Course Search 2023-2024

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Upper School English Curriculum

Mission Statement: As students travel their own unique paths through our curriculum, they develop the skills to navigate challenging texts, think critically, and express themselves confidently in both written and spoken word. Students also learn to appreciate and tell their own stories by exploring those of others, and in doing so, they develop awareness of themselves, their communities, and the human condition.

English promotes an integrated seven-year sequence of studies that teaches skills from Grade Six to Twelve. In proportion to cognitive and intellectual opportunities at each level, students learn to read and write critically, with increasing sophistication, as they discover how to ask appropriate questions of texts in all the genres and write with an analytical clarity that promotes creatively developed ideas. Works are chosen both for their literary merit and global awareness of the human condition. As students progress through the program, they deepen their understanding of the dynamic relationship between readers and texts. Class discussion progressively nurtures skills in higher order thinking with an emphasis on articulate self-expression. Teachers create opportunities for project-based learning that augments the emphasis on traditional means of analytical communication.

Interdisciplinary work is cardinal in the Department. In the Middle School, interdisciplinary work arises from teachers' intentional collaboration with their colleagues in social studies, math, science, languages, and fine arts. In the Upper School, the Humanities program in grades 9 and 10 facilitates the study of common themes as they arise in English and History. Grade 12 provides a rich selection of electives that anticipates the thematic and structural orientation of courses students can expect to encounter in college.

HONORS PLACEMENT IN ENGLISH COURSES
All Humanities English Grade 9 and 10 sections as well as English 11: American Narratives sections will employ the earned honors model, which allows any student to earn honors status for the course by meeting a set of clearly defined criteria. Click here for a full description of the process. Senior elective courses will employ the earned honors model as described above. Enrollment in Advanced Placement and Advanced Studies Courses is by departmental recommendation.


Humanities English 9

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 9

Full Year Course

Providing a dynamic framework for the study of English and History, this course encourages exploration of key themes in world history, literature, politics, religion, art, and music. In particular, the course examines the changing nature of cultural values and the relationship between communities and the individual. As students explore how individuals have made moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of their worlds, they hone skills as critical and creative readers, thinkers, and writers. With respect to the analytical essay, emphasis is placed on the creation of thesis statements and logically coherent paragraphs together with the discovery and integration of appropriate textual evidence. Students are taught techniques of annotating text, note taking, and means of accessing primary and secondary sources.

Humanities English 10

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 10

Full Year Course

Providing a dynamic framework for the study of English and History, this course encourages exploration of key themes in world history, literature, politics, religion, art, and music. In particular, the course examines the changing nature of cultural values and the relationship between communities and the individual. As students explore how individuals have made moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of their worlds, they hone skills as critical and creative readers, thinkers, and writers. Students continue to develop skills in writing analytical essays, and emphasis is placed on techniques of close reading that encourage the discovery and use of textual evidence capable of promoting arguments of increasing sophistication and insight. In the Grade 10 Capstone Project, students reflect on their evolution as writers over the course of the year, analyzing their opportunities and challenges as writers.

English 11: American Narratives (Fall Semester)

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 11

Fall Semester

Providing a dynamic framework for the study of American literature and history from the Colonial period to the present, this year-long course encourages exploration of key themes in American history, prose, poetry, drama, politics, religion, art, and music. In particular, the course examines the changing nature of American cultural values and the relationship between communities and the individual in the United States itself and the world at large. As students explore how Americans have made moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of their experience, they hone skills as critical and creative readers, thinkers, and writers. As well as continuing to develop skills in writing analytical essays, students are expected to work independently as they originate, frame, and execute distinctive points of view. Through class discussions and writing assignments, students continue to develop their skills in formal and contextual analysis.

English 11: American Narratives (Spring Semester)

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 11

Spring Semester

Providing a dynamic framework for the study of American literature and history from the Colonial period to the present, this year-long course encourages exploration of key themes in American history, prose, poetry, drama, politics, religion, art, and music. In particular, the course examines the changing nature of American cultural values and the relationship between communities and the individual in the United States itself and the world at large. As students explore how Americans have made moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of their experience, they hone skills as critical and creative readers, thinkers, and writers. As well as continuing to develop skills in writing analytical essays, students are expected to work independently as they originate, frame, and execute distinctive points of view. Through class discussions and writing assignments, students continue to develop their skills in formal and contextual analysis.

