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.
- 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Aesthetics of Sustainability
- The American Dreams of John Steinbeck
- Apocalypse Now and Then
- The Awakened Mind
- The Cinema Legacy of Film Noir
- Conspiracy Theories, Hoaxes, and Fake News
- Film as Literature
- Forbidden Fruit: Dangerous Ideas, Divisive Concepts, Banned Books, and American Democracy
- From Gourmands to Foodies: Tracing the Origins of Gastronomy in 18th Century France
- From Obscurity to Netflix Fame: Nella Larsen's Black Womanhood
- Girls, Girls, Girls
- Holding the Mirror Up to Nature: The Past Played Out on the Stage
- Poets of Our Time
- The Signal and the Noise: Alternative Music as Commentary on Social Issues, Global Ethics, and Life Itself
- U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin America & Cuba — A Whole New Ballgame
- Writing Our Own Literature
Instructor: Sra. Ramirez
One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of Latin America’s novels of excellence and one of the most important novels of the 20th century. Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel García Márquez wrote it in 1967, and in the novel he breaks with all “realism” and introduces myth in fiction, constructing a mythical past in which fantastic elements are part of daily existence. Macondo, the town founded by Buendía family at the center novel, is more than just a place in the world; it is a state of being. We will discuss the novel within the frame of Latin America’s history and the creation of memory.
Instructors: Mr. Meier and M. Miller
How does the natural environment influence art and design both today, and in the past? Likewise, how do works of art and innovations in design help us to understand and engage with the natural world? This course approaches the idea of sustainability by examining the techniques and practices of artists and designers over the last 50 to 60 years. Beginning with artworks that embody the American mythology of westward expansion and manifest destiny, and moving toward the land artists of the 1960s and 1970s, we will look at our societal relationship to our land and how it has changed and evolved through the years. From mankind’s desire to conquer and tame the wild, to living in harmony with the environment around us, we will explore how art and design has both reflected, and influenced, these shifts, and still do today.
Instructors: Mr. and Mrs. Daly
The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Award, and propelled Steinbeck to the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. Touching on important issues like immigration, climate change, and the plight of the poor, this novel follows the Joad family as they join the wave of Okies (people from Oklahoma) fleeing the Dust Bowl in search of a better life in California.
The Winter of Our Discontent, published in 1961, is Steinbeck's last novel, and many Steinbeck aficionados rank it among his most important works. Set in Long Island, we follow Ethan Hawley, a grocery store clerk, on a quest to reclaim his family's former status and wealth—written by Steinbeck as an indictment of post-war America, this journey parallels the Joad family's saga.
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), possible texts include Shakespeare’s King Lear, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Heinrich von Kleist’s Earthquake in Chile. I am expecting the members of this tutorial to play an active role in deciding the direction of the course. 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). 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. Kunen
What is the best way to live? Our great philosophical and spiritual traditions have offered many answers to this question. One of Socrates’ most famous sayings is: “the unexamined life is not worth living.” After Socrates and Plato, Aristotle wrote on the best sort of life for a human being in his Nicomachean Ethics, with an emphasis on the development of virtue and the centrality of friendship. When Siddhartha Gautama reached enlightenment, he became known as the Buddha, meaning “the awakened one,” and taught about how to be free of suffering through mindful living. The Hindu epic the Bhagavad Gita contains several chapters on the meditative life and the path to self-realization. Where Confucius emphasized self-cultivation, ritual, and social order in order to become “the exemplary person,” Daoism through the lens of Lao Tzu calls for harmonizing with the way of nature and effortlessness. Jesus preached that we must be “born anew” and that “the kingdom of God is within you.”
Are there commonalities among these different wisdom teachings? If “the unexamined life is not worth living,” then what exactly is the examined life? What does it mean to be “awakened” and mindful? Through a survey of some of the most pivotal works in philosophy, we will seek to develop a global perspective on the human condition. As we do this, we will direct our attention to fundamental concerns such as: human nature, knowledge and ignorance, friendship and love, freedom, justice, and the aims and effects of society. As we engage in this comparative exploration and quest for a global lens, we will also learn how each work is the product of its author’s own examined life, and we will inquire how each author and tradition understood awakening in their respective historical and philosophical contexts.
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 drew 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. 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.
Instructor: Mr. Hutchinson
Do we live in a “post truth” era? This tutorial seeks to explore conspiracy theories and the important role they play in influencing our political values. From the JFK assassination to "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 as "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 conspiracy theories provide fuel for the fire of culture wars?
- Do conspiracy theories pose a threat to our democracy ?
Instructor: Mr. Torrey
Although we might not think of film as literature, cinema is a serious art form that adheres to the same narrative structures as novels and short stories. Like any good book, a film begins with a break in routine that disrupts the life of the protagonist and ends when the protagonist experiences a major change of perspective. Over the course of this tutorial, we’ll dissect nine of the most significant films produced by American directors in the twenty-first century. In addition to weekly viewings and group discussions at my house* students will write essays on each film, and, in some cases, put their own assertions in conversation with those of scholars and film critics. Overall, the tutorial aspires to expose students to a broad spectrum of contemporary film while continuing to hone the critical thinking and analytical writing skills they’ve developed over the past four years at St. Andrew’s.
