The Upper School English program focuses on literature, writing, critical thinking, and discussion skills. Students read a variety of literary genres while learning to write critical literary analysis. The reading list may be supplemented from year to year in response to student interest. Essay writing and creative writing are incorporated into every required course. Grammar is taught in the context of written work and through direct instruction. Ninth and tenth grade English are year-long, thematic courses that are also offered at an Intensive level. Intensive courses follow the core curriculum, but allow students the chance to explore topics more deeply and independently, and with a greater focus on critical thinking and analysis. In the eleventh and twelfth grades, students select from an array of semester courses.

American Genocide: The Story of Native Americans in Their Own Words

By many estimates 19 million Native Americans once inhabited what has become the United States before the arrival of European settlers. That population is now estimated at 260,000. Through fiction, poetry, oral history, primary sources, and film, this course traces the decimation of Native Americans and examines their status today. There will be a chance to focus specifically on Maine’s indigenous population as well as look broadly across the nation. Possible readings include: Black Elk Speaks, John G. Neihardt; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown; Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko; The Plague of Doves or The Roundhouse, Louise Erdrich; and House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momaday.

American Countercultures

The counterculture literature of the 1950s and 1960s may appear to be a break from traditional American literature, but the ideas of that era are actually related to schools of thought as ancient and diverse as the New Testament and the liberal Greek tradition. Students discuss and debate defining American themes of protest, rebellion, and the creative search for new perspectives. This course begins with novels of the post-World War II counterculture, circles back in history to find the roots of that era, and then returns to modern and contemporary writers. Authors may include Joan Didion, Ralph Ellison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Allen Ginsberg, Thomas Jefferson, Jack Kerouac, John Locke, Henry David Thoreau, and Hunter S. Thompson.

American Hubris: The National Identity

The question of American identity – who we are and where we are headed as we move further into the second decade of the 21st century - is the central focus of the class. With students acting as literary critics and cultural anthropologists, the class seeks to understand ourselves and our times. Students consider a diverse array of conflicting conceptions of contemporary American identity, portrayed through novels, films, television, and various artifacts from popular culture. As participants as well as observers of our culture, students will remain particularly alert to that which resonates forcefully for each of them as they search for our national identity. Novels may include: The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid; A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz; Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver; A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers; Casebook, Mona Simpson; The Free, Willy Vlautin; and Redeployment, Phil Klay. Films may include: Crash, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Margin Call, and Winter’s Bone. The class may also study selected episodes from television series such as The Wire.

Fiction Workshop

This course examines creative forms of fiction, with some work focusing on personal narratives, articles, and editorials. Looking at models of published prose, the class offers writing activities to give new ideas of both form and content. Students work on technical skills that support good writing in a workshop model of sharing pieces for classwide feedback. Students are expected to maintain a daily journal for credit, write reflective evaluations of other students’ work, teach a short story, and create a portfolio of at least five polished pieces.

American Idealism: 18th- and 19th-Century American Literature

This class examines the search for and creation of a national identity. From the first American novel about adultery (The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne) to early folk tales and Gothic legends, this course investigates the racial, gender, political, and social changes that shaped our national identity. Readings may include the poetry of Mercy Otis Warren and Emily Dickinson; the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, Washington Irving, Charles Chesnutt, and Harriet Beecher Stowe; essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and W.E.B. Du Bois; and novels by Mark Twain and Harriet E. Wilson.

The Language of Social Class

Is how you say something as important as what you say? This course offers an exploration of how language has evolved in various eras and subcultures as a tool of oppression or social mobility, as a coded stratifier or an intellectual accessory. It considers how writers of literature use language to evoke the social/political cultures they depict, how politicians use language to identify or persuade, and how popular culture evokes and transforms itself through language. Through a parallel study of the history of the English language, students also have an opportunity to compare how selected languages shape the experience of native speakers and what we can learn about our experience as English speakers as a result. Works include fiction and nonfiction literature, poetry, journalism, music lyrics, blog posts, and stage and film scripts. In addition to discussion and work in the classroom, this course includes a significant online component designed to broaden topics of interest and deepen students’ understanding of their own language.

