"American" Odyssey (History/Social Science OR Literature Elective; US)

Mari Foret

Fall or spring; Grades 11–12 

May be taken as a history/social science or 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
back home.

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—Song of Solomon (Morrison), The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner), and How the García Girls Lost Their Accent (Alvarez)—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 longer novels, students experience multilayered, complex texts that open up a gateway into the ever-evolving social experience of varied groups of people living in a rapidly transforming twentieth century.  

  • Humanities/Language Arts

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