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Curriculum: English

English Seminar: Short Fiction

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12

Credits: 0.5

This course will take as its subject the short story form from its beginnings in folk and fairy tales to its more recent flash fiction incarnations online. How do writers bring us quickly into, and out of, a world entirely of their own creation, and leave us quite changed for our brief visit there? Students will read short stories from all over the world, including America, and students will write their own works as well. Authors will likely include: Ann Beattie, Lucia Berlin, Angela Carter, Anton Chekhov, Lydia Davis, Louise Erdrich, Ernest Hemingway, Shirley Jackson, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Jamaica Kinkaid, Guy de Maupassant, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, and Dorothy Parker.

Not offered 2022-23

English Seminar: Poetry in Our Moment

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12

Credits: 0.5

Over the last decade, poetry has resurged into daily life across the country. We turn to poetry in times of celebration and consolation, to give voice to community and identity, to post some bit of inspiration on social media, and as a rallying cry. Poetry right now is more diverse than it has ever been, both in terms of who gets to write it and the styles in which it is written. This class is a deep dive into that diversity. Students will study five books by poets representing diverging and coalescing trends and movements across the poetry landscape, plus a collection chosen by students. Students will seek to answer one guiding question: What are the ways that poetry speaks to our particular moment? Coursework will include both creative and analytical projects. Because poetry right now is wide open, the possibilities for texts are wide open, too. Possible poets include Carmen Giménez Smith, Ross Gay, William Brewer, Tracy K. Smith, Philip Metres, Victoria Chang, Natalie Diaz, Terrance Hayes, and many, many more.

Not offered 2022-23

English Seminar: The Graphic Novel

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12

Credits: 0.5

In this course, students will learn how to analyze the visual medium of graphic novels and explore how graphic novels have emerged as a robust literary genre since the publication of Maus in 1980. We will pay particular attention to historically marginalized voices and stories that have gained traction in this genre. Students will have opportunities for creative projects, formal presentations, and analytical writing over the course of the semester. Texts may include: Understanding Comics, Persepolis, Fun Home, They Called Us Enemy, I Was Their American Dream, El Deafo, Redbone, Banned Book Club, The Magic Fish, and Daytripper.

English Seminar: Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12

Credits: 0.5

When we think of science fiction, we usually think of an escape from the world and daily life. But the most enduring science fiction makes us think more fully about our here and now. Climate change, genetic engineering, Black futures, artificial intelligence and what makes us human, gender on other planets, interstellar economics, ethics and tech, fear and the void of space— science fiction is a premier space for our imaginations to play out thought experiments. In this class, we’ll study how authors use science fiction to ask and explore the most pressing questions for humanity. We’ll read a range of genres, but we’ll spend most of our time with novels and short stories. Though we will look back on the tradition of science fiction writing, we’ll spend a significant portion of our time with works from our present. Texts may include Stories of You Life and Others, Speculative Fiction for Dreamers, How Long ‘til Black Futures Month?, The Word for World Is Forest, Kindred, War of the Worlds, and others.

Advanced English: The Literature of Music

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12; Yearlong course

Credits: 1

Prerequisite: Departmental approval

This year-long course offers students a college-level study of literature in high school. The primary goal is to facilitate the development of skills in close, critical reading in a variety of literary genres. Students will articulate this close reading and analysis through discussions, presentations, and carefully edited essays that are original, well developed, fully supported,
and stylistically effective. To deepen our study we will read essays in literary criticism that address some of the formal, philosophical, historical, and cultural contexts from which our texts arose. In addition, we will engage the craft of our authors by incorporating techniques that are fundamental to their style into our own creative work. Music will be both the theme and the subject for our course of study, and for some of the texts we read, music will in fact be part of the very process of their creation. At times it will be a central metaphor, and at times this will radiate out to ideas about performance itself. Texts may include Bel Canto, A Visit from the Goon Squad, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hybrida, Benito Cereno, Crazy Brave, Hamlet, Music for Wartime, Olio, and The Carrying. Students may elect to take the AP exam in the Spring. Prerequisite: departmental approval.

Advanced English: Literature of Place

Upper School

Grade 11

English

Grade 11

Credits: 1

Prerequisite: Departmental approval

In Advanced English: Literature of Place, students use advanced analysis to tease out original insights from the texts they study. Emphasis is placed on independent discovery as students engage with a variety of genres and difficulty levels. Writing includes both creative and analytical projects, including research into scholarly journal articles and some literary theory. Students also give presentations of their research and independent reading. Texts can range from ancient (in translation) to contemporary, and include poetry, plays, novels, short stories, and essays, as well as texts that blur genre lines. Recent texts include The Underground Railroad, The Great Gatsby, Monument, Hybrida, Fences, Beloved, The Tempest, Oryx and Crake, and others. Prerequisite: departmental approval.

