We strive to help students express themselves with clarity and power orally as well as in writing. We want them to be able to generate authentic, nuanced questions and original ideas. Reading literature with sensitivity and exploring varied cultural perspectives are also critical. Students write frequently. Readings range from the canonic to the contemporary and roam over a wide landscape of cultures and voices both in original English and in translation. Most genres are represented, including novels, short stories, essays, poetry, plays, graphic novels, and film. Classes are taught seminar-style. Lecture is rare. Class participation is essential as students try out their ideas aloud.
9th Grade Integrated Course Requirement
Ninth grade students are required to take Humans in the Natural World for three credits which integrates English, Social Science and Natural Science. This three-credit course will include the history requirement for the 9th-grade year.
Composition: Forms of the Essay & Foundations in Literary Analysis
.5 credit + .5 credit = 1 credit
Forms of the Essay is the first course in the English 10 sequence. Tenth grade students will spend this class writing nonfiction: short summaries, descriptions, longer analyses, profiles, and narratives. The course approaches writing as a multi-step process that includes prewriting, drafting, and revision. In developing their own voices, students learn to be deliberate, persuasive, and creative in all written work. Foundations of Literary Analysis is the second course in the English 10 sequence. Students will continue developing their voices as writers, moving from the personal to the analytical. Readings include plays, novels, short stories, and poetry by such authors as Tim O’Brien, Chinua Achebe, Marjane Satrapi, and Adrienne Rich. Students are introduced to skills of literary analysis and develop their analytical voices through writing essays in response to readings.
American Studies Requirement
American Studies and Writing and Research are required for juniors in lieu of 11th grade English and U.S. history to provide richer exploration of American society, culture, and history.
Writing and Research: Humanities Thesis
The primary goal of this course is for students to learn how to write several history research papers. More than anything this class should help students develop a process that will make writing research papers easier. Students learn the essential skills of reading, interpreting, and analyzing primary and scholarly secondary source materials, note-taking, and MLA citation. Students will turn curiosity into clear and useful historical questions, and pursue a line of inquiry, focusing on ways to gather information, and effectively utilize library and online resources in order to construct complex historical arguments while avoiding plagiarism and building and supporting a thesis. This course meets for one trimester and is taught by members of the History and Library Departments.
Students write daily in this course, experimenting in genres that may include poetry, short story, microfiction, plays, and creative non-fiction. Study includes readings in each genre as models with emphasis on learning craft. Students produce multiple drafts of pieces in most genres, focusing on the process of revising their creative work and culminating in a portfolio.
Ethics East and West
Have you ever wondered what is the right thing to do? Are you interested in the difference between western and eastern philosophies and religions? This course begins with a study of the fundamental theories of moral philosophy that have shaped western ethics, including virtue ethics, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, contractarianism, and the ethics of care. We will then turn to the ethics of the east, as expressed most distinctly in Mahayana Buddhism, which emphasizes the cultivation of character as the path to a fulfilling life. We will then consider what each of these traditions has to offer the other. Finally, we will consider contemporary moral and ethical challenges in the light of these traditions. How do each of these traditions understand and respond to the current ecological, social, and economic challenges with which we are faced? In addition to primary texts, we will read Sandel’s Justice and Wright’s The Six Perfections.
In the eternal quest for understanding, humanity has worn many lenses in order to see the world more clearly. In this course’s quest for understanding, students will don the heavy two-way lens of Existentialism, turning us as deeply inward as it does broadly outward. It is a mode of thought that commits us to a greater sense of self, our world, and our place in it. Although it brings, or rather illuminates, a heightened measure of despair, anguish, confusion, and alienation, this modern perspective, even as it seems to imprison us, simultaneously liberates us into a creative expanse of freedom and responsibility. As Jean-Paul Sartre concisely expresses, “man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” Through a committed exploration of inspired essays, stories, plays, and films, followed by personal creation, we will attempt to make ourselves and resolutely confront the inevitable obstacles along the path of this noble journey. The world may be ours, so what will we do with it?
Feminist Perspectives in Literature
This course will combine a study of influential and iconic women’s writing, feminist theory, and historical context to help students understand the call and response for the woman’s voice in our literary world. We will read classic, subversive, and enduring women’s literature and trace the emerging and evolving subjects, themes, and formal innovations to explore the goals and strategies of women writers in the 19th and 20th century. Authors and theorists may include: Gertrude Stein, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, and Helen Cixous.
Introduction to Media Studies
What is cinematography, and why does it matter? How does the way we watch television influence the way we think about the world around us? Does my action in a video game really mean anything about the way I live my life? What does my Facebook profile say about my class, race, and gender? This class will address these questions, equipping students with the tools to analyze and critique the various forms of media that structure our daily lives and interactions. Students will look to film, television, music, advertisements, video games, and social media, learning how to think about why we receive the pleasures that we do from various texts, and how what we see on the screen affects how we live our lives off the screen.
Reading Contemporary Short Fiction
In this class students will read, discuss, and write about short stories by contemporary masters of the form, representing a wide range of stylistic approaches. Authors may include Alice Munro, David Foster Wallace, Lorrie Moore, Raymond Carver, Ethan Canin, Richard Ford, Edwidge Danticat, Hanif Kureishi,Tobias Wolff, Junot Díaz, and T.C Boyle.
Reading and Writing Contemporary Poetry
Students learn how to read and understand poetry, particularly within its cultural context. You will read poems from a wide range of cultures and time periods, with emphasis on contemporary poets. Students will also write poems and provide an intelligent audience for one another’s work. Readings will include works by such poets as Czeslaw Milocz, Derek Walcott, Yehuda Amichai, Tomas Trastromer, Breyten Breytenbach, Wislawa Szymborska, and Shu Ting.
Say What You Mean
Do your ideas seem richer, smarter, deeper in your head than they do when you share them? Is it hard to make a persuasive point in conversation, even when your idea is clear in your head? Do you struggle to capture the complexity of your thinking when you write? In this course students will explore and practice rhetorical skills to strengthen the efficacy between thought and language. If you think of yourself as a scientist, artist, mathematician, political activist, or musician, you’ll need to write well to share your insights with the world. This course will make use of all kinds of reading and writing techniques to pursue the simple goal of clarity in writing and speaking. You will get good at speaking and writing clearly.
The eminent literary critic Harold Bloom wrote: “Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage.” In this course, students will focus on three or four of Shakespeare’s plays in-depth. Discussion, acting, and writing, will serve as tools for interpretation. Students will have considerable input into which of Shakespeare’s plays we study.
Writing for the Theater
.5 credit - fall
This is a writing course focused on reading and writing plays or short screenplays. Through reading and writing dialogue, students will have a greater understanding of how to develop a play through studying diverse forms and themes. Students will study the arc of playwriting by developing characters and a story arc. Students will read and analyze the structure and dialogue of selected plays. Students will write weekly and bi-weekly writing exercises in order to explore the range and complexities of writing for the theater. This will involve using a variety of writing prompts and experimenting with a variety of theatrical styles. Most of these exercises will be read aloud and shared in class. The goal will be that the student will complete a one-act play by the end of the trimester. Student plays will be considered for a formal stage reading or stage production to be shared with the community.