English Courses

English 9: World Literature

Students examine the cultural and literary content in poetry, novels, holy texts, and short stories from diverse cultures. Informal writing assignments emphasize development of a personal response to literary works. Formal assignments focus on literary analysis. Particular attention is given to the process of formulating clear and complete thesis statements, organizing body paragraph material, and using textual evidence to support the thesis statement. Following MLA format and documentation guidelines, students write one or more essays in which they incorporate material from multiple sources.

English 10: Literature of Western Europe

This course complements the sophomore history course with an emphasis on major European writers such as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dante, the Romantics, and Austen. The course considers the origins of the Western European tradition in a study of Greek mythology and tragedy and concludes with works from the early part of the twentieth century. Students study the process of writing – both analytical and creative – through drafting, revision, and guided instruction on matters of mechanics and substance. The course emphasizes learning to write a skillful literary analysis.

English 11: American Literature Survey

This course is an analytical and chronological approach to the works of important American authors. The course begins with early American writing and continues into the twentieth century. The course explores the styles and themes of American Literature through close textual analysis, discussion, and writing assignments such as short papers and in-class essay tests.

English 11H: American Literature Honors

This course is an analytical and chronological approach to the works of important American authors. The course begins with early American writing and continues into the twentieth century. The course explores the styles and themes of American Literature through close textual analysis, discussion, and writing assignments such as short papers and in-class essay tests. Because the course focuses on literary analysis, it features a considerable amount of reading, and it asks students to read large and challenging reading assignments on a regular basis.

English 11: Writing Seminar

Durham Academy’s Writing Seminar is a course that focuses on critical writing and intellectual inquiry. Students receive intensive instruction in academic writing in an environment of vigorous class discussion. A variety of modes of non-fiction writing will be covered, which include narrative, argument and persuasion, comparison and contrast, process analysis, and memoir. Frequent brief essays that draw upon students’ own experiences and knowledge provide them with a body of work with which to practice writing as a process and to hone revising and editing skills. Writing Seminar places more emphasis on style and voice than in past courses, providing direct instruction in ways to manipulate one’s prose to achieve particular rhetorical aims. To provide students with compelling source material, every Writing Seminar is based on intellectually stimulating topics, from scientific breakthroughs and historical events to influential artistic traditions and urgent social issues.

English 11: AP English Language and Composition

AP English Language and Composition is a semester-long, college-level composition course that focuses on reading and writing non-fiction. Students in this course write frequently, and they work intensely with peers and the teacher to gain efficient, analytical proficiency with language. They learn to read critically, with an eye for rhetorical and logical strategies. They learn to read as writers, sensitive to how they can learn from published essayists, journalists, and scholars. The texts we will consider are non-fiction prose models, which we will examine critically. Writings for the course will follow the models offered in a variety of modes. The purpose of the course is for students to become more skilled in analyzing the purpose and structure of discourse and in developing and honing personal writing style. In addition, students will build a vocabulary in the language of discourse and logic. 

AP English 12: Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to Poetry is a semester-long study of poetry in English, designed to make students more sophisticated readers of verse in all of its myriad forms. Throughout the course, we will investigate the role of poetry: what are its responsibilities? What are its possibilities? How can the poem both reflect and transcend context? Who are today’s poets? The course has two parts. In the first half of the semester, we’ll look at the choices that poets make when writing — choices about concepts such as rhythm, meter, and line breaks—and how those choices actually help to create a poem’s meaning. In the second half of the semester our focus becomes poetic genre, with units that explore the sonnet, the elegy, and other major poetic forms. Throughout the course of the semester, we’ll be reading widely in terms of time period, nationality, and style, so as to give students a broad base of exposure to different poets and different poetic styles, a base that they can draw from when they take the AP exam. Finally, in December, the class will decide, collectively, on one poet whose work we want to study in depth. We’ll then spend a week focused on that poet. Major assignments will include in-class essays and creative assignments that ask students to approach poetry not just as a reader, but as a participant.

