Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Review: Mother of Divine Grace School British Literature Syllabus

Mother of Divine Grace School British Literature Syllabus by Margaret A. Hayden
2003, Mother of Divine Grace School, 41 pages, Catholic

This syllabus outlines a complete year of study in British Literature intended for 12th graders.

Books used in this course:


The Harp and Laurel Wreath by Laura Berquist
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Primary Works of Literature:

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Henry V by William Shakespeare
Midsummer-Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Emma by Jane Austen
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

Alternate Works of Literature (for substitution of any titles in the above list that the student has already read):

Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Othello by William Shakespeare
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

This is the author's explanation for the goals of this study:
The goal for this year is for the student to exhibit more subtlety in understanding, more discrimination in interpretation of text, and more attention to language in his papers. The syllabus is designed to help the student in these areas. British Poetry will be studied throughout the year, and great works of literature will also be read and discussed. There will also be 4 required papers.

There are paper topics included at the end of this syllabus. However, students are encouraged to create their own topics for their papers, using the 'General Questions for Works of Literature'. The reason students should be encouraged to create their own paper topics is that the thought that will go into creating a paper topic will help the student organize his thoughts about the work of literature which he has just read. A student in the rhetorical stage should be able to assemble and organize his thoughts, and then should be able to present those thoughts in a well written, well organized paper.
She goes on to explain the "how" and "why" of discussing works of literature with your children

The syllabus contains eight pages of detailed instruction for parents on learning objectives, pointers for improving and grading student papers, and a basic style sheet for student writing.

A detailed lesson plan (11 pages long) provides a year-long schedule of readings, including time allocated for discussions, writing papers and studying works of poetry.

Detailed discussion questions (and answers) are included for Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the "Prologue" to the Canterbury Tales (the text of this Prologue is also included in this syllabus). A detailed "General Questions for Works of Literature" is provided as a help in discussing the other works studied.

Finally, a paper topic is provided for each of the primary and alternate works of literature covered in the syllabus. Some are fairly detailed such as this one for Henry V: "Henry V undergoes a great change in his life. This change is referred to in the opening scene by the Archbishop. Do you think such a change is realistic, and do you think that Henry V is really a good man?" Others are quite simple, such as this one for The Everlasting Man: "Summarize and explain what the author is teaching us through this book."

I've personally read about half the books recommended in this syllabus and they seem quite well-suited to the reading level and area of study. The one thing that surprised me was having G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man recommended as an alternate to a portion of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, to be read over the course of three weeks. It's a fantastic book (one of my very favorites!) - but really more of a non-fiction selection (and overview of history), rich in language and symbolism, that I believe would frustrate many students if read through too quickly. G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday might be a better option and would certainly provide wonderful material for writing and discussion.

Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke (4-11-07)
Available from Adoremus Books, Emmanuel Books, Our Father's House or Sacred Heart Books and Gifts

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