*This tutorial requires a 2-3 hour Sunday evening/afternoon commitment (precise times fluid and TBD), as we’ll gather as a large group to watch and discuss the films.
Instructor: Mr. Edmonds
If you have followed the news over the past couple of years, you have undoubtedly taken note of the controversies surrounding the banning of certain books and ideas in schools (especially public schools). Why have people sought to ban young adult novels and graphic novels like The Hate U Give and Maus? Moving beyond fiction, why has The New York Times’ 1619 Project been so controversial? And what is critical race theory, anyway? Most importantly, what is so dangerous about these writings that adults across the U.S. have sought to ban them from their children’s schools? In this tutorial, you will read some of these works and decide for yourself. We will also examine efforts to restrict certain teachings in a historical context to determine what lessons, if any, we might draw about American democracy from these controversies.
Instructor: Mr. 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 contributions of literature and journalism to this evolution—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 a 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.
Instructor: Dr. Pitts
On November 10, 2021, Rebecca Hall’s black-and-white film adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing was released on Netflix. With the release of the film, there has been a renewed interest in the work of Larsen, a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance of 1920s New York City. In this tutorial we will read and write about Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929), Larsen’s two published novels. Through its protagonist, Helga Crane, Quicksand examines, among other themes and issues, the problems of being biracial in both America and Denmark. It also critiques the black elite and explores oppressive aspects of marriage and motherhood. Passing centers on two women protagonists, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, both light-skinned enough to pass and both confined by the psychological narrowness of black and female life.
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.
Instructors: Ms. Pressman
Since ancient times, people have wrestled with some of the most challenging questions of human experience, and of their particular historical moment, by playing them out on stage, making theater a particularly fascinating lens for considering important social, cultural, and political issues across time. In this sense, plays are very much a product of the specific eras from which they emerge, and a lens through which contested pasts can be examined. At the same time, the very nature of a play is that it is interpreted and reinterpreted in each performance as a work of art—allowing future generations to reshape the original material to speak to their own moment. The study of dramatic literature, therefore, is an inherently interdisciplinary experience.
In this tutorial—functioning as literary critics, historians, theater artists, dramaturgs, and audience members—we will study some of the most important plays of the modern era to develop a deeper understanding of them as works of literature and art, and windows into the past. If possible, we will see a stage production of one of the works we study.
Possible texts include: Henrik Ibsen's groundbreaking A Doll's House (1879), and its challenge to traditional gender roles that scandalized the world; Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit (1944), a quintessential work of existentialism; Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949), often identified by scholars as the best American play ever written, which examines the "American Dream" and its limits; August Wilson's Fences (1985), the sixth in his ten play cycle about the African-American experience, set in the early years of the Civil Rights movement; David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly (1988), loosely based on the relationship between a French diplomat and a Chinese opera singer in China in the 1960s, wrestling with questions of colonialism, Orientalism, and gender; Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (1993), considered by many to be "the greatest play of the late 20th century," which moves back and forth between the early 1800s century and the late 1900s, dealing with Romantic poetry, landscape architecture, fractal mathematics, and how the past echoes forward through time; and Sweat (2015), Lynn Nottage's play about the working class in 21st century, post-industrial Pennsylvania—a play that many have argued is invaluable in understanding the appeal of Donald Trump to American voters. Students will help to select the plays we will consider, from these and numerous other options, based on their interests and previous experiences.
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.
Instructor: Dr. Hyde
Alternative genres of music such as rock, heavy metal, and punk are often negatively stereotyped as consisting of meaningless noise, or of promoting violence and even anarchy. However, there are many artists within these genres—if not most—who use their music as an almost poetic outlet for their personal views, producing eloquent musings on life, love, and death. Others tackle social issues such as racism, poverty, and corruption. These artists create music that often deliberately rails against mainstream views and societal norms. It is designed to be hard-hitting and emotive, to encourage us to have difficult conversations, and to confront and raise awareness of what the artists feel are important issues or injustices in our society or on a global level. A song or lyric may contain an inflammatory concept or theme, not necessarily because this is what the artist believes or supports—instead, their intention is to criticize this view or to shine a light on the issue. The Sex Pistol’s “God Save the Queen” is a classic example: despite its title—which is also the title of the official royal anthem of Great Britain—the song is actually a scathing criticism of the British monarchy.
This tutorial aims to explore examples of these alternative genres of music, to decipher the messages and arguments being expressed, and try to understand what might have influenced these artists and their views. We will examine a variety of songs by a variety of artists from the 1970s until the present day, broken up by theme: songs that condemn war and describe its horrors; songs that rage about the damage we are doing (or may do) to our planet and ourselves in the form of pollution, climate change, and nuclear weapons; songs that tackle police brutality, gun violence, and the pandemic of school shootings in America; and songs that deal with love, loss, and grief.
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.
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