Note: Semester-long electives can be combined in any order to meet requirements for a full year of English credits.  Unless specifically noted, courses are designed as a full year.  For clarification, contact the department chair, Nathan Readey.    


Note: Semester-long electives can be combined in any order to meet requirements for a full year of English credits.  Unless specifically noted, courses are designed as a full year.  For clarification, contact the department chair, Nathan Readey.


course descriptions

Language & Composition 1 & 2
Language & Composition enables students to become skilled readers of rhetorical and oratorical texts, and to become confident writers who compose for a variety of purposes and audiences. Students read, watch, and listen to speeches, essays, and debates to study the ways by which a writer or speaker courts, engages, and wins an audience.  Students learn to read primary and secondary sources carefully, and to synthesize material from these texts in their own compositions. Students develop awareness of their own composing processes: the way they explore ideas, reconsider strategies, and revise their work.

Literature and Composition 1 & 2                                                                                                                                       Literature and Composition 1 & 2 engage students in the close reading, annotation, critical analysis, and creation of imaginative literature.  In Semester 1, students explore: 1. Narrative Style and Voice, 2. Plot and Setting, 3. Character, 4. Symbolism and Allegory, and 5. Irony and Ambiguity.  In Semester 2, students study: 1. Non-Fiction, 2. Poetry, 3. Drama, 4. Genres in Literature, and 5. Comparative Literature.  As they study representative works from various genres and eras, from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century, students explore the concept of a ‘literary canon,’ and consider how a canon is shaped by–and shapes–the broader culture.  Students work with teachers to select their own reading list.

American Literature (college prep and honors)                                                                                                                                                                                American Literature surveys the literary, cultural, philosophical, religious, social, and economic dimensions of the Mid-Nineteenth, Modern, and Post-Modern periods through a chronological study of major authors and their writings.  The course is built around six units, that unfold through a retelling of U.S. History: 1. Enlightenment Literature & Romanticism, 2. Realism, 3. Naturalism, 4. Modernism, 5. Cold War Era Literature, and 6. Postmodernism. 

American Studies: Literature & Composition
Though it may be taught as a stand-alone class, this course is designed to be taught in conjunction with the history course, American Studies: U.S. History. The course is an inquiry into the nature of modernity in the west through a careful study of the literature and history of the United States of America.  The course asks students to analyze the role of various societal processes–political, religious, aesthetic, ethnic, economic, etc.–and the interactions between these processes in the unfolding of our national literature.  Beginning with the study of texts emerging out of the new nation, through modernity, and into our postmodern world, students continually examine how literature shapes our national identity and how evolving identities are articulated in literature. Students fundamentally consider the role of historical context when evaluating the significance of a literary text.  As a result, the course also prompts students to gain new insights into their identity and role as citizens and thinkers. 

The American Dream                                                                                                                                                                The American Dream surveys the literary, cultural, philosophical, religious, social, and economic dimensions of the Mid-Nineteenth, Modern, and Post-Modern periods through a chronological study of how both major and underrepresented authors apprehend the idea of the “American Dream” in their literature. 

AP English Literature & Composition
Studying literature illuminates human emotion and behavior, as well as the magical blending of logic with imagination. Line, meter, rhyme, character, plot, spectacle, dramatic monologue–these are the tools that enable ordered and intricate art forms. Throughout this AP course, students discover how to read and understand literature as an art form guided by unified but sometimes competing rules, an art form at once translatable to all and subject entirely to individual interpretation. This course prepares students to master the AP Literature & Composition exam, held each year in May. To that end, learning stems from discussions of generative topics and literary criticism, as students are encouraged to direct their own learning. 

AP English Language & Composition
Students in this course read and carefully analyze a broad and challenging range of nonfiction prose selections, deepening their awareness of rhetoric and how language works. Through close reading and frequent writing, students develop their ability to work with language and text with a greater awareness of purpose and strategy, while strengthening their own compositional abilities. Course readings feature expository, analytical, personal, and argumentative texts from a variety of authors and historical eras. Students examine and work with essays, letters, speeches, images, and imaginative literature. Course reading and writing activities help students gain textual (and contextual) power, making them more alert to an author’s purpose, the needs of an audience, the demands of the subject, and the resources of language: syntax, word choice, and tone.  This course prepares students to master the AP Language & Composition exam, held each year in May. 

World Literature
In this survey course, students read epic and lyric poetry, dramas, and prose narratives, as well as complete works.  Texts are supplemented by contextual materials that help students understand the literary and historical eras from which these texts arose. Key works from the Western literary tradition are included, as well as enduring literary works from China, Japan, India, the Middle East, Africa, and the native Americas.  By the end of this course, students understand how world literature has evolved, from ancient roots to the post-modern world.

