The English program is based on two assumptions. The first is that mastery of one’s own language is essential to an individual’s personal development; he must be able to express himself clearly, communicate with and persuade others. The second assumption has three parts: that the experience of great literature allows us to enlarge our experience of and ability to deal with the world we live in, that contact with the best thoughts of the best minds can be a source of wisdom and delight, and that the individual can better appreciate his own values and those of his culture if he is familiar with the process by which they have evolved.
No Upper School English program can possibly provide students with all the instruction in language and literature that they will ever need. Properly understood, education is a lifelong process. An effective English program equips the student with the skills he will need to pursue formal study and to continue the self-educational effort which marks and makes the well-rounded individual.
Form III English exposes students to a variety of literary works, including novels, short stories, plays, and poems. Building on the work of the Middle School, more literary terms are introduced, and the structure and function of literary forms are examined. The reading of literature provides a foundation for the integration of grammar, spelling, and vocabulary lessons within the framework of a comprehensive study of the writing process. Considerable time is spent on planning, writing, evaluating, and revising essays in order to produce writing that is clear, concise, and persuasive. Time is devoted to developing better study skills and habits, with emphasis on organizational, reading, and analytical skills. Students will use the Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshop, Level E, and Hacker’s Pocket Style Manual for technical studies and vocabulary enrichment.
Fall Term: Heroic Figures: Texts include Achebe, Things Fall Apart; Hilton, Lost Horizon; Homer, The Odyssey; and selected stories.
Winter Term: Heroic Choices: Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun; Shakespeare, Julius Caesar; Poetry: terms and structure.
Spring Term: Heroic Consequences: Mishima, The Sound of Waves; Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.
This three-term Form III requirement helps to develop excellent oral communication skills in students and to teach them to express themselves in a clear and articulate manner in all circumstances, including debates, interviews, and other public speaking occasions. Students are encouraged to develop confidence and poise when they present themselves in their public and personal lives. One term is devoted to learning how to make effective use of computer programs when making presentations. In the second and third term, focus is on original oratory and the oral interpretation of literature. Emphasis is placed on content as well as nonverbal communication, with particular focus on persuasive and inspirational speeches.
Form IV English provides an introduction to the history and development of the English language and a survey of the various literary forms. The reading is chosen to encourage discussion of such themes as maturity, the dignity of the individual, friendship, fate, and moral integrity. Strategies for approaching, reading, and retaining a knowledge of challenging texts are discussed and implemented. The reading covers a wide range of material from Sophocles to Shakespeare, from Geoffrey Chaucer to Phillip Larkin. Some memorization is required. The writing of organized, supported, and persuasive essays finds emphasis in reading and in practice. Planning and revision merit special attention. Grammar study and vocabulary are pursued in textbook exercises and in the context of reading and writing assignments. Students will use the Sadlier-Oxford, Vocabulary Workshop, Level F, and Lafarge, Usage, a Workbook for Students, for technical studies and vocabulary enrichment.
Fall Term: The Poet and the Satirist. An examination of the increasing complexity and flexibility of the English language. Texts may include selections from Beowulf; a selection of ballads; selections from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Shakespeare’s sonnets; Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle; Swift, A Modest Proposal.
Winter Term: Finding Order. Man and the mysteries of his world. Shakespeare, Macbeth; Stoker, Dracula; poetry of Blake, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Tennyson.
Spring Term: Romanticism and its Legacy. Dickens, Great Expectations. Poets studied include, Blake, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, Arnold, Housman, Yeats, Thomas, and Larkin.
Form V: Themes in American Literature
Students will approach selected works of American literature not only as sovereign texts but also as products of the developing culture of the United States and expressions of concerns uniquely American which can be traced through our literature from colonial days to the present. The course will be structured to encourage students to recognize the connections between the Form V American history course and the American literature they will read in this course. Students will also continue the development of their writing skills through expository and creative writing assignments on topics related to the reading.
Students in Form VI take a mandatory fall class, Advanced Expository Writing, in which they write essays that may fulfill college application requirements; additionally, they select three different courses during the year. These courses change from year to year and are designed to suit the interests and needs of the students, to approximate in their general approach the literature courses encountered by college undergraduates, and to bridge the gap between high school and college-level work. Courses in recent years have had thematic, historical, or genre orientations, and writing courses of several kinds have been offered. The following choices are presented to students for the 2011–2012 school year.
A1. The Short Story (Mr. Dearinger)
This class concentrates on the techniques used by the writers of short stories. Class discussion and analytical writing (2–3 essays) will explore the implications and narrative structure of the stories we read. The students will write three stories of their own, following up their compositions with carefully considered revisions. Occasional reading quizzes and period tests will be administered. Tests are usually an open book and open notes format. Text: Perrine, Story and Structure.