Heroes and Heroines (Grade 10)

Tenth grade includes an investigation of the characteristics and challenges of “The Heroic Journey” through a variety of literary texts, both classical and contemporary. Readings include The Odyssey, Homer; Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte; The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood; Anthem, Ayn Rand; Cannery Row, John Steinbeck; and The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare. Although analytical essays are regularly assigned, much of the second semester is focused on personal writing. Students use the theme of the journey as a means of self-investigation, reflection, and memoir writing. This work culminates in the writing of a ten-page autobiography, themed and designed by the students themselves. This course is also offered in an Intensive format.

New York, New York

Using a variety of genres and historical periods, this course looks at the exotic, eccentric, and energetic city of New York and its equally compelling inhabitants. Pieces range from the 19th-century classic Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville to the contemporary protest of Push by Sapphire. Although the readings are studied in chronological order, the intent of this class is to examine particular themes, myths, and issues of a city that epitomizes both the raw power and failures of the American dream. Books may include: Maggie, Girl of the Streets, Stephen Crane; The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton; Bread Givers, Anzia Yezierska; The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote; and Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow. Students may also study the short stories of Henry James, John Cheever, Grace Paley, Dorothy Parker, and Philip Roth; the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Frank O’Hara, and Hart Crane; and the films of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, and Spike Lee.

Pulitzer Prize Winners: Taking the Prize

This course considers selected winners of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Through class discussion and analytical writing, students explore thematic, linguistic, and structural elements and make critical assessments of these books. There are also opportunities for students to study original creative writing in a variety of genres. Authors may include: Michael Chabon, Booth Tarkington, Thornton Wilder, Richard Ford, Pearl S. Buck, John Hersey, Saul Bellow, James Agee, Alice Walker, Ernest Hemingway, and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Essay Writing

Students in this course write both personal and expository essays, concentrating on style and voice, and the process of drafting. Readings of contemporary essays provide models for the writing assignments. A minimum of five essays are read each week. Students write five finished essays during the course of a semester. In addition, students are expected to act as peer editors and to teach a class. Books may include: Travels with Lisbeth, Lars Eighner; The Elements of Style, Strunk and White; and The Norton Sampler.

The Vietnam War Through Literature and Film

This course focuses on novels, short stories, poetry, expository writing, and screenplays about the Vietnam War. These works are written from a variety of points of view: soldiers, family members, war protesters, and Vietnamese citizens. Students discuss films that depict the war, and contrast them with other visual images such as wartime photography and iconic war memorials. Books may include: The Quiet American, Graham Greene; The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien; In Country, Bobbie Ann Mason; The Sorrow of War, Bao Ninh; and When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, Le Ly Hayslip. Students will also read stories and memoirs such as Everything We Had, Al Santoli; Dispatches, Michael Herr; and In Pharaoh’s Army, Tobias Wolff. Films to be viewed may include: The Green Berets, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Platoon.

African Literature: A Question of Power

Although distinct in countless ways, African cultures throughout the continent have a common experience that has shaped their destinies, namely the rapid conquest by the West in the latter part of the 19th century, the often brutal colonial rule that followed, and the sudden independence from the West starting in the latter half of the 20th century. The work of African novelists and filmmakers is key to the struggle to shape African identity that followed political independence, as Africans themselves took over the African narrative, which previously had been told almost exclusively by Western outsiders. Students will identify and discuss core themes that are not only literary but also help to illuminate the contemporary African experience. Novels may include: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, God’s Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane, The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta, When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head, and The Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda. Films may include Mister Johnson, Xala, and Sometimes in April.

Do the Right Thing: Ethics in Literature and Film

From the oldest prehistoric cave paintings in Spain to the modern dinner table, people have told stories as a means of making sense of the world. This course is designed to explore the roots and literary expressions of ethical thinking and ideals. Students begin with a brief study of ancient codes, including Hammurabi’s Code, the Old and New Testaments, and the Koran, as well as Western philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant, and Camus. They then explore how authors from many cultures have wrestled with these same ideas, ideals, and dilemmas. The readings and films range from children’s tales to contemporary African drama. Readings may include: Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Wole Soyinka’s Death and The King’s Horseman, E.B White’s Charlotte’s Web, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. Films may include: Do the Right Thing; A Man for All Seasons; Blade Runner; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Erin Brockovich; and Slumdog Millionaire.

