Psych. & Lit. (Fall)
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Overview -- Psychology and Literature:  Self, Others and the World

Essential Questions (Framework for Transferring Learning)


What meanings do psychological lenses help us find, or uncover, in literature, and how might these meanings help us understand the self, others and/or the world?


How can literature help us understand, and solve, man-made problems in the world today?

In this class, we use "Self, Others and the World" as a conceptual framework for studying Psychology and Literature.  The study of literature leads to an extended research project, which culminates with the completion of an 8-12 page college-level research paper.  Self-directed inquiry into literature is an important part of this course; students are encouraged and prompted to create lines of inquiry and to generate answers to their inquiry through reading and writing processes.  All semester, students work on strengthening skills as readers, writers, thinkers, researchers, speakers and listeners as they "build bridges" to college and to the ever-changing 21st century global society.  Students share with others their reading, thinking and research through presentations and other vehicles.

We begin the class by developing psychological lenses for reading literature.  At this time and at later points during the semester, students are encouraged to select topics and questions of personal interest to guide their reading and inquiry into works of literature and, later, other research sources.  Over time, students begin to use works of literature as psychological lenses into human thoughts, feelings and behaviors -- including man-made problems in the world.  Throughout the semester, students read literature to contemplate and to understand psychological concepts; and to consider the self, others and the world.  As part of this process, students are encouraged to view literature and issues through outwardly expanding points of view -- those of the self, of others, and of the world.

Our first unit is called “Developing Lenses for Reading Psychology in Literature.”  In this unit, students acquire an understanding of the many ways one can apply psychology to the reading of literature.  Students consider literally hundreds of topics one could apply to, or examine in, literature.  Students also work, alone and with classmates, to categorize these topics.  

In the second unit, "Reading Psychology in Literature," students apply psychological inquiry -- consideration of topics and categories -- to summer reading and to shared reading.  2008-2009 classes engaged in shared reading of two dramas:  the Classic Greek tragedy Medea (translation by Robinson Jeffers) and Tennessee Williams's modern American tragedy A Streetcar Named Desire.  Eventually, each student connects multiple texts (self-selected summer reading book and shared reading texts) through a psychological lens of the student's own choosing and design.

During the third unit, "Extended Independent Inquiry," students ask how works of literature can serve as psychological lenses into man-made problems in the world.  Students use psychological lenses to view, and to understand, problems; they consult first with literature and then with other, non-literary sources.  Students ask how literature can help them "read the world" and understand how human thoughts, feelings and behaviors can contribute to problems and their solutions.  Each student selects a problem of personal interest or concern -- and then seeks an understanding of the problem and of possible solutions through inquiry into many sources, both literary and non-literary.  In this way, problem-solving also provides lenses into the self, others, and the world.

Each student independently reads at least one novel of high literary merit; and also selects and reads at least one work in each of the following genres:  short story, creative non-fiction, and poetry.  During this inquiry phase, each student collects information -- takes notes -- from a minimum of eight sources, including digital and print media and at least one interview with an expert; in the process, each student learns where and how he/she can conduct 21st century inquiry, including how to take sufficient, quality notes for use in the writing of a college-level term paper.

Students' learning of college-level research and writing skills continues in the fourth unit, "Preparing a College-Level Term Paper."  In this unit, students learn to prepare an extended research paper by engaging in a step-by-step writing process.  This process includes synthesizing research, creating a working thesis and a working outline, drafting, revising, editing, using MLA format, proper use of citations, creating a Works Cited page, and more. This unit culminates with the submission of an 8-12 page research paper that synthesizes the research and learning gleaned from at least eight sources.

Finally, in our fifth unit, "Going Public:  Presenting to, and Writing for, Different Audiences (for a Variety of Purposes)," students use their "literacies" to share their learning and their messages with a variety of audiences, including the classroom community and the greater educational community.  In this unit, students continue to strengthen their presentation skills and their abilities to write a variety of purposes and audiences.  Students are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities to adapt their term paper into other essay forms for submission to writing contests and college scholarship applications.


The views and opinions on this site are strictly those of Mrs. Dana Maloney.  The contents of this page have been reviewed only by the author, who can be contacted at

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