Humanities Circle: High School

Fall Quarter 2017: Course Information

In Fall 2017, we will offer two different courses for high school students: one focusing on poetry (Thursdays), and one focusing on creative nonfiction (Wednesdays). 

Poetry: Fuel for the Poet (Thursdays)

Poems have the power to haunt us, guide us, and help us remember. In this course we will focus on both inspiration and technique. Each week we will read memorable poems by writers including Louise Glück, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, and Wallace Stevens. We will examine how poets provoke emotion in their readers, as well as how they shape their poems through formal elements of craft. In addition to reading and discussing published writing, students will produce original work and experiment with revision strategies. A variety of writing prompts will engage students during class time, and we will take a walking tour of Stanford’s sculpture gardens to get inspired by art and nature. By the end of this course students will have written and revised several poems, and will be comfortable implementing literary techniques and visual considerations into their own writing practice.

  • Week One: Introduction to Poetry and the Image
  • Week Two: Ekphrasis/Erasure (Sculpture gardens walking tour)
  • Week Three: Landscapes
  • Week Four: Memory
  • Week Five: Narrative Strategies
  • Week Six: Dream Logic/Surrealism
  • Week Seven: Rhythm & Sound
  • Week Eight: Formal Considerations
  • Week Nine: Strategies for Revision/Style
  • Week Ten: Class reading

Creative Nonfiction: The Art of the Essay (Wednesdays)

The essay is a vast and sprawling genre that comprises a broader variety of forms and possibilities than most people realize. High schoolers in particular could understandably believe that essays exist exclusively as vehicles for mandated literary analysis and somewhat strained attempts to get into college. This course is an attempt to broaden students’ notion of the essay. It introduces students to the form’s varied possibilities by sampling some excellent examples from many styles and traditions. Each week we will read one or two essays, discuss how and why they are interesting or compelling, and practice writing short pieces that emulate some of the successful features of these essays.

  • Week One: The Philosophical Essay
    • Readings by David Hume and Virginia Woolf
  • Week Two: The Philosophical Essay, Continued
    • Readings by George Santayana and Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Week Three: The Persuasive Essay
    • Reading by William Deresiewicz, "Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League"
  • Week Four: The Personal Essay
    • Reading by Daniel Mendelsohn, “A Father’s Final Odyssey”
  • Week Five: Literary Criticism
    • Readings by Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf
  • Week Six: Literary Criticism, Continued
    • Readings by Gore Vidal and Randall Jarrell
  • Week Seven: The Reported or Journalistic Essay
    • Reading by Adam Gopnik, “The View from a Bridge”
  • Week Eight: The Comic Essay
    • Readings by Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce
  • Week Nine: Art Criticism Essay
    • Readings by Jennifer Roberts, “The Power of Patience”
  • Week Ten: Hybrids and Impossible to Categorize Essays
    • Readings by Rebecca Solnit and Nick Romeo


About Our Instructors

Nick Romeo, MFA (Creative Nonfiction)

Nick Romeo (MFA, University of Colorado; MA, Classics) has written both reported features and cultural criticism for many national publications: The New Yorker, The Washington Post, National Geographic, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, NPR, The MIT Tech Review, and many others. His work has explored everything from looted antiquities and drug trafficking to underwater archaeology and the meaning and purpose of a good education.

Laura Romeyn, MFA (Poetry)

Laura Romeyn's (MFA, Columbia University) poems have appeared in journals such as The Yale ReviewAGNICrazyhorse, and Ninth Letter. She received her MFA from Columbia University, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Stanford University, where she was recently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry. She currently teaches English at the International School of the Peninsula.