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Langues - LAN306ENG02 : The American Dream in words and pictures (C1/C2)

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Descriptif

The American Dream is the ideal that the government should protect each person's opportunity to
pursue their own idea of happiness. It finds its roots in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold
these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Two
centuries later, the American Dream is still alive and well. Not long ago, former TV anchor Dan Rather
declared:
The American Dream is one of the greatest ideas in the history of human
achievement . . . It thrives today in an age when its core components of freedom
and opportunity are open to more Americans than ever before. It holds a real,
identifiable place in the American heart and mind, and it informs the aspirations of
everyone from farmers to software developers, from detectives to bankers, from
soldiers to social workers . . . It defines us as a people, even as we add to its meaning
with each new chapter in our national experience and our individual actions.
In this class we will investigate how the idea of the American Dream has been fundamental to the
construction of American society. We will also consider how the concept of the American dream has
shifted to reflect each generation’s own dreams, hopes and fears.
The class is designed to enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of American culture. It will
offer interpretive frameworks for further and deeper analysis of the material under study, while also
helping students to improve their writing and oral skills.
Over the course of the year, students will now and then choose, study, adapt and perform extracts
from plays and movies — while writing their own material when needed. Students will thus learn how
to speak up in class and express their opinions in writing. They will undertake both individual (one per
semester) and group projects (one per semester) aimed at providing them with the confidence to
speak out and get the message across effectively. The idea is to keep theory to a minimum, while
pushing practical experience and personal reflection through role-playing mostly — whether
improvised (participation in class, that is) or prepared (assignment).

COURSE OBJECTIVES:
To provide the necessary skills for students to adapt to an English-speaking environment by
first putting the need and desire to communicate before the fear of making errors.
Ø To improve oral and written communication skills in English by moving from passive to active
learning with an emphasis on interaction and participation through presentations and acting.
Ø To exercise critical thinking skills to articulate and defend personal points of view while
broadening knowledge of English-speaking cultures.
Ø To have students acquire the necessary information to evaluate “The American Dream” and
the impact of both religion and the Wild West culture, and discover the realities of the people’s
lives throughout America’s (short) history.

MATERIAL. (WILL CONSIST OF…):

Books. Extracts from:
- Paul Auster: The Music Of Chance (1990), 4321 (2017);
- John Irving: The World according to Garp (1978), The Cider Houses Rule (1985);
- John Steinbeck: Of Mice & Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939);
- Arthur Miller: Death of a salesman (1949);
- Woody Allen: Three plays one-act plays (2004)
- Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)

Movies. Extracts from:
- The Coen Brothers: The Big Lebowski (1998), Fargo (1996), True grits (2010)…
- David Fincher: Seven (1995)
- Sean Penn: Into the Wild (2007)
- Ted Kotcheff: Rambo (1982)
- Steve McQueen: Twelve years a slave (2012)
- Martin McDonagh: Three Billboard outside Ebbing (2017)
- Damien Chazelle: La La land (2016)

TV Series:
- Sitcoms: Friends, Alf, Seinfeld, Desperate Housewives…
- Detective stories: Dexter, Starsky and hutch…

effectifs minimal / maximal:

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Diplôme(s) concerné(s)

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Pour les étudiants du diplôme Bachelor of Science de l'Ecole polytechnique

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