AP English 12: Postmoderism

AP English 12: Postmodernism explores the bizarre, fragmented, disruptive, and innovative literature that is often termed postmodern. After examining postmodernism theory by Jean-Francois Lyotard, Ihab Hassan, Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, Jacques Derrida, Charles Olson, Frank O’Hara, and Walter Benjamin; students read poetry by Denise Levertov, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Ted Berrigan, Wanda Coleman, and Alice Notley. The course surveys short postmodern stories and fragments, including works by John Barth, Neal Stephenson, Jayne Anne Phillips, Rosario Ferre, Donald Barthelme, Sherman Alexie, E.L. Doctorow, and Ursala LeGuin. The course features several novels, including: William Gibson, Neuromancer, Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49; Don Delillo, White Noise, Paul Auster, City of Glass; and Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Assessments include papers, essays tests, and oral presentations as well as a final exam.

AP English 12: Reading Gender in America

This course explores a broad range of questions concerning the relationship between gender — the set of cultural expectations placed on people because of their biological sex — and literature. For example, history tells us that gender roles change over time, so what role has American literature played in the establishment and transmission of gender norms in our country? Alternately, how have American writers used literature to critique, or even change, the dominant gender norms of their time? As we investigate these questions, we’ll read a variety of American novels, short fiction, and poetry that wrestles with questions of gender. We’ll spend time with the frustrated housewife of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the war-wounded veterans in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and the small-town “freaks” of Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding. Finally, we’ll also see what happens when an American soldier takes his gendered expectations abroad in James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room . At every step along the way, we’ll consider how gendered expectations define and constrict both women and men. Students will work on a major research project — on a text of their choosing — over the course of the semester.

AP English 12: Shakespeare

Robert Graves once said, “The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good — in spite of all the people who say he is very good.” If you want to discover for yourself just how good he is then this is the class for you. We will concentrate on a few select plays as a way of better understanding Shakespeare’s art, working through scenes in a manner that will allow students to realize the implications of the language by pursuing interpretations in a collaborative atmosphere. We will begin with Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s bloodiest and most brutal play, and examine the elements that tend to make Shakespeare inaccessible to high school students. The dense language and obscure allusions will give way to a highly accessible and entertaining performance when we view Julie Taymor’s production of the play. Once students overcome the perceived barriers, we will take on more recognizable plays: Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and two other works by Shakespeare. Readings are complemented with films and at least one live performance. 

English 12: Contemporary Short Stories

After examining the short story as a literary genre, students will explore the challenges and the rewards enjoyed by short story writers and readers. In a course that will focus on contemporary trends in fiction, students will analyze various aspects of contemporary American, Indian, and Chinese culture. In addition to writing several short papers and delivering research presentations, students in Contemporary Short Stories will participate in class discussions, facilitate discussions, and prepare questions for student roundtable discussions. Contemporary short story writers may include George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri, Yiyun Li, Alice Elliott Dark, T.C. Boyle, Padgett Powell, Adam Johnson, Sherman Alexie, Jim Shepard, David Sedaris, George Singleton, Barry Hannah, Caitlin Macy, Rick Bass, Deborah Eisenberg, and David Foster Wallace. 

English 12: Latina & Latino Literature

This course is a semester-long exploration of novels and memoirs by prominent Latino and Latina authors. Although these writers come from Spanish-speaking cultures, they all write in English. This situation presents unique conflicts and opportunities, which Gustavo Pérez-Firmat describes by saying: “My subject: how to explain to you that I don’t belong to English though I belong nowhere else, if not here in English.” This coursewill explore the central questions of “what does immigration do to  someone?” and “what does it do for someone?” Through reading and analyzing fiction and memoirs of immigrant Latino and Latina authors, we will seek to deepen our understanding of immigration and cultural identities. Classes will be discussion-based. Students will write both analytical and creative responses to the readings. Students will share their reading and creative responses in a writer’s workshop environment. The course’s work will culminate with an autobiographical, journalistic, or fictional piece about immigration. You do not have to have a recent immigrant background to be a part of this course, or be a Spanish speaker. You just have to have an interest in bicultural identities and writing. Writers covered include Junot Díaz, Esmeralda Santiago, Héctor Tobar, Francisco Goldman, and Cristina García.

