My suggestions for the English department

Let me just preface this entire article with the fact that I am currently really enjoying Jane Eyre. I know all the juniors just groaned, but hey it’s “revolutionary” or something. Personally, I’m just along for the drama. Overall, I think the English curriculum across all years has some, to put it simply, gaps. So in my next few ranting pages, I’m going to list what we should study in English classes that would be a little more fun and interesting, at least to me.

For most of last year my teacher emphasized the concept of bildungsroman, otherwise considered the hero’s journey. Studying heroes means that we should obviously watch a movie about heroes. I present to all– Iron Man. When discussing a standard hero’s story the first Iron Man fits the bill perfectly. And while we’re at it, why not watch other Marvel movies? They so heavily influence today’s media and the themes found in these films can be compared with the global literature we cover in the sophomore curriculum. Additionally, Belfast is another amazing movie that offers an opportunity to study cinematography along with the religious struggles in Ireland. While the focus of the class is mostly on Africa, I would actually prefer to cover more ground and venture to more continents, even if it means not going as deep into Africa. An option for Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club could offer amazing potential to the sophomore research project, and I would instead choose to exchange Alphabet in the Park with The Kite Runner in the core curriculum. While I do think that poetry is an important aspect of learning, I found Alphabet in the Park to be unnecessarily intangible and would favor more traditional poetry, especially in connection to what is taught junior year. 

Currently, I am dreading reading Frankenstein. I’m trying to keep my mind open but when it comes to traditionally male gothic literature, I would prefer to read The Picture of Dorian Gray. While the text might be somewhat challenging, I think the themes are much more interesting and dynamic. The book is a clear commentary and requires more analysis into metaphor and could be easily paired with poetry from similar writers like Edgar Allen Poe. Moreover, although I am not super well-versed in the topic, Jane Austen could be an interesting addition to the curriculum by contrasting mostly gothic literature within the junior curriculum with something more light and romantic. Within studying Jane Austen there are many period-piece movies to study. Emma is one of my favorites with Anya Taylor Joy shining. Kiera Knightly also starred in some amazing book-to-movie adaptations including Pride and Prejudice, another Jane Austen, and Anna Karenina. I love Anna Karenina and while we cannot possibly read that book because it is over 800 pages, the movie could be amazing to study considering the themes align with the junior year curriculum. There are modern media pieces that could be added that I would enjoy, but since British literature and period work is the current format, I won’t stray too far. 

Now, while freshman year English was somewhat of a chaotic blur as we covered current political issues, the loser curriculum gave me more ideas. I would love to watch more movies in that class. Last year CODA won Best Picture and brought up many interesting discussions about the plot of the film and the idea of recent streaming service popularity. CODA stands for “child of deaf adults,” so to match its title, CODA follows the senior year of a girl whose whole family is deaf except her. The main character decides she wants to go to college for music, but her family is expecting her to help run the family fishing business. This movie is absolutely beautiful and the coming-of-age ideas match the freshman curriculum very well and additionally provoke the discussion of the recent shift in how we consume media. CODA was released on Apple TV and once it won Best Picture, it was considered a sign that streaming services were taking over the film industry. The change in media could be an interesting question to consider when covering current political issues. Another fun story to study could be Cursed, which is a book and a TV show on Netflix. The book follows the story of King Arthur, except Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, actually has the sword first. There are multiple ways to view the story and the TV show, but overall it considers the impact of a heroine in a male-dominated story. I felt that we didn’t read stories with female characters for most of freshman and sophomore year, so Cursed could be an amazing addition. Both the TV show and the book are strong pieces of media and contain amazing visuals to study in class while also being entertaining.

I think that many students are taught by English classes that what is studied cannot be inherently enjoyable, and I completely disagree. I believe that if the class material isn’t entertaining it should be changed or at least adapted. Classes do not always need to be interesting across the board, but there is so much literature, movies, TV shows, and even music in our world that are stimulating to study but also fun to watch. My last recommendation for Westminster’s English curriculum is to actually study music or lyricism senior year, because why not? All I know about senior year is that it follows American Literature, but nowadays, I believe my generation leans away from novels and toward music, so we should support that interest in class. Music is a form of literature and poetry in my opinion, and now more than ever is a prime time to be a music fan. Some of history’s best songwriters are living in our generation including Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Kanye West, and so many more. There are also older generations of songwriters that are just as worthy of studying, including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Carole King, Joni Mitchel, and so many more. This music can be introduced into the curriculum easily as a way to connect with current media but also as an easy way to introduce poetry and sound to classes. Studying music outside of its literary theory is not offered at Westminster, but it is such a critical aspect of the generation, so fitting it into the senior year curriculum is my solution. Lastly, even if the curriculum does not change ever again, remember that school does not fully represent what is out in the world and English class should never be the reason interest in literature or media dies. Don’t let the limitations of the English department hold you back from finding your interests and discovering a love for literature.

Edited by Helen Slawson