Senior Tutorial Program
VI Form students with a demonstrated commitment to independent work have the option of taking a spring tutorial. Comprised of three students or fewer, tutorials are offered in all disciplines, and provide a culminating academic experience for seniors as they work closely with a faculty member on a topic of their particular interest. Tutorials meet slightly less frequently than regular classes, but are reading and writing-intensive. Students are required to write weekly essays which they read aloud, critique, and debate with their teachers and classmates, in the spirit of the Oxford tutorial system. The tutorial framework allows students a degree of academic independence that more closely approximates the collegiate experience, and an opportunity to further hone their analytical, problem-solving, and written and oral argumentation skills. More than 20 tutorials are offered each spring.
2022-23 Tutorial Offerings
- Apocalypse Now and Then
- Arthurian Legends
- The Cinema Legacy of Film Noir
- The Conscious Meditator
- Conspiracy Theories, Hoaxes, and Fake News
- From Gourmands to Foodies: Tracing the Origins of Gastronomy in 18th Century France
- Girls, Girls, Girls
- Global Media and Culture
- Interpreting Contemporary American Short Fiction
- Just A Game? Politics, Power, and U.S. Sports
- Music Videos and the Consumable Screen
- Plato’s Republic
- Poets of Our Time
- Sherlock Holmes and the Art of Adaptation
- Time, Attention, and Identity
- Touch ’Em All: Baseball and the Liberal Arts
- Transcending Media in Contemporary Asian Art
- U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin America & Cuba — A Whole New Ballgame
- Writing Our Own Literature
Apocalypse Now and Then
Instructor: Ms. Hanson
“Apocalypse” comes from the Greek apokálypsis, meaning “uncovering.” What can the end of the world uncover or reveal? This interdisciplinary tutorial will explore apocalyptic imaginations across a range of periods, contexts, genres, and media. “The Apocalypse” is sometimes portrayed as a calamitous, one-off event (as in 2021’s star-studded film Don’t Look Up, which we will watch together as our first assignment). But, we will investigate, is apocalypse necessarily “total,” or might it happen in parts? Might it happen over and over again? Might it be ongoing? Might it be, not cataclysmic, but quotidian? What would it mean to think of anthropogenic climate change as a kind of chronic apocalypse—not one that is still to come, but one that has already begun? Is white supremacy an apocalypse? Is colonialism? Alternatively, might the apocalypse represent a chance for rupture from this world built on so much injustice? Might the world’s end uncover another possible, better world? We will consider the political and ethical stakes of imagining and portraying the world’s end by engaging questions of race, gender, poverty and capital, imperialism, indigeneity, and climate disaster. Beyond Indra Sinha’s wrenching, hilarious 2007 novel Animal’s People (set in the aftermath of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India), we may also engage photography (comparing the work of Ansel Adams and Subhankar Banerjee), film (Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God), music (Jenny Hval’s “Apocalypse, girl,” Moses Sumney’s “Doomed,” and many possible others), theory (Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s “M Archive: After the End of the World”), poetry (selections from Rita Dove’s “Playlist for the Apocalypse,” Franny Choi’s “The World Keep Ending, and the World Goes On,” Saeed Jones’ “Alive at the End of the World,” Ocean Vuong’s “Time is a Mother,” and others.) The course culminates in an independent analytical or creative project on an apocalyptic text or cultural artifact of their choosing. This course is suited for students interested in thinking in rigorous, interdisciplinary, and rollicking ways informed by literary criticism and theory, history, philosophy, and media studies. We will hold class movie screenings and record listening parties. Seniors, the end is nigh—let’s have fun!
Instructors: Mr. Mufuka
Arthurian legends are some of the most popular stories and tales that originated from England at the beginning of the Middle Ages. This period, which immediately follows the fall of the Roman Empire, is often depicted as a time of chaos and disorder. During this epoch, stories arose concerning a powerful warlord, named Arthur, who united Britons against the invading Saxons from Germany. Like most legends, the historical accuracy of these accounts is called into question but what remains undeniable is the legacy these stories have had on the cultural identity of not only the British but of western civilization.
Although the legends state that King Arthur conquered by the sword, what makes him timeless is that he ruled by a code that “might is not right, but might for right.” The “Round Table” is a metaphor for equality and Camelot a notion of what is possible for human society. In this course, we will begin with a discussion of a boy, a sword, and a destiny—a destiny so closely tied to the famous iconography of Excalibur, the Round Table, Camelot, and the Holy Grail. Through examining these symbols. we hope to uncover how the writers of the day understood the individual’s relationship to the self, community, and the divine.
