In English 9, students acquire and apply the skills and habits necessary for a literate life. The course focuses on the thematic topic of Innocence vs. Experience, including how individuals and cultures signal childhood and adulthood, the role of knowing the self in maturing, and navigating difference and conflict as we come of age.
Upper School English Curriculum
The Durham Academy English department seeks to help students develop the skills and habits of lifelong readers, scholars and global citizens.
We see these as consisting of:
- close attention to the language, structures and meanings of texts
- understanding of the people and systems that produce texts and the various purposes texts serve
- curiosity, creativity, and the will to pursue both
- collaboration and active listening
- ethical and empathetic engagement across differences and the use of writing and speech as means to explore
- and express ideas and reflect on the developing self.
All of our courses are organized around this mission and philosophy.
Students will be able to independently use their learning to:
Read regularly, for information and enjoyment, and know themselves as readers.
Read all kinds of texts and images with confidence and the skills to think critically about context, content, and message.
Communicate ideas effectively in writing to reach a variety of audiences and to fulfill a variety of purposes.
Use speaking and listening skills to effectively communicate ideas, in both face-to-face conversation and oral presentations, to suit various audiences and goals.
Pose thoughtful, open-ended questions, and search for and develop reasonable, evidence-based conclusions.
Explore words and images to gain both a greater understanding of oneself and empathy for other experiences and perspectives.
English 10 builds on the essential literacy skills of English 9, moving students into analysis of how texts create their meanings and effects. The course focuses on the thematic topic of Truth and Justice, prompting students to explore ways of knowing, structures of power and mechanisms of justice.
In English 11, students explore essential questions that continue to define American culture: What does it mean to be an American? What is the relationship between individual and community?
Students in ADV English 11: American Literature & Rhetoric will do everything described in the English 11 description and undertake an additional focus on rhetoric, the art of using language effectively to persuade and influence others.
This course will provide additional support to students taking English 9, English 10, English 11 or English 12. The class gives extra instruction on and coaching of reading and writing skills.
This course explores the relationships between dominant cultures and subcultures by investigating books that have been restricted or banned by different groups. Studying the ideas deemed “objectionable” — and therefore worth banning — can give us great insight into both stated and unstated values of a culture.
In this course, students will examine the current backdrop of literature in the United States. They will look at the factors that influence literacy (who reads?), learn about the publishing process (what is there to read?) and consider the impact of various reading experiences (what do humans get out of reading?).
At literature’s core are some big questions, including, “What does it mean to be human?” “How do I matter to the world around me?” and “Are people inherently good or evil?”
The five novels in this course resist being categorized within a single nation’s borders. They also share a preoccupation with whether it is possible to find a shared humanity — i.e., to create some form of justice — that transcends the boundaries of geography and identity both within and among modern nation-states.
What’s the relationship between humans and the natural world? How does suffering connect us to the infinite? What is (or should be) permanent and predictable? Are our identities stable?
Is the search for meaning elusive, futile or fun? Is your reality constructed from simulacra that are copies of copies of long lost originals? Do you live in a hyperreality? To define and assess late 20th-century literary innovation, Postmodernism examines postmodern theory, including Lyotard, Hassan, Derrida, Baudrillard, and Jameson.
This is not a course about a solitary genius who lived and wrote 400 years ago in England, but rather a living, breathing body of literature that is in current production, adaptation and public discourse all over the world.
Humans are resilient, and over time we have come up with thousands of ways to respond to stressful circumstances. One prominent way humanity responds to hardship, stress and boredom is through mental escape: by daydreaming or watching TV, by drawing or going on a walk, by playing games or writing stories — and, of course, by reading.
There’s nothing better for a good scare than a ghost story, but entertainment value alone does not explain the persistence of ghost stories across time and cultures. In this course, we will explore the cultural work that ghost stories do.
There are many important issues facing our world right now, including climate change, global health, economic inequality and social and racial injustice. In this semester-long class, students will study texts that lead them to think critically about these issues and others, and will explore how literature can create change.
Outlaw Ocean surveys stories of human interactions with the ocean from the earliest records of the North Sea to contemporary journalism in the South China Sea. We will listen to podcasts, read fiction and nonfiction, and learn about international maritime laws.
Why are we reluctant to talk about class in America? How do money and class shape, guide and limit our lives? Love and Money frames the discussion of class structure in America with an examination of Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class; then, students apply Veblen’s ideas to Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.
This course will examine the power of race as a social construct — not rooted in biological reality — that has affected American life as much as any other human force or entity. Looking at race in fiction, essays, poetry, film and through the lens of literary theory, we will explore the impact of race on us individually, collectively and nationally.
ADV English 12: Women’s Literature applies several theoretical lenses (e.g., feminist theory, queer theory, formalism, old historicism, Marxism) to the study of literature written by and about people who identify as women.