21st Century Literature

Teacher:Lise Brody

This course is devoted to reading living literature. We will be reading fiction, creative non-fiction and long-form journalism and essays by living writers who are still producing new work today. The oldest texts we’ll read are from the turn of the millenium; the newest texts will include pieces that first see print in 2015. Perhaps the works we read will give us a new lens on the world we live in. Perhaps they will open up juicy questions: What role does literature serve in today's world? What do we need it for? What do the words 'good' and 'bad' mean as applied to literature today? All else aside, this will be a chance to read some great writing together that hasn't yet made it into the High School Canon.

Texts (subject to change)

Coates, Ta-Nehisi, “Letter to My Son”

Atwood, Margaret, “The Dead Hand Loves You”
Diaz, Junot, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Smith, Zadie, White Teeth

Boo, Katherine, Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Eggers, Dave, Zeitoun

This is an all honors class

That does not mean you have to be “special” to take it. It does mean that there will be a heavier work load. Expect A LOT of reading (see above). Know that you will actually have to DO the reading. Expect to be asked to think for yourself. If you are not prepared for that, you should ask to switch out of this class.


Graded work for this course will include creative and analytical writing, as well as project work that engages with the texts and central questions.

Skills Assessed

Analysis (35%); Composition (35%); Oral Expression (this includes participation in class discussions) (15%); Work Habits (15%)

A Note About Revision:

Revision is something you do throughout the writing process. Having decided that you are serious enough about school to take an honors class, you should cement the habit of doing your revision before, not after you hand in your work. You will have plenty of time to show me drafts of your major projects for feedback before the due date. Not all assignments will be eligible for post-grade revisions.

Extra Help

My extra help is on Monday afternoons or by appointment. Please come! As honors students, I expect you to seek out help when you need it.

Course Expectations

Risk Taking and Respect

You will be sharing your creative work in this class.. That means that everybody needs to feel safe and respected. It is important that we give both others and ourselves permission to take risks, and that we be enthusiastically, critically, supportively engaged in one another's process.

Computer Use in Class

Computers should be closed in class unless we are doing in-class writing or group work. Please bring a notebook for taking notes.

Cell Phones Too

Turn them off and put them AWAY.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s words or ideas as your own. That means:

  • copying/ pasting something from the internet or another source without quote marks and citation

  • paraphrasing something from any source without citation

  • using someone else's ideas without giving them credit

When in doubt, CITE! If it’s in the gray area, it IS plagiarism. I take this very seriously.

For more information on the Academic Honesty policy, please refer to the student handbook.

I will take cases of plagiarism to Dr. Arnold with the first offense.


All homework will be posted in the course web-page. You are responsible for work assigned while you are absent. I will make accommodations for serious illnesses and real emergencies.

Late Work Policy

I grant no-strings, no-questions-asked extensions, provided you request them before the end of the school day at least two school days before the assignment is due. If you do not have an extension, I will accept late work up to two weeks after the due date, but the work-habits grade will drop one letter grade per school day (whether or not we have class that day). If you hand it in more than two weeks late, I will accept it, but it will receive a maximum grade of F. If you are failing the course due to missing work, please do not ask me to design special extra credit assignments for you.

Course Documents