The Cinema Legacy of Film Noir
Instructor: Mr. Hoopes
Film Noir is one of the most iconic and American of film genres, and its legacy thrives in cinema today. Contemporary films like The Dark Knight, Se7en, Blade Runner, and John Wick all draw their tone and technique from the original film noir style. In this tutorial we will watch and explore several classic films from the 1940s and 1950s, including The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and Touch of Evil, and we’ll compare those to more recent films like Chinatown, Brick, and Momento. We’ll examine character development, lighting and composition, plot elements, and music and sound, and we’ll find and uncover film noir’s tangled connections to many present-day movies.
The Conscious Meditator
Instructors: Mr. Sanchez
Sit comfortably with good posture, close your eyes, and direct your attention to your breath. Practice this for 60 seconds, observing any thoughts or sensations that arise without judgment. Congratulations, you have taken the first step towards becoming a more conscious meditator. This course explores the study of human consciousness from both academic and experiential perspectives. We will delve into key questions about consciousness through readings in psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and philosophy. Additionally, we will gain a deeper understanding of our own minds through an eight-week guided meditation program. Assignments for this course include a combination of essays, meditation practice, personal reflections, and private journal entries, designed to deepen your understanding and experience of human consciousness.
Conspiracy Theories, Hoaxes, and Fake News
Instructors: Mr. Hutchinson
Do we live in a “post truth” era? This tutorial seeks to explore conspiracy theories and the important role they play influencing political values. From the JFK Assassination to the “New World Order” Conspiracies, from Holocaust denial to QAnon, from global warming skepticism to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s dismissal from her Congressional committee work, conspiracy theories have been embraced by both sides of the aisle, and by by “elites” and “non-elites” alike. Using Hellinger’s seminal work Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories in the Age of Trump, this course will explore Americans’ unique attraction to these theories about sinister schemes secretly at work in our world. We will discuss the following questions:
- Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?
- Are conspiracy theories undeserving of academic inquiry?
- Does the dismissal of these strongly held beliefs “provide the perfect petri dish for conspiracy movements: a durable, elastic climate of alienation and resentment?”
- Why do conspiracy theorists tend to surface when there is a rise in populism and how do they provide fuel for the fire of culture wars?
- Do conspiracy theories pose a threat to our democracy?
From Gourmands to Foodies: Tracing the Origins of Gastronomy in 18th Century France
Instructor: Dr. Shrem
For centuries, French cuisine has been an international symbol of gastronomic pleasure, providing a culture in which people could live out their food fantasies. In this course, students will study the development of the cultural field of gastronomy from the 18th century “Age of Enlightenment” to the Napoleonic Empire. By focusing on the cultural figure of the gourmand—the person who eats plenty and appreciates fine food—students will examine the ways in which eating went from being an act of survival to a form of artistic expression. Previously, cultural historians have attributed this transformation to the birth of the restaurant in early 19th century France; however, in this class, students will uncover the contribution of the literary field, focusing on journalism and literature, everything from Grimod de la Reynière’s Almanach des gourmands (from 1803 to 1812) to Bill Buford’s Dirt (2020). While reading short stories and memoirs through the critical lens of food, students will work on their own food writing. The class will culminate with an interview of a 21st century food writer.
Girls, Girls, Girls
Instructor: Ms. Lazar
The development of this tutorial arose from controversial issues around gender that have been a part of our society for quite some time, but have come to the forefront of popular discussion as a result of the 2016 presidential election. This tutorial will examine the following issues through the lens of gender: healthcare, immigration, science and environment, labor and wages, and education. In order to stimulate our discussion and writing, we will read several articles as well as the following three books: Girl in Glass by Deanna Fei, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, and Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, I look forward to engaging in discourse with you about these topics.
Global Media and Culture
Instructor: Mrs. Carroll
This tutorial will investigate global media and its impact on various cultures throughout society, focusing primarily on the development and dispersal of new forms of media, such as Internet, social media, and 24-hour news. After first building a foundational understanding of “globalization,” media technology, and cultural shifts, we will critically examine the following questions: Who owns the majority of the media? How do they use framing and agenda setting to push forward their opinions and political views? Which cultures have limited access to media due to the uneven distribution of technological innovation, or, quite simply, a lack of freedom of press? Additionally, we will study how film, music, and sports have impacted and transformed cultures around the world through the increasing accessibility of media. Assignments will be an analysis of a number of readings, short writing excerpts, and films (Outfoxed and Slumdog Millionaire).