Advanced Courses

Note on Advanced Placement and Advanced Studies courses: Standardized Advanced Placement as well as faculty-designed Advanced Studies courses are equivalent in rigor and commitment to a course usually taken during the first year of college. Students may be expected to complete pre-course summer work, and should expect additional time commitments throughout the year. All AP students are required to take the Advanced Placement exam in May; no standardized test is required of Advanced Studies students. Enrollment in all Advanced courses is by departmental recommendation.

Advanced Studies: Literary Studies in American Voices

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: Earned Honors in 10th Grade
Departmental Recommendation

Open to students in the following grades: 11

Full Year Course

What does it mean to be an American? What are our triumphs and struggles? How do our diverse American stories reflect our young and evolving nation? In AS: Literary Studies in American Voices, students will engage in daily investigation of great works of American literature from the 19th through the 21st centuries and consider what these stories inform us of our national culture and the shared human condition. Grounded in formal, language-based analysis, this course will also expose students to a range of other methodologies and will introduce students to the applications of literary criticism. Literary Studies in American Voices is appropriate for students who love to read and are ready for intensive, college-level study of fiction and its craft. Student-centered and inquiry-based discussion will be the foundation of the daily experience. A range of American poets will be considered along with prose and plays by authors such as: Albee, Baldwin, Cather, Diaz, Faulkner, Hawthorne, James, Jin, Kushner, Machado, Melville, Morrison, O’Connor, Roth, Saunders, Silko, Twain, Whitehead, Williams. Enrollment is by departmental recommendation.

Advanced Studies: Modernist Literature

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: Departmental Recommendation

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Full Year Course

This Advanced Studies (AS) course will immerse students in the study of global literature from the end of the 19th century into the mid-20th century. The artistic movements of this period, broadly captured by the term “Modernism,” entailed a global re-envisioning of the place and form of art in society. Modernism cuts across all artistic genres and fields, offering a powerful critique of 19th-century values, styles, and ideas, and consciously committing itself to breaking with the past. This course will focus on the literature of this period, including works by Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Zora Neale Hurston, Chinua Achebe, Nadine Gordimer, Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, and others.

AP English Literature and Composition

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: Departmental Recommendation

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Full Year Course

AP English Literature and Composition is a rigorous introductory college-level course that asks students to read broadly—across time and place—and deeply, engaging in continual critical reflection and analysis. Over the course of the year, we will read novels, plays, and poetry from the 16th century to the present. Writing assignments will include expository, argumentative, and analytical essays, as well as informal responses and multimedia projects. The classroom environment will be student-centered, with inquiry and meaning-making as its focus. This is a course for students who love to read and discuss literature, and who want to ask big questions, even if those questions can’t always be answered. Authors considered may include Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Bronte, Ralph Ellison, Edith Wharton, Franz Kafka, Toni Morrison, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf.

Semester Electives (Fall)

English Elective Honors
Semester electives in English are open to seniors only. All semester electives employ the Earned Honors model. (Click here for a full description of the earned honors process.)

Asian American Literature & Visual Arts

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

Asian American Literature & Visual Arts (fall)
Who or what is an “Asian American”? How have conceptions of Asian America(s) changed over time? How do literature and visual art influence our understanding of Asian American identities as historically contingent processes and social relations? This interdisciplinary course selectively examines Asian racialization beyond the black-white binary in the context of U.S. wars and empires in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Through close analyses of memoir, fiction, poetry, graphic narrative, video, music, film, theory, and historical documents, we will explore a set of interrelated themes, including history and memory; citizenship and exclusion; migration and displacement; imperialism and postcolonialism; sexuality and desire; multiracialism and transracial adoptions; as well as joy and resistance. Ultimately, the goal of this course is to understand how historical representations of Asian Americans through literature and art are inseparable from the politics of Asian American experiences.