English 12: Literary and Artistic Response to War

This course examines the American literary and artistic responses to war, beginning in the first quarter with Vietnam and continuing in the second quarter with discussions of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These conflicts have brought forth some of our country’s greatest literature, music, and film. Students look at several key literary responses to these wars, including works by Tim O’Brien, Karl Marlantes, David Finkel, Phil Klay, and selected poetry and letters of combat veterans. The cinematic responses to Vietnam include Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and The Deer Hunter, while those on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be drawn from among The Hurt Locker, Black Hawk Down, Baghdad E.R., Restrepo, and Taking Chance. Examining parallels and experiences of today’s veterans with those who served in Vietnam is a central part of the course. Writing response papers to the literature we read is an integral aspect of our work, as well as more creative responses to photographs and film. A number of local American war veterans will visit the class over the course of the semester and tell their stories. As one of the culminating exercises of the course, students will participate in the Veterans History Project by interviewing a veteran, collecting an oral history, and writing a response to the experience of the course as a whole. The class will also help plan our school’s annual Veterans Day Assembly. 

English 12: Contemporary Fiction & Nonfiction

In 2007, a poll released by the Associated Press and Ipsos revealed that one in four Americans don’t read books at all, and half of Americans read less than four each year. This is a sad figure. We all know reading books is closely linked with academic success, but new studies are coming out showing the link between reading and business success as well as personal success. As Harry S. Truman said, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” This course is about all kinds of reading: fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, horror, fantasy, science-fiction, romance, and so on, in the hopes that we can provide more understanding for why engagement in reading is so important. We will look at the significance of reading and writing, reading and emotional intelligence, and reading and empathy as we not only study the research, but attempt to put into practice what we learn. Possible texts for the course will look at different genres of fiction such as, Ready, Player, One by Earnest Kline, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and other Printz, Pullitzer and notable literary award winners. We will also explore nonfiction journals and studies highlighting the effects reading has on one’s quality of life. A portion of the course will be devoted to working with a local school in an attempt to foster reading comprehension and nurture the need to read in younger students, unlike the Augustine course, which teaches literacy and reading strategies to struggling readers. 

AP English 12: Gothic Literature

This course is an investigation of the Gothic, the literary style that the modern horror genre descends from. As such, the course will examine novels that are full of haunted castles, inhuman monsters, mad scientists, insane murderers, vengeful ghosts and other things that go bump in the night. We’ll begin with the first Gothic novel in English, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and then move forward chronologically, to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Edgar Allan Poe’s American version of the Gothic. After a tour through the southern Gothic of Carson McCullers, we’ll finish the semester looking at two contemporary Gothic novels: Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits. At each stop along the way we’ll think and talk about a series of questions that arise from the ongoing success of the Gothic tradition. Why are these stories so compelling? How can we account for the peculiar power and the perennial appeal of the Gothic mode? Why are we fascinated by these characters who face situations so extreme, so incomparable to the events of "real life"? How do Gothic stories change over time and across cultures? Are the things that terrify in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century the same as the things that terrify us now?

AP English 12: Historical Fiction

The theorist Hayden White has called the writing of history a poetic act. This claim defies our expectation that History is based on facts and therefore “true.” On the flip side, while Fiction may deal in broader “truths,” we expect it to be the product of imagination, free from the constraints of fact and lived experience. In this course, we will question our assumptions about the difference between History and Fiction by examining histories, novels, graphic novels, memoirs, plays, films, and a musical that blur the line between fact and fiction, veracity and truth in compelling ways.

What are the implications of retelling particular histories through unexpected forms, like the American Revolution as a rap musical (Hamilton), or the Holocaust as a comic book (Maus) or comedy (Life is Beautiful)? How far can a History go in weaving related facts into a compelling narrative before it becomes more story than history (The Devil in the White City)? What can an experimental postmodern historical novel (Ragtime) teach us about how to read history? Why do some fictions falsely claim to be true histories (The Education of Little Tree)? What advantage does such a narrative seek in representing itself as a true memoir rather than a fictional novel? How can fiction coopt history to say something “true” about the present (The America Play)? We will explore these and other questions raised by this collection of fascinating texts that defy our neat categorical division of History and Fiction. 

