The English Department feels that students learn best when they are engaged with the material. Teachers seek variety and liveliness in the classroom by striking a balance between the traditional and the contemporary, the disciplined and the exploratory. Students follow sequenced courses as they explore all of the literary genres at every grade level. The aim is to help each student discover his/her distinctive voice and to seek clarity, power and beauty in his/her writing.
The Upper School English program is built on the following fundamental skills:
close reading of the text
studying language “from the inside out”
mastering grammar, usage and mechanics
learning the value of the rough draft and the revision process
expanding both recognition and usage vocabulary
learning the methods of literary research
learning MLA formatting rules
learning how to develop a clear thesis and persuasive argument
writing in both a timed and untimed situation
learning how to speak up in both classroom discussions and in formal reports
mastering the technology that will enhance language proficiency
Students will examine a survey of American literature from the Puritans to the Post-Modernists. By studying canonical works from the Deists, the Romantics and the Naturalists, students will engage with many of the great thinkers presented in their U.S. History course material. To analyze themes of race, religion and social class, students will write in a variety of genres and discuss texts of Douglass, Emerson, Dickinson, Twain, Eliot, Wright, McCullers and Fitzgerald. In the AP-level course, all topics are covered in greater depth and at an accelerated pace; students will take the AP English Literature & Composition exam in May.
American Literature Honors is designed to prepare 11th-grade students for both their 12th-grade and university-level English courses. The class will not be organized chronologically or geographically, but rather by genre. We will study both the canon and non-canonical works, including memoirs, essays, poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Similar to AP English, the course's aim will be to complement students' American history course, and students are expected to make connections between the literature and the text’s historical context.
This course prepares qualified English students to succeed on the AP English Language and Composition exam as well as in their college English courses. Students learn how to carry out close reading, annotation and analysis of non-ficton prose including essays, letters, speeches, diaries, histories, biographies, autobiographies, satire, social criticism and journalism. The course also involves the study of graphics and visual images in print and electronic media. Through numerous essay assignments, students become skilled in expository, analytical, argumentative and personal writing by studying rhetorical techniques. Reading subjects range across the curriculum, and the course includes a formal research paper. Grading is strict and expectations run high. Students read challenging texts like essays by Samuel Johnson, Michel de Montaigne, James Baldwin, Stephen Jay Gould and Susan Sontag.
Comparative Women’s Literature Honors is an elective course available to juniors and seniors. The course explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to be a woman? Looking into texts by and about women from various cultures, students will explore the ways women define themselves as daughters, sisters, friends, lovers, wives, mothers, professionals, artists, citizens and individuals. The reading for this course includes several novels, as well as Virginia Woolf’s complex essay A Room of One’s Own, which will provide students a more generalized inquiry into the Western tradition of women and fiction. Supplemental reading will include short stories, poetry, and pertinent articles, essays, and opinion editorials in addition to relevant films and documentaries. Students may take this course for one semester or a full year.
Students study, writers write. In Creative Writing, the participants bring to bear their knowledge of literature on the effort to create it. It cannot be an objective experience. Through exercises, constant writing and reading, and group critiques, writers practice the concepts they've always studied at arm's length and begin the hard job of finding and refining their individual voices. Student portfolios are part of the selection process for this course. Students may take this course for one semester or a full year.
Through extensive readings of poetry, fiction, drama and essays, students will be able to observe the unfolding of the Anglo-American mind from the Middle Ages to the present. Such specific topics as religion, culture and politics will be covered, as well as the changing world view as presented in the imagination of the authors. When possible, English teachers parallel the material in the Western Civilization and European History courses. A particular focus of the course is writing. Students will write frequently in a variety of genres, including expository, persuasive and analytical essays, as well as personal narrative. In the honors-level course, all topics are covered in greater depth and at an accelerated pace.
Students will study the most ancient literary form, the epic hero's journey, in order to understand the hero prototype in classic tales like Homer’s "Odyssey." They will also contrast traditional heroes with the modern anti-hero in ironic 20th-century narratives like "The Catcher in the Rye." These topics complement the 9th-grade Ancient World Civilizations course. Also, 9th-grade English includes a comprehensive study of grammar, usage, mechanics, vocabulary and speaking. The writing process and revision are emphasized. Students will write almost every day in a variety of modes. They will also begin to study stylistic elements of literature like tone and point of view. The honors-level course moves at an accelerated pace, and all topics are covered in greater depth and with more attention to abstract thinking skills.
World Literature is an elective course available to juniors and seniors. Students will examine the ways in which literature and film reinforce, reinterpret, and even, at times, deconstruct each other. Students will first gain a working knowledge of what goes into making a movie, from pre-production, to filming, to editing. Then, they will explore the challenges and opportunities that go with turning a book or story into a movie and how a good adaptation can serve a discursive function with the book. Finally, students will look at the ways in which film employs certain kinds of literature, such as poetry, in its storytelling. In doing so, we will blur the lines between where literature ends and film begins.
Students may take this course for one semester or a full year. World Literature I, offered in the fall, will focus largely on American Literature while World Literature II, offered in the spring, will focus on European Literature and Film.