Unit One: The Stories of Our Lives
In this unit we will explore some of the fundamental differences between ourselves and all other forms of life on Earth, hypothesizing that the activity of storytelling is a distinctly human activity.  But is it really a simple answer?  Does our reliance on stories to shape how we live and act in the world make us somehow different than other animals, or are the stories we tell just byproducts of the biological structures of our Homo sapien brains?  This semester, we will uncover theories of its purpose in evolution, its ability to transmit culture, and the use of narrative as a social process.  We will analyze some world-changing narratives from the basement of recorded history as well as create some of our own. 
Central Questions:
  • What are the cultural and biological functions of telling stories?

  • How do stories and storytelling shape human existence?

  • How do stories of the past affect the present?

  • How do stories make human life tolerable?

Final Essay: Unit One - The Storytelling Animal

Evolutionary theorists like Charles Darwin, Sociobiologists like E. O. Wilson, and radical English teachers like Mr. Firestein claim that human beings are animals, just like all the rest.  However, 20th century language philosophers and furious SOCES 9th graders claim that we are “the storytelling animal” --  that humans are special because we are the only animal that can change how we live in the world because of stories.  So write an essay in which you become a Cool Storytelling Annihilator by proving to your English teacher that humans are special.  Your essay should take the form of a fight: me vs. you!  It should start by reviewing your enemy’s arguments, then respond with the ways stories are used to affect human life.  Be sure you use examples from the texts we read in class.  Finally, do you think stories make homo sapiens special?

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