Elements of Style

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

This course is aimed at students who have mastered the basic features of academic and personal writing, and who are looking to move up to the next level in terms of sophistication and range. From personal essays to feature articles, profiles, reviews, and travel writing, students in this composition course will explore the genre of creative nonfiction and examine its influence on how we write and read. In addition to analyzing how content, structure and style intersect in this genre, students will compose their own pieces.

Iconic Women Writers & Artists

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

Often described as two of the most dominant cultural forces, literature and music occupy complex spaces in modern society. While at once spaces for diversion and entertainment, both are tools to explore and create ideas, stories, and ruminations on humanity and the world around us. Students will look primarily at the works of writers and artists in literature, music, and popular culture, exploring narratives related to identity, family, race, gender, class, and other external and internal markers of identity. In doing so, students will enhance the critical skills necessary to analyze the works of others while also developing their writing and creative skills. Key areas of study will include fiction, memoir, poetry, and critical essays by authors such as Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Jesmyn Ward, Kate Chopin, and more--in addition to the musical works of artists such as Beyonce, SZA, Olivia Rodrigo, and various other artists.

Literature, Food, and Identity

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

We are what we eat, right? Food is intrinsically tied to who we are as individuals, as people, as a society, as a culture. In this course, we will examine the ways in which literature uses food to represent and understand the human experience. By examining a wide range of literature through the lens of food, our goal in this course is to understand how our identities, traditions, cultures, and history are shaped and molded by the foods we eat and the food others eat. We will consider food as a topic in literary works from different genres, periods, and cultures, as well as contemporary questions of food justice, health, and sustainability. Course materials will focus on diverse perspectives and include personal narratives, short stories, novel excerpts, young adult literature, and film excerpts.

Savage Satire

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

From The Daily Show to South Park, satire dominates modern entertainment. But it has a long and rich history reaching back to the ancient Greeks. In this course, we explore a range of satires from antiquity to the present in order to better understand this powerful genre. As we investigate the relationship between satire and comedy, we consider how those in power have reacted when satirized, and we ask ourselves if satire can ever go too far. Students write analytically, but also creatively, trying their hand at satires of their own. Works studied may include those by Aristophanes, Juvenal, Swift, Voltaire, and Vonnegut, as well as film and television excerpts from SNL, The Daily Show, and Get Out.

Shakespeare's Tragedies

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

This course provides some of the necessary historical context for understanding and appreciating the works of William Shakespeare before diving into the guided reading of selected texts. Together, students will explore three of William Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies: Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear, which take students to the heart of sometimes somber, sometimes humorous literary and philosophical problems. Students will write frequently in many modes. No prior experience with Shakespeare is required.

Writing our Lives

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

This course is an exploration of the art of the memoir and the personal essay. We will explore what personal creative nonfiction seeks to do, and in addition to analytical essays, students will write multiple creative nonfiction essays of their own. Students will read work by authors such as Mary Karr, Garnette Cagodan, Kiese Laymon, Shena McAuliffe, Briallen Hopper, and others. In examining all of these models, we will learn the elements of successful creative nonfiction, and frequent creative writing exercises will encourage students to refine their own work. A writing intensive course, students should expect to write frequently, through journaling, nightly writing assignments, and larger memoir pieces on experiences and places of meaning to them. Students may find that one or more of their essays will fit the common application personal essay.

Writing Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of speculative fiction -- fantasy, science fiction, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, and other genres based on the key question, "what if?" The students will read and analyze short works by contemporary speculative fiction authors, including N.K. Jemisin, Ted Chiang, and Cory Doctorow. Through writing short stories and flash fiction in multiple speculative subgenres, students will learn the skills of worldbuilding and character development. In writing exercises, peer critique, and discussion, students will explore the impact of fictional magic systems and future technology, and gain a vocabulary of plot and character tropes associated with the speculative genre.