A2. New York in Literature (Mr. Reynolds)
In this class, students will explore the literature set in and around the City of New York. Given the breadth of experiences possible in NYC, writers have used it as a setting for their fiction and as a target of their social criticism for centuries. Through various texts, the class will explore the changing nature of the authorial perspective and analyze how that difference in voice and tone reflects that particular author’s cultural moment in NYC. From Washington Irving to O. Henry to Joan Didion to David Sedaris, the class will primarily read shorter works and write extensively about the city through both fiction and nonfiction. Texts: White, Here is New York; Lopate, Writing New York: A Literary Anthology, ed.; Sedaris, Holidays on Ice: Stories. Other possibilities: James, Washington Square; Wharton, The Age of Innocence.
A3. Fiction into Film (Mrs. Pribyl)
This course examines the relationships between works of fiction and films that were produced based on them. Students begin with the literary texts, then consider the films both as interpretations of the same text and as wholly new texts worthy of independent evaluation. In some cases, more than one film stemming from the same work of fiction is examined. We explore the different types of tools available to the writer and the director. Focusing on drama into film and novels into film, texts may include Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet; Miller, The Crucible; Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Wharton, The Age of Innocence; Orr, The Wisdom of Eve, and Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
B1. Tragedy (Mrs. Pribyl)
What does it mean to be a human being? How do we face death? Are we free agents or merely victims of fate? What is virtue? These questions have concerned man from the beginning, and much of the most enduring literature has been written in an attempt to answer them. The texts listed represent different cultures, but the central themes are very similar. While they are important and enjoyable works individually, it is also helpful that the study of these texts will lead into a discussion of the meaning of tragedy and “the tragic vision,” topics of concern to everyone. Written assignments will allow students to explore these and related topics. Texts may include Homer, The Iliad; Sophocles, The Oedipus Cycle; Shakespeare, King Lear; and O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
B2. Poetry: “I Sound my Barbaric Yawp” (Mr. Dearinger)
This course will begin with a brief overview of the history of poetry and a review of the methods of critical analysis. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Marvell, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Dickinson, Whitman, and Arnold will be revisited, after which the bulk of the course reading will concentrate on the modern poets, including Eliot, Frost, Hughes, Larkin, Heaney, MacNeice, Berry, Auden, Lowell. Attention will be paid to the techniques of close reading as a preparation for those interested in taking the AP English examination. Students will also be writing their own poetry, experimenting in style and theme, and exploring resonating diction and imagery. Revision will be an essential part of this process. There will be occasional quizzes and period tests. Test format is usually open-book and open-notes. Students should have access to an unabridged dictionary. Text: Norton Anthology of Poetry.
B3. Twentieth-Century African American Literature Before
Brown v. Board of Ed (Mr. Reynolds)
This course surveys works of American literature written by African Americans during the first half of the twentieth century and prior to the Civil Rights era. Texts will include W. E. B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk, Langston Hughes’s short stories, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Students will examine racial self-consciousness, the impact of American social and cultural history, and the individual author’s response to those circumstances that encompass the African-American experience of the first half of the 20th century.
Third Trimester (open to Form V)
C1. Men at War (Mr. Ingrisani)
This term will focus on the experience of men during wartime. In addition to the texts listed, excerpts from other print and video sources will be examined.
Texts: The Iliad of Homer: (selected passages), The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, and The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.
C2. Birth of the American Voice: 19th Century American Literature (Mr. Reynolds)
Between the years 1800 and 1899, American writers produced works of literature that established this country’s unique “voice.” Writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Herman Melville explored the romance of the common man in the American physical and political landscape. As the U.S. sought to establish its place in the world, these writers created and supplied the national perspective. Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855) was a seminal work in which the native New Yorker expressed the exuberant emotions and energy of a young nation. Students will read essays, novels, novellas, and poetry created during this important century to examine the impact these works had on the establishment of American culture and a true national voice.
C3. Why Theatre Matters (Mr. Dearinger)
This course will examine a number of important plays that have been influenced by, commented upon, or even caused social change. There will be tests, required reading notes, written responses, analytical essays, and a final cumulative exam. Most texts will be supplemented with film versions of the play. There will be some memorization and a film project.
Reading and Film List: Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice; Ibsen, Hedda Gabler; Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire; Miller, Death of a Salesman.
Possible additional films: Weiss: Marat/Sade, Kushner, Angels in America.
C4. The Universal Road Trip: Exploring the Journey from Innocence to Experience (Ms. Pribyl)
This course will examine a fundamental trait of being human: the movement from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. Through novels, short stories, poems, and song lyrics, we will study the coming of age experience. We will discuss ways in which our family and societal influences affect the journey. Each student will have an opportunity to explore his own journey both as unique and universal. Texts may include William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience; Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises; and Jack Kerouac, On The Road.