Full Course Description

This course will use the lens of Harper Lee’s two novels, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, to explore that which divides America and that which unites us. Following Scout’s journey from Manhattan to Maycomb in Lee’s recently released novel, students will deconstruct the current stark political divide between “blue” and “red” states and consider whether this dichotomy is sustainable. Students in Red State, Blue State, Harper Lee! will use the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman to chart a course from Manhattan to “Maycomb” and back. Along the way, they will consider the elements of 19th and 20th century history that both unite and divide us—the War Between the States, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, and more. The goal is to find the threads that link the two worlds that Harper Lee invites us into—depression-era Alabama and post–World War II America—and the present moment. If To Kill a Mockingbird was a reminder of the power and innocence of childhood as the turbulence of the 1960s unfolded, will Go Set a Watchman be a guide for the social tensions of the 21st century? Students will begin in Manhattan and make their way down through Knoxville to Monroeville, the home of Harper Lee. They will return through the cities of Atlanta, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. Students will present their reflections and analysis upon their return to campus following this eight-day trip. High school students wishing to join may do so; they will spend the first week of the term on campus preparing activities that will be a part of the opening week for 7th and 8th graders. 7th graders will be expected to read Go Set a Watchman; all others are expected to read both texts.