once feared? Can powerful artificial intelligence systems be aligned with human values? Will AI evolve eventually into creatures who come back to haunt their creators? Are we on the cusp of an enhancement revolution where new technologies will soon allow people to control and fundamentally change their bodies and minds? Will the “singularity,” predicted by futurist/inventor Ray Kurzweil, finally happen, where humans and machines merge into a new species some time in this century? What will be the impact of AI on the work place, warfare, and human relationships?
History 413AD: American Diplomacy
[spring 2021 term]
After an introduction to the roots of U.S. foreign policy, this course reviews American diplomatic history from the Spanish-American War to the current day. Major topics include the Big Stick policy, the Open Door, World War I, unilateralism vs. internationalism in the 1920s and 1930s, World War II, the Cold War and containment policy, and the challenges of the post-9/11 era. Primary sources are used extensively and both traditional and revisionist interpretations of the America’s role in the world are examined. Teaching interests include: Wilsonian internationalism; origins of the Cold War; the evolution of U.S. policy in Vietnam; the place of covert operations in a democracy.
Freedom, The American Dream, and Cinema of the 1970s
This course is a sequel of sorts to last summer’s mini-course on 1960s films. The “Me Decade” began with ambitious director-driven films before the back half of the 1970s ushered in the era of the blockbuster. We will consider how important threads of American life are depicted and questioned in a half-dozen landmark films: Mean Streets, All the President’s Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Rocky, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Kramer vs. Kramer. (Each of these films is widely available to stream on major subscription platforms or on a rental basis.) Twice a week participants will watch a movie on their own and we will meet virtually to unpack it together, considering questions of identity, political and economic opportunity, violence, gender issues, race relations, madness, art vs. commerce, and other topics of interest.
“The Quality of Mercy”—Two Plays About Justice
We will unpack two classical works written for the stage: The Eumenides by Aeschylus and The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Each of these plays, one from the Golden Age of Athens and the other from Elizabethan England, poses questions about justice, vengeance, mercy, forgiveness, the rule of law, and the nature of the judicial system—concerns that seem quite relevant to the world of today.
Freedom, The American Dream, and Cinema of the 1960s
The course will explore changing understandings of American life through a half-dozen landmark films released in the tumultuous decade of the 1960s: The Hustler, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, In The Heat of the Night, Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, and The Wild Bunch. (Each of these films is widely available to stream on major subscription platforms or on a rental basis.) Twice a week participants will watch a movie on their own and we will meet virtually to unpack it together, considering questions of identity, political and economic opportunity, violence, masculinity and femininity, race relations, and other topics of interest.
American Democracy in 2021
Flowing from topics tackled in Choate’s government & politics curriculum, this course explores the current state of our civic life and public discourse in each of the three branches of the federal government, in our political parties, and in the media. Short readings for each class session will be aimed at facilitating lively discussions.
Reading The Bible as Literature
This discussion-based course will focus on close readings of the books of Genesis and Job in the Hebrew Bible as well the New Testament’s Gospel of St. Matthew, seeking to understand their narrative power and the questions they raise about human identity, morality, and justice. No prior exposure to these texts is necessary.
Introduction to the Humanities
A 30-hour immersion into the intersection of history, literature, philosophy, art, culture, and the world of ideas across the span of 3000 years of Western culture. An emphasis is placed on refining academic skills.
Introduction to U.S. History
A 40-hour immersion into key developments and themes in the study of U.S. history, from colonial settlement by Europeans through the present day. This course is designed for ambitious students planning to attend school in America who otherwise may not have a background in the history of the United States. Critical skills useful in the study of history are introduced as well.
Directed Study: Ancient Greek History
This course is taught as a tutorial focusing on Athenian society and culture in the fifth century B.C.E, Readings are drawn from primary sources, especially Herodotus and Thucydides.
Directed Study: Classical Roman History
This course is taught as a tutorial focusing on Roman poltics, society, and culture in the transition from republic to empire.
History KI42: Foundations of Economics and Politics
This course explores the underpinnings of Western political philosophy and, in doing so, students also will be exposed to the basic tenets of modern economics and the ways in which public policy shapes and is shaped by economic conditions. Monetary policy, the Federal Reserve, and macroeconomic principles are examined. The course explores the meanings of conservatism and liberalism in contemporary politics and provides comparisons with other political and economic systems where appropriate. Teaching interests include: social contract theory; civil disobedience; American intellectual history.
History 112: Classical History
This course may be taken as a term elective or as part of the full-year Introduction to History sequence. The focus is on the development of classical traditions and institutions in Greece, Rome, India, and China between 500 B.C.E. and 800 C.E. The development of good study skills and habits is emphasized with an expectation that students will learn to use the library and the Internet as research resources. Students also explore connections between history and the modern world.
