Monday, September 9, 2013

The Semester of Infidelity

It's the first day of school for New York City public school students, which got me thinking about one of the oddest English class semesters I ever had.

I think it was English 6, the second semester of 11th grade, and we were finished with our English Regents. But we still had to take English class.

That semester was...different than the others. I haven't thought about it in years, but if there was a theme to that semester, it was infidelity.

Here's what we read:
The Crucible
Ethan Frome
The Great Gatsby
"The Storm" by Kate Chopin

Have you guys read these? Did you read them in school?

My favorite read of the semester is a toss-up between Gatsby, which sent me on a Fitzgerald binge not long after, and The Crucible, which I used to read aloud to myself (I performed that seeing spirits in the courtroom scene in my dining room.)

But, my God, Ethan Frome. I don't remember the book too well, but it definitely wins the Most Depressing Novel I've Ever Read Award.

I remember: snow. A sled. Somebody running the sled into a tree. Just grimness all around.

And "The Storm." As one friend put it during a class discussion: "This is like softcore porn!"

What kind of semester themes did you have in high school?

8 comments:

  1. I don't really remember any themes (though I do remember the Regents exams!). I know we read The Crucible out loud as a class in 11th grade, but a lot of that year totally sucked my love of reading dry and I didn't really read for pleasure again until college. :-\

    If I continued on along my public education rant (and I was a teacher in the public schools in New York - not the city system, though I have friends that teach there), I would take up way too many pages on your blog, so I'd better stop here!

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    1. Feel free to rant away about the Regents, Thea. I was so angry the day I got my "Regents diploma" and it was just a round sticker that they stuck onto my regular diploma.

      I took 10 of those tests for that?!

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  2. Regents exam?

    No themes, but in 10th grade I had the teacher who hates any student that's not a senior and that was a lot of fun. He complained the entire first MONTH about having sophomores forced on him. The class was discussion. Then we watched Macbeth (which gave me an unfair advantage in senior English) and Hamlet because he didn't like Julius Caesar. We watched all of 30 minutes of that before he put in Macbeth instead. Fun times.

    Watched the Great Gatsby, never read it. Don't remember it, but I think I liked it. She assigned it, but she didn't make us read it. Honors English, really? What a joke.

    However I LOVED The Crucible. Love it. Have the movie. (Which we also watched, but I actually read the assignment for once.)

    I watched a lot of movies in high school.
    (That includes Romeo & Juliet freshman year.)

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    1. That 10th grade teacher sounds like a trip. I've ranted quite a bit on this blog about my high school education.

      We watched movies, too. After we finished The Crucible, watched the movie. Gatsby, watched the awful Robert Redford version of the movie. There's even an Ethan Frome movie--the movie is almost as depressing as the book.

      The Regents Exam is a New York State torture device. When I was in high school, NYC had a Regents Diploma and a local diploma. Local meant you hadn't passed all your exams with the 65 passing grade you needed, but could graduate high school anyway. The Regents Diploma meant you passed your exams with the 65.

      Basically, every subject ended with a Regents exam somehow--I took three science, three math, an English, Global History, American history, and French.

      ...And nobody outside of New York cares.

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  3. I remember "the Awakening" by Kate Chopin and fiery discussions about female oppression. I LOVED that book actually - homework I actually enjoyed during vacation.

    Also - "a Prayer for Owen Meany" on which the movie Simon Birch was based - some interesting conversations surrounding that novel as well.

    Somehow I will never forget the epic symbolism discussion about the "turtle chapter" in "The Grapes of Wrath." Does that sound familiar?

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    1. I've never read The Grapes of Wrath, so I don't know about any turtles. I think I saw one of the movie versions of it though.

      Oh! And who could forget your semester with Sylvia Plath?

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  4. We didn't have a lot of themes but we did have a whole year of Shakespeare, which ties in to identity issues and touches infidelity. We had one teacher who loved movies so we spent a good amount of time "reading" movies, where we watched Duck Soup. We also read Ethan Frome, The Great Gatsby, Bell Jar, and Death of a Salesman.

    Please don't get me started on the Regents. Yes they are indeed torture devices. I remember believing they mattered only to realize no one cared. I had to fight to get my regents sticker and even then I was gibed of my "honors" sticker but wasn't going to stand in that hot sticky prison we called school a minute longer that I needed to.

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    1. We read so much Shakespeare that I can't even really consider that a theme--I took a Shakespeare Lit class in college that I aced because of all that Shakespeare, though.

      Ugh. I remember when we had to get our diplomas. My guidance counselor looked at my diploma, looked at the list, said, "Do you get a Regents diploma? Yes, you do." Then he sticks a STICKER on it. That's it? A sticker?!

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Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts. Check back soon. I reply to all comments. Happy reading!