Advanced Humanities Research
For six years, Berkshire School has offered an Advanced Math/Science Research (AMSR) course, which allows students to build on the knowledge acquired in the regular math and science curricula to conduct original research in fields seldom open to high school students. Now, students with a deep interest in the humanities—languages, literature, history, philosophy, and the arts—can do similarly challenging work, in the Advanced Humanities Research (AHR) course.
In the first quarter of the year, students have a traditional classroom experience, in that they study a curriculum based on several seminal “artifacts” of western culture, from Raphael’s School of Athens to Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, from Schubert’s die Winterreise to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Throughout this portion of the course, students not only hone the expository and analytical skills common to all high school courses in the humanities but also learn the theoretical frameworks in which the scholarly literature about the humanities is most commonly voiced. Students come to understand, for example, how structuralists read a text differently than post-colonialists do, and in the process they are exposed to a rich array of academic schools of thought and controversies.
Next, students move to the Geier Library, where they use the school’s resources (especially JSTOR, the online database of scholarly journals) to define a research topic and question. By the end of the second quarter, students will have prepared a full-length literature review, in which they summarize and critique the contemporary scholarship relevant to their chosen topic. At the same time, they are working with the instructor to find appropriate professionals in their fields—mostly scholars, but also trade professionals, such as architects—to supervise and comment on their work. Unlike their peers in the AMSR course, students in the humanities course do not need to do their research in a laboratory, and so the possible pairings with scholars and others include remote, internet-facilitated affiliations.
In the second semester, students will work on their own to produce a publication-quality paper, and then present their work to members of the Berkshire community. When feasible, students will make visits to archives, examine primary documents first-hand, attend academic conferences, and/or submit their work for publication consideration.