The City in Literature: New York City                                                                                                                                                                                                                 “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby                                                                              

The City in Literature examines the literature of New York City through a chronological survey of multiple genres: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Our focus will be on the role of the city as portal to the new world, home to millions, inspiration, and subject for authors both major and minor, well known and new to the student.  We will examine the city as a protean construct, as projection, a physical and psychic reality rife with the potential for the realization of dreams and the concomitant risk of failure, home to the native born, as well as refuge for outsiders, and draw to immigrants from every corner of the world.  The city has provided writers with an experience to embrace, celebrate, cherish, regret, or deny.

British Literature
This survey course takes students on a literary journey from epics such as Beowulf to the absurdist plays of Beckett. Canonical authors mingle with newly visible writers; literature from the British Isles is integrated with post-colonial writing; and major works are illuminated by clusters of shorter texts that bring literary, social, and historical issues vividly to life.  By the end of this course, students understand how British literature has evolved, from medieval roots to a post-modern status. 

Contemporary Literature
Contemporary Literature surveys the last ten years of literature from a cultural, social, and historical perspective. As literature continues to evolve in response to the world, so does this class.  Students explore–and write in response to–full-length works, works from recent anthologies of fiction and non-fiction, current literary quarterlies, journalistic publications, and the new forms of literature such as blogs and podcasts.  Rather than a traditional survey course, students of contemporary literature investigate how we come to consider specific texts to be representative and of what while exploring themes of the current literary landscape.

Creative Writing                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Unlike expository writing, which primarily seeks to convey information, creative writing involves communication on a psychological and emotional level.  This course requires the close reading of well-established as well as emerging creative writers, and rigorous discussion on what effects certain techniques have on the perceived message of a piece.  More than simply observing the writing of others, students write in this course–creatively and analytically–with an eye toward revision, effectiveness, and readability.

Exploratory Thinking
This course blends together the study of certain kinds of literature alongside a more investigatory approach. Students are able to work with instructors to design a course of relevance and interest to them, whether it be a specific genre, author, or theme. Previous topics have included Mathematics in Literature, The Narrative of Epics and Video Games, Science and Science Fiction, and Alternative Narratives.  We use these explorations as a basis for studying literary methods and the conversation between disciplines and areas of study.

Film as Literature
In this course, students explore the ways in which narratives in literature can be translated into film. The course focuses on a close study and analysis of how films use literary devices and tropes, as well as how filmmakers have translated various literary works into film.  Students consider what constitutes literature and how creative expression forms and is informed by medium.  From this grounding, students critically analyze–and write in response to–an array of works and explore their impact on film.

Genres in Literature
In Genres in Literature, students explore the concept of a ‘literary genre,’ as they grapple with issues of definition and classification. Students consider how a single text may mean different things to different audiences, and through this study, evaluate the ways in which a text–or collection of texts–can help to define a culture or sub-culture. In doing so, students study the particular narrative tropes that characterize or define various authors, genres, eras in literature, and societies.

Poetry Analysis & Composition
All civilizations have created some version of written or oral poetry and the endeavor of self-expression through poetic means dates back thousands of years. In this course, we investigate the poetic form as it has existed, evolved, and expanded across the centuries and millennia. The analysis of a poem’s contents, as well as its poetic means are emphasized. Major poetic forms and movements are studied. However, this course does not simply focus on the reading and analysis of poetry; the thoughtful study of poetry contributes to students composing and revising original works of poetry.

The Absurd & Existential: 20th Century Literature (semester)                                                                                                    This course studies existentialism as a "timeless sensibility" (Kaufmann) preoccupied with questions arising from the human condition, such as suffering, death, dread, despair, guilt and responsibility.  This course begins by looking at existential philosophy, but also examines the question of its root causes and historical context, as well as the central tenets inherent in defining what makes a certain piece of literature 'absurd' or 'existential.'  Students will engage with works that are considered to be influenced by existentialism, and then with works from all over the world that may fall under the auspices of the genre. In doing so, students pull forth the common threads of what, exactly, marks the distinction of influence of existential philosophy from the absurd. 

Dramatic Literature (semester)
In this elective, students explore a variety of dramatic works.  The course is designed to expose students to the reading and study of great plays (both classic and modern).  The course begins by considering how to read a play, and students will explore the main approaches to the study of Dramatic Literature.  Students then go on to study classic and contemporary tragedy, comedy, and satire with emphasis on the hallmarks of dramatic genres and types.  Students critically analyze–and write in response to–an array of topics in drama that are both literary and philosophical.