A Fantastic Journey: Reading and Writing in Lands Beyond

Fantasy literature has moved from a bit player to a robust star in the literary world. This course investigates and analyzes why fantasy holds such allure and where its roots lie. Students begin with a brief look at some essential source materials, from ancient myths to works like Beowulf, The Tempest, or Gulliver’s Travels. They then read extensively in the genre, beginning with a close reading of The Hobbit and going on to excerpts from The Lord of The Rings. Other authors and works may include Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle, Lewis Carroll, and C.S. Lewis, as well as contemporary works such as the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games.

Myth, Folktale, and Children’s Literature

What do the earliest books we read teach us about childhood, adults, animals, history, class, and gender? Throughout this course students explore various representations of myth, folktales, and children’s literature. They examine the transition from picture books to graphic novels and compare stories from around the world, focusing on what we as older readers bring to these works. The course will sharpen students’ powers of analysis in both analytical and creative writing. Works may include: Animal Farm, The Golden Compass, Alice in Wonderland, The Arrival, Persepolis, Tintin, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and African folk tales.

Perpetrators and Victims: Literature of Genocide

Through a variety of genres, this course examines the prevalence of genocide in modern civilization. Students grapple with such questions as: How do apparently normal people subject others to atrocity and murder? How do societies promote, condone, or prevent genocide? How do individuals and countries survive emotionally, culturally, and politically? What, if anything, can be done to prevent genocide in the future? The study of genocide is historically and politically grounded, but students also examine the subject through memoir, essay, fiction, and poetry. Possible titles include: This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman, Tadeusz Borowski (Holocaust of World War II); Imagining Argentina, Lawrence Thornton; and Johnny Mad Dog, Emmanuel Dongala (Congo).

Russian Literature

Using literature from 1850 to 1997, this elective is designed as an introduction to the pre-Soviet, Soviet, and post-Soviet periods of Russian literature. Course readings may include Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Eugene Zamyatin’s We, and a series of short stories ranging from the classics of Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, and Ivan Turgenev to modern writers such as Tolstoyana, Zoschenko, and Solzhenitsyn. Also included is a selection of poetry, especially poets of the Soviet period, such as Boris Pasternak and Anna Ahkhmatova.

Self and Society: 19th-Century British Literature

The 19th century in England brought with it new ideas, inventions, and philosophies that challenged the certainties of self, the belief in meaningful experience, the relationship between men and women, and personal power. The continuing sophistication of the novel form and the advent of lending libraries allowed the novel, with its emphasis on the social changes of the day, to reflect and mirror the changing concerns of the time. This course will look at how five authors viewed the tensions and questions of self in this changing world. Texts may include: Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen; Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte; Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte; Frankenstein, Mary Shelley; Hard Times, Charles Dickens; and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy. The class is discussion based. Filmed adaptations may be viewed after the reading of two of the texts. Writing assignments may include analytical essays, creative writing, a film review, and 20-minute passage analyses.

Shakespeare in Print, Production, and Film

Imagine if Shakespeare were able to view his plays as they have been adapted for contemporary stage, film, and theater performance. This course is designed to immerse students in Shakespeare’s works through critical reading, stage performance, and film in order to learn how his plays were meant to come to life. The work of the course includes critical reading and writing, as well as some performance work and memorization by each student. Students read four of Shakespeare’s major plays. Choices may vary but will include at least one comedy and one tragedy.

Spinning the Globe: Readings from Around the World

This course investigates how our world becomes smaller through the sharing of literature from around the globe. From classic Russian and Eastern European writers to the diversity of contemporary South American, Haitian, Japanese, African, and Chinese writers, students consider what world authors share in craft, style, narrative, theme, and characterization. Selected works may include: In the Pond, Ha Jin (China); The Wall, Jean-Paul Sartre (France); Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy (Russia); Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (Haiti); and The Bride Price, Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria).