AP English 12: Love and Money in American Literature

The course explores American literature that highlights the tension between love and money. Course readings start with theoretical framing by Thorstein Veblen, and include short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Cheever. Course novels include: Edith Wharton, House of Mirth, John O’Hara, Appointment in Samarra, Erich Segal, Love Story, and Phillip Roth, Goodbye Columbus. The course will also analyze romances complicated by money and class in films such as Metropolitan and Pretty in Pink

English 12: Aristotle and You

Imagine yourself the conductor of a runaway trolley. On the track ahead you notice five workers. You also notice a side track that only has one worker. Do you divert the trolley to the side track? Why? Now imagine a similar scenario where you are standing next to a large man on a bridge overlooking the tracks. Again you notice the trolley headed toward the five workers. Do you push the man off the bridge onto the track to stop the trolley? Why not? What do your decisions say about you as a person? This course draws from multiple writers and texts to answer questions about what sort of person one should be and how to determine what is the right course of action in a particular situation. We will read essays and short stories that seek to identify principles for decision making and ethical behavior in a personal, civil, and moral context. Students will apply ethical principles in a series of panel discussions and write essays on self-selected topics. Emphasis will be placed on classroom debate, position/opinion statements, and argumentative/persuasive essay composition. The purpose of this course is to practice rational thinking and incorporate intuition in analyzing ethical behavior. 

English 12: Escapist Literature

Storytelling is central to human existence. Stories allow people to see patterns and meaning in a world of chaos and randomness. Stories inform our emotional lives allowing us to examine the depths of the conscience of another in order to evaluate our own beliefs. As Marcel Proust said, “Only through literary art can we escape from our selves and know the perspective of another.” Literature should be transformative taking us on a roller coaster of self-reflection and offering us a greater understanding of the diversity of human experience. We will read multiple works that allow us to feel joy, and sadness, and wonder, and horror. We will explore stories that rely heavily on personal choice, and by analyzing the types of choices, attitudes, and conclusions that occur, we will better recognize and develop our own character. We will move outside our community to support the literacy program at a local elementary school. We will search out and explore other communities of reading, both local and online. As Arthur William Stryon has said, “A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.” This course is dedicated to living as many lives as we possibly can.

The potential reading list includes nonfiction articles about why humans read, the benefits of reading, and the sociology behind storytelling. As a class we will choose a work of horror (such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road), a work of sadness (such as John Green’s The Fault in Our stars), a work of wonder (such as Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go), and so on. Why Reading Matters is a complement to this course, not a prerequisite. This course will be differentiated so that it will accommodate students from any first semester English elective in order to continue to foster and deepen the relationships made with our partners at Creekside Elementary. 

English 12: Hero to Anti-Hero

Using the basic text Looking at Movies, or A Short Guide to Writing About Film, this course analyzes a number of important films, some in their entirety and others through selected clips, as a way of helping students explore the major components of filmmaking as an alternative form of narrative. Screenplays, mise-en-scene, setting, sound, cinematography, editing, and the language of filmmaking form the basis of class discussions. Students look at the work of some of the most important directors of the past and those working today, including Orson Welles, Michael Curtiz, Terence Malick, Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick, the Coen brothers, Spike Lee, Wes Anderson, Ang Lee, and Sam Mendes. Students will also examine specific genres such as film noir, the western, science fiction, gangster, horror, and comedy. In addition, students keep extensive notes through which they can trace their development as critics of film, write reviews and analyses, and make short presentations. We will also examine several works of literature (novels and short stories) and study their transfer to the screen and look at original screenplays. Some works considered in past years include American Beauty, Memento, The Dark Knight, Into the Wild, Do the Right Thing, Run, Lola, Run, Minority Report, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, No Country for Old Men, Chinatown, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and Blade Runner. 

English 12: Literature of the African Diaspora

Folktales, Myths, and The Monstrous: Folk and fairytales of the oral tradition are more than a soothing bedtime ritual for children. They represent the human experience through symbols and archetypes, and establish norms for particular societies. How have dictators manipulated seemingly innocuous folktales into something more sinister? Who do stories about boogeymen, monsters, and ghosts teach us to fear? In this course, we will examine what we fear or deem monstrous along lines of race, gender, ability, and class. Students will study folktales, fairytales, and horrors and trace how they influence the contemporary works of Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Edwidge Dandicat, and Victor Lavalle. 

English 12: Narrative Fiction

The course aims to identify areas of development in various aspects of creative writing; nurture talents in creative writing through activities requiring critical & creative thinking; strengthen values in writing with enthusiasm and ingenuity; and enhance skills and competencies in creative writing. Prose will be the dominant form (fiction and creative non-fiction) but other genres will be accepted. The primary activity is students doing their own writing, i.e. sustaining a creative process in writing. Students will also read each other’s creative writing and give constructive criticism on it. Students will also learn by reading published texts with an eye for craft.

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An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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