Stacy Cabrera » English 12 CP, Senior Seminar: Philosophy in Literature

English 12 CP, Senior Seminar: Philosophy in Literature

"Is a person a person in the same way that a dog is a dog?"
"Is Badness just spoiled Goodness?"
"Am I just my brain and all of its contents, like a computer?"
"Is Boredom the 'root of all evil?'"
"Am I purely a construct of the world around me, or do I ultimately choose who I want to be?"
All of these (and more!) will be the subject of intense thought and debate in this senior seminar, Philosophy in Literature. 
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General Course Description:

It is a uniquely-human phenomenon to use language to attach meaning to everything we see and do. Literature often borrows from Philosophy the ways to find and express meaning, be it in the world ever-present around us, or within our own being. This course will explore the way in which meaning translates across texts both philosophical and literary, with the aim of building our own deeper understandings of the world, ourselves, and the interplay of those two dynamics. (The answer is 42.)


Course Objectives and Focus Texts:

Unit 1: Meaning is Out There

Unit 1 will explore the use of fantasy as a means for discovering the truth already present in the world near and far.

  • Primary Literature: C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet
  • Philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas

Unit 2: Meaning is Within

Unit 2 will explore what philosophers do when discovering the world is bereft of any meaning: one must turn inward.

  • Primary Literature: Joseph Conrad, "The Secret Sharer", Groundhog Day (film), episodes of The Twilight Zone and Seinfeld, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, etc.
  • Philosophers: Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard

Unit 3: Meaning is Everywhere

Unit 3 will affirm, negate, and elevate the two previous positions in order to come to a holistic understanding of meaning—which is everywhere and nowhere simultaneously—where language is both the freest and most limiting aspect of Thought.

  • Primary Literature:  Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point
  • Philosophers: Kant, Hegel, Dewey


Major Assignments and Grading:

Argument Analyses (500-800 words) 25 each = 100 points

Seminar Paper (1000 words): 50 points

Response Paper (500-800 words): 25 points

Discussion Participation: 25 points

Midterm and Final Responses: 50 each = 100 points

Final Paper--Philosophical Topics Literature Reviews (2000 words): 100 points


This course is run as a college preparatory class, designed to stay true to the delivery, the type of work, and style of a college course, while maintaining the scaffolding and expectations appropriate for high school seniors. The policies enacted follow this same philosophy.


Plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying work, non-attribution or misattribution of sources, purchasing “factory” papers, and “borrowing” the logic or ideas of thinkers, websites, or other students. Offenders will be subject to the school’s Ethics Policy (see school handbook).

Late Work

Students have full access to all schedules and due dates for this course. As a result, no late work will be accepted. For certain circumstances, however, extensions will be considered for students who effectively and clearly communicate need (in person AND in writing) FOR SPECIFIC ASSIGNMENTS ONLY. However, communication does NOT guarantee extension—students must demonstrate good reason for need.

Revision of Writing

Students who turn work in on time may revise their work to replace the initial grade. Students have two weeks after the posted grade and commentary to resubmit revisions. Changes must be highlighted in the second submission. Second submission does NOT guarantee a change of grade—revision must show significant improvement to earn the revised grade.

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SIDE-NOTE: If you're looking for a great way to get familiar with the content of this class before taking it (or parents, if you're interested in seeing what your kids will be studying!), there are two great easy-read fictional novels that do a great job integrating the content:
See the attached course outlines for semester 1 below.