The English Department promotes the values of diversity, integrity, and independent thinking through an intense immersion in literary texts representing a wide range of eras, cultures, and writing styles. Our curriculum emphasizes the importance of oral and written communication skills as well as digital literacy – the ability to locate, evaluate and critically reflect on information derived from a variety of media – to prepare our students for the challenges of the modern world.

We aspire to help our students become critical thinkers, compassionate individuals, and good citizens of the world. We believe in the power of literature to shape individuals, and are committed to inducing in our students an appreciation of reading as a means of discovery and insight.

Requirements for Graduation: Successful completion of four years of grade-level English classes. Electives: AP English Literature and Composition, Poetry Writing Workshop, Blurred Lines: Science Fiction and Fantasy Studies


Introduction to Literature: What Shapes Our Identity

This year we will build a community within our classroom, exploring what shapes our identities. As we open ourselves up to our surroundings, we will consider the power of words and storytelling. Through the exploration of characters and their circumstances, we will better come to understand ourselves and our place in the world. Besides discussing works like Sandra Cisneros: The House on Mango Street, J.D. Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye, William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night and Ta-Nehisi Coates: Between the World and Me, we will also study art, film, and other forms of digital storytelling.

American Literature

This survey course will offer an overview of major American authors, seminal works and important movements that have shaped American literature from the colonial era to the mid-20th century. We will proceed in a more-or-less chronological order with some detours to add richness and deeper meaning to a given unit. Through the thorough analysis of works like Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Poe’s short stories, Emerson’s essays, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and other seminal works of modern American literature, we will examine how social, cultural and political landscapes continue to shape our sense of what it means to be an American.

Students in the 11th and 12th grades may choose between the following classes. Tracks alternate each year. 

Track 1

Banned Books: The Story of Taboo and Censorship

Books have been suppressed, censored, banned, and burnt for as long as human history. But what lies behind this truly global phenomenon that knows no geographical, cultural, ethnic, or religious boundaries? Through discussions about the variety of justifications for banning and blacklisting books, this course will explore some of the reasons why readers’ access to certain books has been restricted, who has the right to censor publications, and how such actions have affected the reception of the texts targeted by censorship. Our reading list may include books by the following authors: Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, Erich Maria Remarque, Ray Bradbury, Azar Nafisi, Chun Sue, Isabel Allende, Ken Kesey, Franz Kafka, and Sherman Alexie.

Redefining America

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually,” James Baldwin wrote in his 1955 collection of essays Notes of a Native Son. This course focuses on underrepresented voices and writers who challenge the myth of the American Dream. We will study writers who bring attention to overlooked aspects of the American experience, from struggling with pervasive racism to grappling with identity in an immigrant family to living through the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. How do writers reckon with feelings of alienation and otherness while also building love, pride, and solidarity? Readings may include Claudia Rankine’s book of prose poetry, Citizen; essays by James Baldwin; short stories about the immigrant experience by authors such as Jenny Zhang, Edwidge Danticat, and Junot Diaz; Tony Kushner’s play about the AIDS crisis, Angels in America; and Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about America, The Handmaid’s Tale. Course requirements will include significant reading and both creative and analytical writing assignments.

Track 2

Literary Detectives

Who invented the detective story? What makes a great detective? And why is it that we just can’t get enough of these books? The course will offer us the opportunity to dive into these and similar questions about the origins of the genre, its most influential figures and the reasons for the genre’s worldwide appeal. We will explore the most popular detective types: the eccentric amateur sleuth, the professional police inspector, the hard-boiled detective, and the forensic scientist through the works of authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Walter Mosley, and Ruth Rendell. Beyond having a lot of fun trying to solve crimes together, we will also debate how these books may engage with broader social concerns regarding gender, race and politics.

Postcolonial Literature

For many years, the story of colonization was told by the colonizers who saw themselves as “saving” and “civilizing” lesser people, from the Irish to the Igbo. But this is certainly not the only story. In this course, we will study literature from around the world that questions this narrative of colonialism, from Shakespeare’s The Tempest to contemporary fiction. We will explore questions such as: How do authors from around the world depict the struggle for independence against imperial powers? How do they negotiate between European and indigenous traditions? What is the role of literature in memory, resistance, and the preservation of culture? We will study fiction, poetry, nonfiction, drama, and graphic novels on a global journey that will take us from Britain to Martinique to Nigeria to Colombia to Iran. Engaging with a diverse range of perspectives will allow us to go beyond the single story that Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie critiques,
reminding us that: “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.”

AP English Literature and Composition will be set up as a college-level workshop/seminar in which active participation and willingness to learn through an intense exchange of ideas and careful attention to the intricacies of analytical writing are keys to enhancing the learning experience. This course aims at improving overall critical thinking, analytical, and writing skills through the in-depth study of a wide variety of literary texts. Areas of study include: representative literary genres and periods, literary devices, language use, social and historical background of works and advanced writing skills. Due to the AP-level workload and requirements, the course is recommended to students with strong reading and writing skills as well as a strong commitment to the study of literature and language.

In this workshop-style class, students will read poems from various time periods and genres (from sonnets to slam) and compose their own original poems. Students will share poems with each other and give each other feedback in writing workshops. Students will write multiple drafts of poems and will be encouraged to share their finished work at a public reading or in the school literary magazine. The class will attend at least one poetry reading

Grades: 10, 11, 12

Together, we journey through the mirror and across the stars, and to the worlds in-between. We’ll start by understanding the genres of fantasy and science fiction separately, and then blur the lines. Students will compare and contrast the themes in both science fiction and fantasy literature. Why are these genres always put together? We will consider science fiction and fantasy in their own rights but also look at stories that could be classified either way. Students will investigate the human condition and “otherness” in science fiction and fantasy literature with comparisons to film, television, and current events. Students will also have the opportunity to try their hand at the genres through creative writing.


The reading list will include works from authors like Douglas Adams, Octavia E. Butler, Becky Chambers, Isaac Asimov, Amal El-Mohtar, Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges, Ursula K. Leguin, Nnedi Okorafor, Frank Herbert, Alix Harrow, Ray Bradbury, Ted Chiang, Yevgeny Zamyatin, and N.K. Jemison.