STEVE GARON - ENGLISH
“As you are reading these words, you are taking part in one of the wonders of the natural world. For you and I belong to a species with a remarkable ability: we can shape events in each other's brains with exquisite precision.”
― Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language
Talking is relatively easy and writing a bit more challenging, but communicating -really communicating - with other persons (shaping events in their brains as intended) through spoken, written, or visual language is fraught with complexity. Dr. G. has two primary reasons for teaching English. First and foremost is to help students develop the language skills to participate fully as productive members of society. This necessarily involves the reading and critical analysis of a variety of texts to enhance each student’s ability to become active, critical, and creative users (both consumers and producers) of written, spoken, and visual language. Second is to help students develop a fondness for literature – manifested in personal recreational reading – and a recognition that reading is indeed fun and fulfilling.
Dr. G. – much to his continuing surprise – has lived his entire life in the DC/Baltimore area (except for his junior year “abroad” in Montana). Nonetheless, he has traveled extensively, including leading high school-aged students on month-long bicycle tours in the U.S. and Europe. He received his BA in English (minor in Theatre Arts) from Towson University and his MS and PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University.
Extracurricular activities: Improv/Theatre, Outdoors Club, Coffee House
World Literature I: Heroism, Leadership, Duty, and Honor
From the earliest of times, humans have told stories to inform, instruct, entertain, and generally to make sense of the world in which they lived and their place or purpose in those worlds. As such, these stories reflect the people and times in which the stories originated and were told. Yet, it wasn’t until the development of written language that these stories could be recorded and have a slim chance of surviving and therefore becoming “literature.” In this course, students read, respond to, and analyze a sampling of literature from one of the earliest known written stories (circa 2,100 BCE) through the end of the Classical World (circa 150 CE) covering a variety of geographic regions, including the Middle East, India, Greece, Italy (Rome), China, and Japan. Many of these works have influenced later works of literature, including contemporary literature (novels, plays, and poems), films, and music. Old as they are and whether we realize it or not, these works are part of our cultural currency and continue to inform, entertain, and inspire. It is somewhat reassuring to learn that people have struggled with the same existential questions over the course of several millennia. These works are worth the effort.
American Literature: America, Americans, and the American Dream
The world’s oldest know written literature dates to approximately 2,500 BCE. Arguably one of the oldest written “American” literary texts (depending on how one defines the words “written” and “American” separately and jointly) dates to approximately 1,585 CE and was written by a member of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ill-fated Roanoke expedition (Thomas Harriot). Compared with many other global regions, American literature is still in its infancy, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable, especially to the inhabitants of America. Indeed, American literature reflects the history and cultural evolution of the country and its people; it is our story. Each American literary period reveals the hopes and fears of its era; each period is a response to the one that preceded it.
This course is a survey of American literature that stresses literary and cultural themes and includes a variety of literary genres. The reading curriculum for the course favors breadth over depth by touching on most of the major literary periods (e.g., Puritan/Colonial, Gothic Romanticism, Transcendentalism, Realism, Modernism, the Harlem Renaissance, and Postmodern/Contemporary). By reading texts from a variety of literary periods, students can identify persistent or recurring concerns facing our yet young country.
World Literature II: From the Middle Ages to Modern Times (not offered 2018-2019)
This course begins where World Literature I (Ancient Literature) concludes – after the fall of the Roman Empire. It will include a sampling of some of the great works of literature that you will not only find interesting and enjoyable, but will also make you a fascinating conversationalist at parties. Seriously, who is not impressed by someone who can:
Explain why Beowulf is to England what Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were to ancient Greece (catch that analogy?)
Describe each of Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and who dwells in each
Discuss the real story behind the Arthurian legends
Clarify why Chaucer is considered the father of English poetry and made the English language respectable
Quote from memory lines from Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets
Illuminate which Rationalist philosopher Voltaire satirizes in Candide and why?
And that’s just a small sample. As you read literary works in this class, you will be able to look backward to identify allusions to the ancient classics as well as look forward to recognize how the works remain relevant today and continue to inspire adaptations.
Comedy and Humor Across Literary Eras (not offered 2018-2019)
What’s so freakin’ funny about comedy? Excellent question; I’m glad you asked. Now let me ask you a question: what’s the difference between comedy and humor? Here’s one answer bound to dissatisfy: according to literarydevices.net, comedy is a literary genre (i.e., a category of literary composition) whose purpose is to amuse an audience, whereas humor is a literary tool that makes an audience laugh, or that intends to induce amusement or laughter. Did that clear things up? Well, this class will help with that.
In this course, we will explore comedy as a literary genre and humor as a literary tool. While everything we will read was written with the intention to amuse, chances are you will not find every reading entertaining or amusing. What you find amusing as an individual depends on several factors, including who you are, where you are, and when you are, but most humor doesn’t remain funny forever. Why is it that something you found outrageously funny a few years ago now seems banal or stupid? Why is it that much comedy does not translate across cultural and historic divides while other comedy withstands the test of time? We will look into some reasons that might explain why comedy/humor is ephemeral (short-lived) or enduring.
As part of our exploration of comedy, we will delve into the history of comedy as a genre, types of literary comedy, characteristics of comedy, and theories about what makes us laugh. We will read comic dramas (plays), essays, short stories, poems, and novels. We will also touch on the therapeutic effects of humor and laughter.