The Emersonian Tradition (semester)
The renowned 19th century American poet Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr. described “The American Scholar,” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s seminal speech as “Our intellectual declaration of Independence.”  This course asks students to consider the extent to which Emersonian values–moral, philosophical, and literary–can be accepted as a central basis for subsequent American Literature.  It is recommended that students who enroll either be currently enrolled in or have previously taken American Literature. Through this course of study, students become adept at analyzing, and comparing and contrasting, works that share common themes across genre and historical era.

Literature and the Brain (semester)                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This course aims to show students how the arts have informed and influenced the ways that scientists have conducted research into and formed hypotheses about the brain. The course begins with a focus on artistic practices of self-reflection, connecting these practices to scientific methods of observation and experimentation. The role of the imagination and speculative thought is considered with regard to fantasy literature and efforts to understand the experiences of patients with brain disorders in a clinical setting. Finally, the course considers poetic reflections on the relationship between mind and body and the social implications of understanding mind as being “embodied rather than embrained,” to quote neuroscientist, Antonio Demasio.  Throughout the course, memory is used as a common point of reference, connecting literary works with neuroscientific theories. Though memory may stand alone as a specific area of scientific research or artistic production, it also serves as a means to understanding various aspects of the relationship between neurology and our everyday experience. By investigating these different aspects using literary texts and multi-media resources, students engage in creative and speculative thinking about the relationship between brain and mind. In doing so, students become familiar with scientific and artistic approaches to the study of the mind and how these approaches can galvanize each other. 

The Literature of the Natural World (semester)
In this elective students explore one of the major themes represented throughout the history of literature: Nature. The course begins by asking students to consider some of the philosophical issues surrounding questions of nature. What is nature?  What is the relationship between humanity and the natural world? What is the relationship between mind and body? Between science and art? What is beauty and where does aesthetic experience come from? From this grounding, students critically analyze–and write in response to–an array of works in an array of genres that explore humanity’s relationship to the natural world.

The Literature of Sport (semester)                                                                                                                                            This course explores the various approaches to, and genres of, sports writing. Students consider the basic features–and the basic challenges–of narrativizing real-world events. Often times several competing narratives emerge to describe what is truly happening on the field, on the court, on the track, in the rink.  Students consider how authors use athletics as a social or cultural lens to examine our attitudes and our institutions. An author might consider our attitudes towards race, poverty, or gender by examining how these issues unfold on the sporting field. This course prompts students to explore how writers use athletics to comment on the human condition.

Magic Realist & Fantasy Literature (semester)
This course begins by considering the origins and historical context that contributed to the development of Magical Realism. Students investigate the themes and influences of Magical Realism today while identifying the tropes that set it apart from genres such as Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Having formed their critical lens, students analyze–and write in response to–an array of works of Magical Realism that explore its impact on literature.

Modernity & Post-Modernity: A Cultural Study (semester)
The primary goal of the course is for students to work toward a definition of modernity, a definition of post-modernity, and a conceptual framework that is coherent across disciplines– history, philosophy, sociology, religion, and literature.  The course unfolds chronologically, beginning around the turn of the 16th century.

Mythology: Classic & Contemporary (semester)                                                                                                                                                                                            An introduction to the central Greek myths and the fundamental ideas about human life explored in them. This course is intended to cast light on various aspects of Classical culture, many still resonant in modern times.  Students pay equal attention  how ancient mythical narratives bear meaning and inform understanding, even today. 

Philosophy in Literature (semester)
In this elective, students explore the conversation between various branches of philosophy and the literature they inform. Students investigate some of the most influential and seminal philosophical works, and go on to investigate how authors use literature to attempt to answer or apprehend the central questions of existence. The course further focuses on the philosophical questions of language and morality. From this framework, students critically analyze–and write in response to–an array of works both literary and philosophical that explore the impact and definition of guiding philosophies on literature.

Shakespeare & his Legacy (semester)
Students in this course examine the resounding literary and cultural influence of Shakespeare's dramatic works.  Each work is read closely and is evaluated in the context of its genre: tragedy or comedy. Students read modern literary reinterpretations of Shakespeare’s plays to examine the contemporary relevancy of major and minor themes.  Students evaluate modern analytical interpretations by critics such as Northrop Frye and Harold Bloom, and examine the ways in which various modern medias have interpreted Shakespeare’s works and legacy.