Writing the Serial Drama

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Fall Semester

What makes for a show that you just can’t stop watching? Is it suspense? Interpersonal drama? Life and death stakes? How has streaming changed how television is written? Students in this course will analyze popular shows to figure out how individual episodes and season and series arcs keep viewers coming back for more. Through a consideration of both Caryl Churchill’s play Far Away and serial dramas written for television, students will learn about how authors craft worlds, characters, relationships, conflict, and narrative. Working as individuals and in groups, students will then develop concepts for their own shows and pitch them to their peers. They will form writers' rooms to outline a season and brainstorm, outline, and draft episodes. Finally, they will film a suspenseful trailer for their shows in the school’s Center for Innovation and Design.

Semester Electives (Spring)

Semester electives in English are open to seniors only. All semester electives employ the Earned Honors model. (Click here for a full description of the earned honors process.)

Adolescent Literature

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

This course will explore how young adult and children's books--many of which we consider "classics" and read time and time again--are in fact, books for adults in disguise. Students will be asked to identify what makes a work of young adult literature that lasts the ages, and then identify and discuss how these young, fictional protagonists find themselves in situations and spaces that ultimately mirror adult experiences and themes. From seemingly idyllic places like a chocolate factory to schools of wizarding, students will find new meaning in spaces and stories reconsidered.

Afrofuturism: An Introduction to Black Science Fiction

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

Afrofuturism is a black literary and cultural aesthetic practice that combines elements of African mythology, science fiction, history, magic realism, and political fantasy in black expressive texts across multiple media and artistic forms. Its primary purpose is to express the concerns, experiences, and longings of black people throughout the African Diaspora. In this course, we will read short stories, novels, and essays, listen to music, watch short films, and consider digital sources to examine historical and contemporary themes of race, migration, black innovation, and discrimination. This course will treat a broad range of artists including W.E.B. DuBois, George Schulyer, Marlon James, Octavia Butler, Andrea Hairston, Nalo Hopkinson, N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and others.

Garden State of Mind: Literature of New Jersey

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

What do Philip Roth, Roy Lichtenstein, and Bruce Springsteen have in common? They all called New Jersey home. As these award-winning artists demonstrate, the Garden State of New Jersey provides fertile ground for writers, artists, and musicians to blossom and grow, with geographic and cultural diversity that stretches from the murals of Newark to the boardwalk of Atlantic City. This course will examine literature, visual art, music, and film produced in New Jersey and explore the themes and settings that influence its resident artists. Students will engage with the course’s texts and ideas in both analytical and creative modes, including essays, oral presentations, and projects. Content may include works by Bisa Butler, Lauryn Hill, Roy Lichtenstein, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Bruce Springsteen, and William Carlos Williams.

The Language of Leadership

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

Students in this course analyze and evaluate a wide range of persuasive speeches made by leading figures in politics, literature, and other fields. By scrutinizing the rhetorical structures and devices in orations by William Faulkner, Sojourner Truth, Emmeline Pankhurst, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK, and others, students consider how those authors used words effectively to persuade, inspire, influence, and effect change. In exploring the impact and consequences of those speeches, students also consider the role that rhetoric plays in effective leadership. Assessments of the course include frequent writing assignments, both analytical, and personal; the course culminates in a final project that requires students to compose and present a speech on a topic of their own choosing.

Literature of Revolution

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

In the literature of revolution, wars are waged on battlefields, in the streets, within individuals, and on the page. Students will explore conflicts regarding identity, race, love, nation, and liberty in texts from around the world, dating from revolutionary periods in addition to those written with the benefit of hindsight. We will contextualize each work within its respective revolution, exploring the nuances of its literary form as well as its historical situation. Students can expect to participate in class discussions, write analytical and creative papers, and conduct independent research. Students will also research and discuss primary source texts in order to grasp the historical reality of the revolutions we read about. Texts may include Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Yan Lianke, Mahmoud Darwish, Stuart Leonard, Angela Davis, Joy Harjo, Han Kang, Virginia Woolf, and more.

