Course Director’s Message
The prevailing themes of the plebe literature course this year are transformation and stasis, or the cycles of change and repetition with which writers, artists, and thinkers have been enamored for millennia. EN102 has been designed to enrich cadets with ideas and skills that will serve them throughout their military career and in life. The entire course—text selection, assignments and activities, and daily classroom discussion—is animated by the belief that curiosity, creativity, courage, pliancy of thought, and comfort in ambiguity define humanities students, which we all aspire to be, at their best.
EN102 begins for the Class of 2016 with Toni Morrison’s Home, a contemporary novel that explores Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the challenge of returning to America after fighting a war abroad. How soldiers transform while negotiating their nation’s conceptions of care and citizenship is one of many threads we will pursue. Next, we will read a series of short stories and poems before traveling to Ancient Greece for an appointment with Sophocles. This will be followed by a dialogue with William Shakespeare in which we will read and enact scenes from the Bard. Finally, each student will read a culminating text that further explores the course themes: how we transform yet stay unchanged, and how in repetition we begin anew.
EN102 Goals, Objectives, Assessment Measures
EN102 contributes to elements of several USMA Academic Program Goals, which are represented in the quoted language below. The course challenges plebes:
1. To “think and act creatively” through textual interpretation, dramatic performance, and creative writing.
2. To “recognize moral issues” as they are represented in literature by examining complex, ambiguous situations in which characters are confronted with difficult choices.
3. To “listen, read, speak, and write effectively” by engaging in dialogue with peers and faculty, by memorizing and performing a speech from Sophocles or Shakespeare, and by writing about language and literature.
4. To cultivate “the capability and desire to pursue progressive and continued intellectual development” by sharpening tools of textual analysis, and by learning to become more judicious interpreters of evidence.
5. To broaden and deepen knowledge of “culture,” “history,” and “human behavior” as these domains are represented in literature.
Guest Speaker: Cadets will have the privilege of welcoming Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison to USMA for a course-wide, Commandant’s Hour lecture on Friday 22 March. The lecture will complement and accentuate our study of her most recent novel, Home, and her short story “Recitatif.”
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival Dramatic Workshop: Actors from the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival will lead Cadets in expressing themselves dramatically during a workshop that will be conducted 28-29 March. Cadets will experience the complexities and nuances of character and performance as they embrace roles selected by them from the works of Sophocles and Shakespeare.