Course Syllabus

21st Century Literature Course Overview

Ms. Prinn                                                   Office Hours: Mon-Thurs before/after school or by appt.
Academic Year 2022-2023                      e-mail:                         Room 220

HMart.jpegExitWest2.jpegNottage_Sweat.jpegThe Wall.jpegKlara.jpeg

This core senior course will study literature written in the 21st century. Specific historical events - such as 9/11 and the subsequent global war on terror, the mass introduction and use of smartphones and the rise of social media, and the pandemic - make life in the 21st century tangibly different from life even in the 1990s. Add phenomena begun in the 20th century but coming into mass consciousness in the last two decades - like climate change, global migration, and open discussion of race and gender - and the distinction of 21st century literature becomes obvious. This course will reflect growing awareness of 21st century literature and other forms of cultural production (podcasts, music, etc.) as distinct from what came before them, a distinction that can be understood both through esoteric theories such as postcolonialism and through simple things like encountering characters in novels who carry smartphones. Students will study the stories we tell about ourselves, our world, and ourselves in the world primarily through what we call literature - novels, poems, plays, short stories and essays - but film, music, history and current events will also regularly be used to supplement our studies. This is a course in which your voice and perspectives will be highly valued and crucial to our combined journey. To that end, we must commit ourselves to reading closely and thinking deeply about our literature.

If we want to create a viable, peaceful world, we've got to integrate compassion into the gritty realities of
21st century life. 
Karen Armstrong (British author 1944-)


Like all 12th grade English students, those in 21st Century Literature will strive to:

  • improve our reading comprehension and critical analysis through exposure to a variety of literature; 
  • improve our ability to communicate clearly and concisely in written form; 
  • interact with our texts and each other in a respectful, lively, and thought-provoking classroom atmosphere of belonging that allows us to honor and live out our core values: achieving academic excellence, fostering cooperative and caring relationships, respecting human differences, and committing to community;
  • employ a variety of technologies to both acquire and share knowledge; 
  • learn research skills to access, evaluate, analyze and employ information; 
  • develop our skills of public speaking. 


The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology 
but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.
                                                                      -- John Naisbitt (American author 1929-2021)

12th Grade Essential Questions:

  1. Who am I? What is my story, and what forces and choices influence this identity?

  2. How does writing help me tell stories? How do I use the stylistic techniques and literary conventions explored last year to tell my stories and the stories of others?

  3. How does literature teach me to empathize and connect with others? 


Crying in H Mart:  Michelle Zauner
Exit West:  Mohsin Hamid
Sweat: Lynn Nottage
The Wall:  John Lanchester 
Klara and the Sun: Kazuo Ishiguro

Supplemental: (a menu of material we may read/watch/listen to in conjunction with our novels, subject to additions and changes as we go.)

Psychopomp: Japanese Breakfast
“The Problem with Memoir” Neil Glenzinger
“Why Read Memoir?” Avery Rogers 
After Yang:  Kogonada 

Beautiful Boy:  Felix Van Groeningen 
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant:  Steven Bogner and Julia Reichert
America ReFramed -  “Bring it Home” Carl Kriss
Braddock, PA: Rosie Haber

“Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” Jean M. Twenge
“Why the Past Ten Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid”  Jonathan Haidt
Searching:  John Cho 


  • Homework and Preparedness – In order to reach our fullest potential (and have fun and create an engaging classroom environment), we must all first commit to doing the reading consistently! Consider reading with a pen in hand, take notes, use post-its, make connections, and ask questions. Avoid SparkNotes and other short cuts as they will hinder your development as a critical reader - a skill you will surely need in your post-high school pursuits. Use that time to read the actual text instead.

  • Classwork/Effort/Participation/Mindset - Since you chose this elective, dive in and embrace the opportunity to be invested in the class! Your thoughtful, open, and productive participation in discussions and activities will determine how much you learn and how much you enjoy our time together. This category includes whole-class and small-group discussions, in-class writings, group activities, creative projects and posters, acting/speaking/reading, peer editing, and more.  