Interpreting Contemporary American Short Fiction
Instructor: Mr. Torrey
Short fiction is perhaps literature’s most complex, intriguing and impactful genre. By compressing the elements of novels into thirty pages or less, stories offer uniquely intimate glimpses into the emotions, thoughts and conflicts of their characters. Over the course of the tutorial, we’ll read, discuss and carefully dissect nine of the most significant stories published by American authors in the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition to writing weekly analytical essays for group presentation and critique, students will also take turns serving as Story Experts, a role that will place them at the helm of a particular work’s class discussion. Overall, the tutorial aspires to expose students to a broad spectrum of contemporary writing while further honing their abilities to zero in on a story’s most meaningful moments and ask the critical questions—in writing and in discussion—necessary to understand them best.
Just A Game? Politics, Power, and U.S. Sports
Instructor: Dr. Pitts
Many folks believe that sports and politics do not and should not mix. In this tutorial, we will explore this belief, engaging the intersections of sports with larger social and political concerns such as racial justice and equality, gender identity and equity, mental health awareness, and equal pay. The tutorial is organized both thematically and mostly chronologically. We will begin the course with a viewing of David Zirin’s compelling documentary, Not Just a Game: Power, Politics & American Sports, which provides a good overview of the numerous connections between politics and sports. Then we will delve into specific political issues that have been manifested in specific sports such as American football, boxing, basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, cheerleading(!), and more. Readings will include excerpts from Michael Serazio’s The Power of Sports: Media and Spectacle in American Culture and Robert Scoop Jackson’s The Game is not a Game: The Power, Protests and Politics of American Sports, in addition to articles from journals and popular magazines.
This tutorial is also about writing and academic inquiry, where you will continue to learn to read, question, and respond to the arguments of others and to write about issues that you’re interested in. Over the course of the tutorial, you will learn to discern nuance, identify uses of rhetoric, and gain an understanding of language’s power that will allow you to think beyond potentially easy or misleading narratives. Assignments will include summary/response essays, an essay related to a topic/sport you deeply care about, and a student-created short documentary about sports culture at SAS. Currently, your instructor is not the biggest sports fan (except for the sports her children play), although she is a former soccer mom and a 1990s NBA superfan.
Music Videos and the Consumable Screen
Instructor: M. Miller
Did video kill the radio star? This tutorial will focus on the relationship between music videos, popular culture, consumerism, and contemporary art. We will look at the work of artists who have created or gained inspiration from music videos, the work of video directors, and musical artists. Why was the music video originally conceived? How has the music video transformed in the digital age? Artists included are Jacolby Satterwhite, Pipilotti Rist, Mykki Blanco, Beyoncé, Mase, Andrew Thomas Huang, Perfume Genius, Missy Elliot, Tierra Whack, Soundgarden, Liz Magic Laser, and others. Readings will include The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan, Ways of Seeing by John Berger, The Rhetoric of the Image by Roland Barthes, and writings by Krista Thompson, Ann Kaplan, and Hito Steyerl. Assignments will mainly include written responses, but we will have an option to explore the moving image as well. Weekly class meetings will include screenings, discussions, and critique.
Instructors: Mr. Kunen
Plato’s Republic is the first great work of Western political philosophy and considered by some scholars to be one of the greatest and most influential works in the Western philosophical tradition. Written sometime between 380-360 BCE, the dialogue discusses the meaning of justice and its connection to happiness, the origin of cities, the nature of various political regimes, Plato’s theory of the soul, the theory of the forms and his famous cave analogy, and the role of the philosopher and poetry in society, among many other topics. In this tutorial, we will read the Republic and discuss some of the central themes and questions of each chapter, culminating with the question as to whether this text has more to do with ethics or politics.
Poets of Our Time
Instructor: Mrs. Hurtt
This tutorial will explore some of the most well-known, popular poets of our time—Mary Oliver, Amanda Gorman, Li-young Lee, Billy Collins, Terrance Hayes, and others. Students will have some input on the poets and poems we study. We will experience each writer’s unique voice, context and style, primarily by studying their poems, and also by viewing readings and reading critical reviews. Paper assignments will vary each week, ranging from the more creative (“Give this poet’s collection to someone you know well. Write a letter to this person explaining why you think they’ll connect with this poet.”) to the analytical (“Explain and analyze references to current events in Hayes’ poem.”). Our goal is to help readers appreciate a variety of contemporary voices, discover their own taste in poetry, and consider the role of poetry in our contemporary lives.