Monsters and Madness

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

The human psyche is malleable and influenced by numerous interior and exterior factors, and it strives to create order. When this order is disrupted, monsters are born. Therefore, we will explore the nature of “monstrosity,” pondering the following: What do we label as “monstrous” and why? How can we classify a monster, and what makes it successful or unsuccessful? Do we really fear monsters or is there something desirous about them? And do we need monsters in order to define ourselves? Towards answering these questions, we will explore myths, literature, and film, as well as define what it truly means to be a “monster.” Students can expect to engage in class discussions, write creatively and analytically, and work both collaboratively and individually. Readings may include Jeffery Jerome Cohen’s Monster Theory, Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves,” Bram Stoker’s Dracula, H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Outsider,” and Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Screenings may include Alien, Dracula, and An American Wolf in London.

The Plays of Tennessee Williams

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

Tennessee Williams stands among the greatest 20th century American playwrights. This course dives into the life and times of Williams through the reading, analysis, and viewing of three of his most famous plays: The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Themes include family dysfunction, sexuality, addiction, mental health, class, gender, and race. Writing assignments are frequent and varied. Students need not be actors to take this class; this is a course in reading drama as literature.

Writing Poetry: Self & World

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

This creative writing and literature course will provide the tools, time, and feedback for students to create poems they feel moved to write, focusing on how poems provide connections and make meaning in a challenging world. Students will learn to craft poems by reading works by diverse writers in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, geographic region, nationality, and citizenship status, about pressing topics in today’s world. Writers include contemporary poets such as Yusef Komunyakaa, Shadab Zeest Hashmi, Eduardo C. Corral, Ada Limon, and Natalie Diaz, as well as a selection of canonical poets such as William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, and Claude McKay. Poetic techniques will be practiced through low-stakes writing exercises and poem assignments designed to draw out what is most meaningful to students in their lives now.

Writing the Graphic Novel

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

Students will study graphic narratives by Moebius, Shaun Tan, Alex Ross, Neil Gaiman and others to analyze the use of color, line, and texture as storytelling tools. The students will focus their analysis on the ways graphic narrative adapts and transforms literary devices and techniques -- for example, "mood" and "tone" through color scripting, visual forms of metaphor and metonymy, and realism vs. iconography vs. abstraction (in both visual style and narrative style). Ultimately, this is a writing elective -- so, students will draft their own graphic narratives in script format, design character ensembles, and draft page layouts to learn about "the grammar of sequential art," as described by Scott Adams and linguist Neil Cohn. Students will refine their comics through peer workshop. No drawing skills necessary!

Writing the Sitcom

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

Is the sitcom dead? Its demise has been predicted since the 1980s, but it perseveres, still ranking as one of our culture’s most revealing entertainment genres. Over the first half of this course, students explore and examine a range of American television sitcom episodes, one from each of the past six decades. In addition to analyzing characterization, plot, dialogue, theme, and directorial style, students will also consider what each episode suggests about the mores and concerns of the decade in which it aired. Over the second half of the course, students practice and hone their own skills at writing situational comedy. Working first individually and then in small groups, students will workshop, draft, edit short scenes. They will then pitch, develop, and write a 22-minute pilot sitcom episode, the opening five minutes of which they will film in the school’s CID Recording Studio. Assessments in this course include short and long analytical papers, a number of presentations, as well as multiple short--and one major-- screenwriting assignments.

Semester Electives (Fall and Spring)

Semester electives in English are open to seniors only. All semester electives employ the Earned Honors model. (Click here for a full description of the earned honors process.)

Journalism

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Offered in the Fall and in the Spring

This course introduces the novice or more experienced writer to the art of Journalism. Requirements include an inquiring mind, a willingness to take risks, and determination to write with eloquence and precision. Students examine works by prize-winning authors, as well as topical pieces in The New York Times. Students learn journalistic skills from the basic news story to features, opinion pieces, reviews, and sports coverage, as well as investigative and narrative pieces for the more ambitious. We look with a critical eye at the world of school, the world at large, and the current state of media. In addition to producing stories for the school newspaper, students study modes of rhetoric and produce analytical papers on non-fiction literature and ideas covered in the course.