Scholar’s Seminar: Literature at the Limits

Full-year course. Scholars’ Seminar: Literature at the Limits is designed to engage advanced rhetoric-stage students in reading, literary discussion, and literary analysis. Students will come together with their instructor twice a week to discuss how novels present us with futures as yet unknown. In this course, students will be asked to identify multiple limits within each novel, and to explore what happens when these limits are pushed to the point of breaking, causing the characters of the text to move into uncharted territory. Students will consider what happens when humans

  • manipulate the truth to the point that it is unrecognizable;
  • destroy the Earth to the point when it is unlivable;
  • take advantage of other humans to the point where all trust is lost;
  • disassociate from or reject societal norms until reality is no longer recognizable; and
  • augment biology to the point that we may no longer distinguish between man and machine. 

Students in this class will orient each week’s session by considering the essential question of “What happens when humanity goes too far?” and probe that week’s reading to attempt to unearth plausible answers. 

Scholars’ Seminar: Literature at the Limits guides students in the close reading and critical analysis of classic and contemporary works of literature and helps them appreciate the texts and the contexts in which the works were written. This course requires students to read challenging texts in advance of the weeks that are spent discussing them in class. As such, students will develop the ability to manage cognitive load as they practice daily reading and notetaking habits for one set of readings while working through in-class discussions and assignments on the previous set of readings, a valuable skill set for further academic success.

Please note: This course is designed for high-school students. Several of these readings contain topics, scenarios, subjects, and themes that younger and/or more sensitive readers may find upsetting or unsettling. While these texts are appropriate for most mature high school students, students and parents should be aware of the complexities and intensities of these readings in advance. If you have any concerns we encourage you to check the texts out at the local library before enrolling your student.

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Scholar’s Seminar: Literature at the Limits Information

  • Example Syllabus
  • Class meets twice per week for 50-55 minutes.
  • Class cap: 15 students.
  • Designed for grades 11-12.
  • High school students may be awarded 1 Language Arts credit upon completion of this course.

Course Materials

  • Click here to purchase course texts.
    • Summer Reading:
      • How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Live and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, Revised Edition, Thomas Foster
      • 1984, George Orwell 
      • The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey 
    • The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison 
    • Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko 
    • The Circle, Dave Eggers 
    • Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
    • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K Dick 
    • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway 
    • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley 
    • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury 
    • A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
    • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens 
    • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald 
    • House of Mirth, Edith Wharton 
    • I Am Legend, Richard Matheson 
    • I, Robot, Isaac Asimov 
    • Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton 
    • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro 
    • The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline 
    • Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler 
    • The Passage, Justin Cronin 
    • The Power, Noami Alderman 
    • State of Wonder, Anne Patchett 
    • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler 
    • White Noise, Don Delillo 

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