History 115: Contemporary Issues
The course focuses on 4-6 issues per term and uses the following different forms of public speaking presentations: speeches to inform, speeches to persuade, extemporaneous speeches, oral reports, debates, discussions, and role plays. Sample topics are: The Middle East, Homeland Security vs. Individual Freedoms, The Engine of Capitalism vs. Corporate Ethics, Global Environmental Abuse from the Perspective of 2050, To Keep and Bear Arms: Gun Control vs. People Control, Slicing the Pie: A Federal Budget Game, Public Education and School Choice, and Nation Building: What Does it Take?
History 310: United States History
This course is a chronological survey attentive to the political, economic, cultural, social, and constitutional developments by which the United States achieved independence, became a nation, and grew into a world power since 1898 and to superpower status since 1945. Students learn how to 1) read both contemporary and past writings; 2) take notes on both reading and class discussion; 3) make reasoned interpretations about the causes and consequences of historic events; 4) research both secondary and primary sources; and 5) write analytical and persuasive essays. While all teachers follow a core curriculum that covers the essential topics of American political, social, economic, intellectual, and diplomatic history, a variety of methods are employed in the many sections of the course.
375: American Studies (Honors)
This interdepartmental course is an alternative to AP U.S. History and is for fifth form students who wish to pursue a detailed study of United States history, literature, and culture. Students are recommended for the American Studies program by their previous teachers and must meet the honors criteria of the English and history departments. The program fulfills the fifth form English and the United States history requirements. The course is taught in double periods and earns one course credit in both English and history. Teaching interests include: Revolutionary era; the Constitution and U.S. legal history; literature of the American Renaissance; American landscape art; history of the American West; Populism and Progressivism; the New Deal; civil rights movement; the rise of the imperial presidency; the Vietnam War.
The United States in Vietnam, 19451975
The Vietnam War remains a compelling chapter in the recent history of this nation. This course is a study of the political, diplomatic, and military aspects of the American involvement in Vietnam and the war’s impact on the home front. Particular attention is paid to the cultural and historical traditions of Southeast Asia, the French colonial experience in Indochina, and the elements of American decision-making both in Washington and Vietnam. In addition to historical texts, the course employs fiction and film in its exploration of the Vietnam War.
The roots of European anti-Semitism and the Nazi attempt to exterminate all of European Jewry in the mid-20th Century are the focal points of the first half of this course. From this "case-study," we examine definitions, causes, and the ways in which people explain their experiences by comparing it to other historical examples of oppression and genocide. The approach and the materials are interdisciplinary (history, literature, sociology, psychology, religion, ethics, poetry, and documentary videos) and each student does independent research. While a background in modern European history is helpful, it is not required.
History 461AD: The Use and Abuse of Power
This course examines the nature of power—what it is, how it is gained, used, and abused. Also important to this ongoing discussion are the distinction and relationship between power and authority. Keeping as its focus issues pertaining to the United States in the 20th century, this course investigates power as exercised by the government, the media, and cultural and economic elites, as well as within human relationships. Topics of possible examination include gender issues, race, religion, militia and neo-fascist movements, and the changing moral and ethical climate in the United States. Teaching interests include the Civil Rights movement; modern feminism; globalization; the interaction between the media and politics.
Modern Africa and Global Relations
This seminar examines the diverse continent that is Africa and its relations with the rest of the world. Central topics for discussion include: cultural geography, impacts of slavery, colonialism, and independence, the challenges of development, and the effects of globalization. Students should develop an understanding of how Africa’ current place in global economy and in global politics.
Modern Chinese History
Russia of the Commisars: History of the Soviet Union
other English courses taught:
English 300: American Literature and Composition
This course introduces students to the rich multicultural heritage of American literature. Students read a broad range of works that give voice to diverse perspectives on being American. The balance of contemporary and traditional readings enhances students’ knowledge of literary techniques and movements. In the fall and winter terms, major authors studied include Irving, Dickinson, Emerson, Douglass, Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, Whitman, Twain, Cather, and Chopin. In the spring term, special emphasis is placed on works of African-Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnic voices often underrepresented in traditional American literature courses. Close reading and critical writing are emphasized. Teaching interests include: diverse interpretations of "the American Dream"; religion in American life; the American Renaissance; the mythology of the frontier; changing gender roles in American literature; the tension between individual identity and the need for community; slavery, segregation, the civil rights movement, and racial identity in America.
403: Journeys and Quests
The journey as a motif, both in literal and metaphorical terms, provides a focus for this study of literature. All sections read an ancient Greek tragedy, an epic poem, Hamlet, and Heart of Darkness. In addition, authors may include Camus, Eliot, Erdrich, Fugard, the Gawain-poet, Gide, Hardy, Hesse, Joyce, Kafka, Lessing, Naipaul, Ngugi, O’Connor, Swift, Tolstoy, Unamuno, Voltaire, Wordsworth, Yeats, and other mostly non-American authors. Students write critical and personal essays.
other summer school courses taught:
Introduction to U.S. History
Literature and Cinema of the Vietnam War
Mock Trial/Moot Court