  • Essays - Written assignments will vary in length and style - from analytic to personal to creative - with a heavy emphasis on revision and rewriting. All final drafts of essays must be typed and all steps completed (i.e. pre-writing, rough drafts, peer edits, and self-assessments). As with all senior English courses, we will write the Senior Paper - an essay of 6-10 pages on a topic of your choosing. Avoid needless stress by budgeting your time and submiting all writing assignments on the due date. Please remember the importance of academic integrity and only submit wholly original work in all cases. 

Please review the student handbook for the academic integrity and plagiarism policies:

WHS Student Handbook 2022-2023

  • Projects and Presentations - These assignments will give you the opportunity to express what you have learned in ways other than reading and writing.  They may include art, music, Google slides, video, podcasts, teaching the class, acting, or speaking (sometimes individually, other times in groups). In keeping with all senior English courses, we will be completing the “Senior Speech” assignment (8-12 minutes on the topic of your choice) during 4th quarter. Clear expectations and rubrics will be provided for all projects and presentations.

  • Tests and Quizzes - Any major tests and quizzes will be announced a week in advance and a study guide provided. Expect regular unannounced reading quizzes

Assessment:  Grades will be calculated on a straight point system and are based on your demonstrated effort in achieving course objectives and mastery of the material.  Course work will be weighted approximately  as follows (subject to adjustments as we customize this new elective to our particular class’s needs and learning styles, etc.):

 Homework/Preparedness—10-15%                Essays – 30%            Projects/Presentations – 10-15%
Engagement/Effort/Classwork – 10%             Tests/Quizzes– 25-30%

Grading Scale (averages are rounded up at .5):

A+  97-100;  A  93-96;  A- 90-92;  B+ 87-89;  B  83-86;  B-  80-82;  C+ 77-79;  C 73-76;  C-  70-72; 
D+  67-69;  D  63-66;  D-  60-62;  F  0-59


Classroom Expectations:

1)  Each student is a valuable member of our classroom community with unique insights, experiences, culture, ideas, and background to share.  Respect, listen to, and learn from one another.  No disparaging comments or jokes, hurtful actions, and/or inappropriate language will be tolerated.

2)  Be in your seat on time and resist the urge to pack up early. Let’s make the most of our time together.

3)  Protect your academic integrity at all times.  Plagiarism, copying homework, and downloading any portions of Internet resources ARE considered cheatingPlease review the WHS Student Handbook for the school wide policies and consequences (see link above).

4)  Eliminate distractions. As soon as you enter the classroom, put your phone away! Use this time to interact with your classmates and invest in those relationships. Building a supportive community is a top priority in our class.


Absences are a fact of life. The best way to handle this inevitability is to be proactive about your work when you are absent. Work missed due to an excused absence may be made up.  If you are absent the day a project or essay is due, that work is due the same day you return to school unless an extension is warranted by the circumstances. (Even better, e-mail it to me or share it on Google Drive on the due date if possible.) If absent for a test or quiz, be ready to make it up the day of your return.  It is difficult to make up missed presentations, especially a group presentation. Make every effort not to let down your fellow group members by being absent. Please note that it is your responsibility to follow up on missed work and schedule make-up dates when applicable. Be proactive and come talk to me before and/or following an absence. I'm here to support you and help you avoid overwhelm!

Office Hours/ Student Support:
I am glad you chose this class, and I am looking forward to working with you this year and getting to know you as a writer and thinker and also as a whole person with your own unique lived experiences, circumstances, goals, interests, learning style, and personality. These days especially, it is important that you do not worry alone. Please reach out to discuss any questions or difficulties you may be having with the class. I am readily available for extra help or guidance. You can contact me via school email and/or come by in person to Room 220. I’m looking forward to our time together. With our combined hard work, flexibility, and enthusiasm, I know we will have a rewarding senior year journey. Don’t forget that I’m here to help you succeed and enjoy your learning along the way.  Let’s go!


 “But when you read a book, what you see are black squiggles on pulped wood or, increasingly, dark pixels on a pale screen. To transform these icons into characters and events, you must imagine. And when you imagine, you create.”      
                                                                                           -- Mohsin Hamid (British Pakistani novelist 1971-)




Course Summary:

Date Details Due