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ELA 10: World Literature—Semester B

20th century travails, Shmoop style

Shmoop's ELA 10 course has been granted a-g certification, which means it has met the rigorous iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses and will now be honored as part of the requirements for admission into the University of California system.

You've met the superheroes of the ancient world, you've pondered the glories of war, and you've cried along with Aristotle at Oedipus the King. Get ready for your dreams to be shattered, Shmoopers, because this second semester of Shmoop's World Literature course takes us into the modern world to reflect on those ideals of old. Spoiler: the death and destruction of war is not quite as glorious in the 20th century.

Our second semester of ELA 10: World Literature provides Common Core-aligned readings and activities that introduce us to men who've turned into bugs, Holocaust survivors in the form of mice (say what?), and speeches and letters written by World War I soldiers. It's getting real up in here.

In this course, we'll roll deep with the likes of All Quiet on the Western Front, Maus, Things Fall Apart, and various speeches and forms of rhetoric, and ask

  • how do you define a hero when you don't know who the enemy is?
  • how do cultures define their identities?
  • how does one deal with the realities of modern war?
  • what exactly should one do once turned into a bug?

And finally, we'll return to that all-important question: what is the use of stories?

P.S. ELA 10: World Literature is a two-semester course. You're looking at Semester B, but you can check out Semester A here.

Course Breakdown

Unit 5. Rhetoric, Persuasion, and Wisdom in the Modern World

This unit is all about rhetoric, persuasion, and wisdom...or supposed wisdom. We'll read a smattering of rhetorical and persuasive speeches and texts, both ancient and modern, and learn how to close-read rhetorical texts. By the end of the unit, you'll be able to rip apart a speech, explain its rhetorical strategies, and understand how rhetoric and argument shows up in modern media.

Unit 6. War and Disillusionment in the Modern World

What happens when a bunch of European countries with idealistic visions of war gain modern technology? Mass death and disillusionment. Oh, and Erich Maria Remarque's masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front. We'll explore how Remarque structures the novel to portray a realistic view of war and conduct a short research project on his life. On the flip side, we'll deal with Kafka, another writer exploring disillusionment and isolation through his novella "The Metamorphosis" and other short stories.

Unit 7. Holocaust Stories

In this unit, we'll look at how a number of different media (speeches, oral histories, poetry, memoirs, letters, graphic novels) all explore a single event: the Holocaust. Focusing primarily on Maus and Night, we'll ask how writing about trauma helps survivors to process the event and the different techniques these works use to discuss the experience. We'll wrap up the unit with a multimedia oral presentation on an aspect of the Holocaust.

Unit 8. Things Fall Apart

Get ready to travel out of Europe to Africa...which has been colonized by Europe. In this unit, we'll read Chinua Achebe's exploration of colonial Africa in Things Fall Apart. We'll focus on the literary techniques the work uses—including how it uses characterization and plot structure to draw out its major themes—and how the work is a response to imperial literature. The unit wraps up with a literary analysis paper incorporating original research.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 1: Introduction to the Holocaust

This is the gate to the very first concentration camp outside of Dachau, Germany. Arbeit macht frei translates to

This is the gate to the very first concentration camp outside of Dachau, Germany. Arbeit macht frei translates to "work makes (you) free." How's that for irony?


You probably already have an inkling what the Holocaust was all about. Millions of Jews and other people the Nazis decided they didn't like were systematically slaughtered during World War II. In this lesson, we're going to fill in the details to turn this inkling into a notion (read: a slightly bigger, more nuanced inkling). After all, how can we appropriately interpret and evaluate Holocaust literature if we don't know anything about the Holocaust?

We'll start by reviewing some of the major dates, events, and details to fill you in on some of the deets that you simply must know.

Once we know what went down during this terrible time in history, we'll do some light research to become familiar with some of the more important terms and concepts you'll be seeing over and over again throughout the course of this unit.

So put your historical context hat on, grab a box of tissues (this is major tear-worthy stuff), and let's get moving.

  • Credit Recovery Enabled
  • Course Length: 18 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 10
  • Course Type: Basic
  • Category:
    • English
    • Literature
    • High School
  • Prerequisites:
    ELA 10: World Literature—Semester A

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