Fall; Grades 11–12
May be taken as a history and social science elective or as a literature elective
Homer’s Odyssey begins with the following lines:
Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost…
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
Odysseus’s mythical journey to self-discovery and heroism, while very male-centered, mirrors the real, lived journey of many different people in twentieth-century North America as they struggled, fought, and strived to achieve individualism, autonomy, and personal freedom in an increasingly volatile society. Through an in-depth analysis of three central texts by Morrison, Erdrich, and Faulkner—and the history which surrounds each of them—students explore the personal journeys that the different protagonists undertake while evaluating the opportunities and obstacles presented by the different parts of the political, social, and economic North American experience that these books inhabit. Through these novels, students experience multilayered, complex texts that open up a gateway into the ever-evolving social experience of Black, Indigenous, and white Americans living in a rapidly transforming twentieth century.