The Fall from Innocence (Grade 9)

This course centers on the theme of “The Fall from Innocence.” During the first quarter, students are introduced to the concept of “The Fall” through a close reading of the first chapters of Genesis. This approach provides the foundation for the remaining texts, which include How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson; Macbeth, William Shakespeare; and The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, as well as selections from contemporary writers such as Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros. Students participate in the Poetry Out Loud competition to complement a unit of poetic performance. Each marking period students read and review an additional outside reading book, either one of their own choosing or one required by the teacher. Grammar is studied both in the context of written work and through direct instruction. Students are evaluated on the basis of their performance on tests and quizzes, expository and personal essays, fiction writing, and class participation. This course is also offered in an Intensive format.

The Shock of the New: Modern British Literature

The subject of this course is the fall from the Victorian ideal of progress into the industrial evils of the modern era. Pieces are chosen to underscore the experimental nature of the literature of the period, as well as the new morality, which caused several works by these authors to be banned. Works may include: Dubliners, James Joyce; Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf; A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess; Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad; and Regeneration, Pat Barker, as well as writings by Kazuo Ishiguro and D.H. Lawrence.

The Sound and Fury of Southern Literature

The literature of the South is an intriguing blend of mannerly gentility and the macabre. Works often bear the imprint of social, racial, and sexual tension, all just beneath an ever-pleasant façade. Regional writers celebrate the geography, the language, and the people of the South, as well as its agrarian roots. Authors may include: William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, James Dickey, Thomas Wolfe, Alice Walker, Kate Chopin, Richard Wright, and Mark Twain.

Word and Image

This is an advanced interdisciplinary course for juniors and seniors who are interested in exploring the interrelated worlds of the visual and written arts. Students combine their own words and art to make one-of-a-kind or small-edition books. Writing focuses on the imagery and form of poetry, the narrative qualities of personal essay, and the development of character through short story. Authors studied may include Annie Dillard, Sandra Cisneros, and a wide variety of poets. Writing includes extensive drafting and revision work. Students are also introduced to the work of several artists who combine word and image, while learning a variety of book-binding structures. Students may use techniques such as drawing, painting, digital imaging, photography, collage, and printmaking. Students are asked to bring self-motivation, creativity, and enthusiasm for problem-solving to this class. This is the equivalent of two courses and meets as frequently. Prerequisites: Foundations of Art and a second studio art course. Completion of Essay Writing or Writers Workshop is encouraged.

Works of the Greats: Literature in Translation

This course is an opportunity for in-depth study of the works of acknowledged greats in English and translated literature through some of their shorter texts: short stories, short novels, and novellas. Many of these works were among the last creations of these writers, who refined their talents into these small gems of distinction. Close passage analysis and attention to the subtler aspects of the works will be a key feature of this course. Writings may include: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Turn of the Screw, Henry James; Love in a Fallen City, Eileen Chang; Gigi, Colette; The Metamorphosis, Kafka; and The Wall, Jean-Paul Sartre.

Writing Ars Poetica: The Art of Poetry

“A poem should not mean but be,” writes American poet Archibald MacLeish. Designed to give students experience in reading, writing, listening to, and analyzing a range of poems, this course examines poetry from a variety of time periods and countries. Each student writes, revises, and polishes a small chapter book of personal work and presents a reading at the end of the course. This class is conducted as a workshop. Reading of student work and assigned poems occurs daily; constructive criticism of each other’s work and memorization of poetic verse are required. Students also study poetic terminology and learn a variety of forms and techniques through application.

Writers' Workshop

The goal of this workshop is to strengthen each student’s process of writing as a means of discovery and expression. Students write daily to gain practice and authority in response writing; they keep journals as a means of free writing and as a source for later papers. Readings of contemporary essays provide models of writing styles. Students are required to do extensive drafting of both personal and expository pieces, ending with final, edited drafts. A minimum of four fully-drafted essays are written during the semester. Peer and teacher reviews are integral to this process. Course readings include selections from The Norton Anthology and The Least You Should Know About English.

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