Sherlock Holmes and the Art of Adaptation
Instructor: Ms. Preysner
Originally created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for a series of stories published in The Strand Magazine in the late 1800s, the character of Sherlock Holmes has been re-invented over time to fit new cultural contexts, historical periods, and changing audience preferences. The idea of Sherlock Holmes has become so ingrained in popular culture that any conception of the “real” Holmes is tenuous. Rather, it seems the character of Holmes is both multi-faceted and endlessly translatable to different settings. In this tutorial, we will read a number of Conan Doyle’s original Holmes stories as well as modern adaptations and pastiches in order to study how characters enter popular consciousness over time. In addition to such readings, we will watch selections from the BBC’s Sherlock and other film and/or television adaptations that re-cast Conan Doyle’s original consulting detective.
Time, Attention, and Identity
Instructor: Mr. O’Connell
Do you ever have the nagging sense that you are wasting your time? If so, this course will provide you with philosophical, psychological, and religious authors who agree. We will explore why we seem to lack the time needed to pursue our most cherished goals. Then, after hearing comforting and discomforting answers to this question, we will ask: what is worth paying attention to, and why do we so often attend to the unworthwhile? Principle texts include 4000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher, and The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World by Adam Gazzaley. We will also read articles by zen masters, and hear podcasts by Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and meditation expert.
Touch ’Em All: Baseball and the Liberal Arts
Instructor: Mr. Edmonds
Here’s the pitch: Explore “America’s Pastime” by taking an interdisciplinary trip around the bases. This tutorial will be divided into two parts. In the first, students will focus primarily on the rich history and literature of baseball, supplemented with film and music. In the second, students will shift their focus to STEM fields (especially statistics/data science, economics, and physics) to consider the drastic changes the game has undergone in the 21st century.
Transcending Media in Contemporary Asian Art
Instructor: Mrs. Kelsey
In this tutorial, we will delve into the work and artistic practice of several contemporary female Asian visual artists. Of importance is how these artists define their own voice. In addition, we will analyze how many of these artists began with painting, and then built upon their practice with the addition of sculpture, installation, animation, and other media. What happens when these areas intersect? How does a collaboration of media inform one another to further develop the artist’s message? A strong emphasis will be placed on parallel developments, important cultural connections, and moments of cultural contact through pilgrimage, travel, and trade. This course will include examining art, studio work, and written expression.
U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin America & Cuba — A Whole New Ballgame
Instructor: Mr. Miller
The United States has a unique relationship with Latin America due both to historical coincidence and to geographical proximity. Perhaps no other country in Latin America has as special a relationship with the United States as Cuba. Cuba’s destiny has been inextricably tied to the foreign policy decisions of the U.S. since before its independence from Spain. (Indeed, Cuban independence followed directly from United States military intervention.) The relationship has gone through many phases, beginning when both countries were colonies of European powers, through independence for one, then the other, through revolution, the Cold War and a fifty-year estrangement during the Revolutionary Period, to the brand-new age of regularized relations, to a horizon which is again cloudy on both sides of the Florida Straits. In this tutorial, which is politico-historical in nature, we will explore the entire span of this relationship, and will follow current events in U.S.-Cuban relations as they occur. We will make our best guesses as to how the next phase of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba will develop. There is no more timely a moment to take on this case study than right now.
Writing Our Own Literature
Instructor: Ms. Reddy
In an interview with writer and educator Alexander Chee, he explains his journey to writing about himself and teaching this skill to his students: “How do we write our own literature? I am thinking of when I interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin and she told me she had to teach herself to write as a woman. Or my own first stories, when I did much the same as these students. In the 1980s, I had to learn how to write myself and people like me onto the page. My own life on the page felt impossible to explain in any detail when I was a student writer. I had to ask myself why I was embarrassed to mention that I was Asian-American, much less to center it in a story. Strangely, it took finding writers like Mavis Gallant and Gregor Von Rezzori, whose works described characters who had lived among several cultures, as they were writing about Europeans. Reading about someone who was of Austrian and French heritage may not feel like a mix of cultures, but I unexpectedly found permission there—white writers teaching me how to write mixed-race Asian-American characters like me.”
In this tutorial, we will examine how various Asian-American writers write themselves “onto the page.” By reflecting on their approaches, what they choose to examine, and how they tell their stories, you will be asked to complete a final project where you write your own story onto the page. For this final project, you will have the option to write in any of the genres we read in the tutorial: a “graphic” essay/portrait, a comedic piece that can be used in the form of a show or presentation, or a personal essay.
Over the course of the tutorial, you will be writing analytical and personal pieces in response to the following:
- Mira Jacob’s illustrated memoir Good Talk
- Thi Bui’s Illustrated memoir The Best We Could Do
- Hasan Minhaj’s stand-up performance Homecoming King
- “Snake Heart”— a short essay by comedian, actress, and writer Ali Wong