English: Literature of Place

Upper School

Grade 11

English

Grade 11

Credits: 1

How does the place shape a person? In this course, students will study primarily the literature of America and Americans, both of these broadly defined to include indigenous, undocumented, newly arrived, long-settled, powerful, and powerless people. Students will read and examine what it means to be a citizen, to have a voice, or to be without one, here in this country. They will write amply about who tells the story of our country and what each narrative reveals about our hopes, dreams, and values. Students will write critically and creatively on every text, and they will learn to use their own voices to speak truth to power in the form of letters to the editor, one-act plays, short fiction, poetry, speeches, and editorial or persuasive essays. Texts may include: Beloved, The Great Gatsby, Anna in the Tropics, Another Brooklyn, Sing, Unburied, Sing, as well as texts from our visiting writers, and a selection of additional short stories, poems, and essays selected by the instructor.

English: Literary Genres

Grade 10

English

Open to Grade 10

Credits: 1

In this course, students will expand their knowledge of literature and genre as they explore novels, plays, poetry, and creative nonfiction from literary traditions across the globe. They will build their lexicon of literary devices and terms as well as learn to analyze these both verbally and in writing. Students will continue to build on their foundation of writing skills and respond
to each text with both personal and analytical essays. By the end of the year students will be comfortable encountering and engaging with a wide range of literature as they work toward becoming independent learners, thinkers, and writers. Works may include Much Ado About Nothing, Parable of the Sower, The Displaced, Homegoing, Du Fu: A Life in Poetry, and texts from our visiting writers.

English Language Lab

Upper School

Grade 9, Grade 10

English

Open to Grades 9-10

Credits: 1

Prerequisite: Students referred by Admissions and department

This course is designed for new international students for whom English is a newly acquired language or who have not attended an American school before. It is a supplement to their core English and History courses and reinforces the skills covered in those courses. Students practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing as they complete projects and activities as well as receive one-on-one and small group support on assignments from core courses. Topics covered may include: MLA style and citation, the writing process, audience and purpose, literary terms and analysis, research tools.

Does not fulfill English requirement

English: Composition and Literature

Upper School

Grade 9

English

Grade 9

Credits: 1

Writing is fundamental to success in the upper school and this course lays a strong foundation for writing in the humanities as well as an introduction to studying literature at the high school level. Students will practice writing personal essays, research papers, rhetorical arguments, and literary analysis over the course of the year. Students will read reviews, watch Moth story performances, participate in research that reflects their own interests, and analyze poetry, fiction, and non-fiction writing. Students will also engage deeply with their own writing process, identifying strengths and learning to revise and edit areas that need improvement. To help bolster their writing toolkit, students will learn grammar, vocabulary, and MLA style and citation. Students will also work to build reading habits through book circles and common course texts which may include works from our visiting writers, Shakespeare, and a selection of short fiction, poetry, and essays chosen by the instructor.

English Seminar: The Art of Memoir from 1900 to Present

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12

Credits: 0.5

This course will offer students to read memoirs and autobiographies written by some of the best authors of the last century. Some in translation, but most in English, texts will include personal narrative by people who have lived exceptional or extraordinary lives, and by others whose experiences may be more familiar to us. Students will practice the art of the personal essay, try their hand at memoir, and examine their experiences using the many forms they will encounter in the readings. The final product will be a collection of personal writings in a variety of genres. Texts may include: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, The Yellow House by Sarah Broom, Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi, Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel, Know My Name by Chanel Miller, Speak, Memory by Nabokov, Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, and A Field Guide to Getting Lost by R. Solnit.

Not offered 2022-23

English Seminar: Literature and the Environment

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12

Credits: 0.5

Questions about the relationship between humans and the environment have been some of the most essential throughout all of literature, from Tang Dynasty poetry to Greek pastoral to contemporary climate fiction. In our current, pivotal moment, those questions have become increasingly urgent, and in this class students will study those questions, as well as how different writers ask and answer them. Students will read a range of genres, including personal essay, poetry, science fiction, and science writing. Though the course will look back on the tradition of environmental writing, students will spend most of their time with works of our present. Possible Texts: World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil; The Essential W.S. Merwin; current issues of Orion Magazine, Black Nature, ed. Camille Dungy; All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, ed. Johnson and Wilkinson; Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich; and American War by Omar El Akkad.

Not offered 2022-23

English Seminar: From Pages to Pixels

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12

Credits: 0.5

In this course, we will explore together the relationship between literary works and their film adaptations. What is lost, gained, or transformed as the story’s voice changes its form? How do characters and images change when we encounter them on screen instead of on the page? As film continues to demonstrate new possibilities for narrative, how might we observe and articulate the different choices authors and directors make to engage us in their art? By studying the terms and techniques used in each medium, students will be able to analyze and appreciate the techniques and talents of authors and directors alike. We will also immerse ourselves in the creative process of each narrative genre. Through creating our own short fiction, screenplays, storyboards, and films we will deepen our understanding of the craft. Each student will also compile their own list of criteria for a successful adaptation of a literary work so that they may assess the respective movie version. Possible texts include: The Color Purple, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Joy Luck Club, If Beale Street Could Talk, Never Let Me Go, and The Orchid Thief/Adaptation, Just Mercy, A Wrinkle in Time, The Devil Wears Prada, and Be Holding.

The Ethel Walker School Visiting Writer Seminar

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12; Offered both semesters

Credits: 0.5 per semester

What does it mean to be a writer? How does an author find her style? The Visiting Writer Seminar is a semester-long course in which students have the special opportunity to immerse themselves in a study of one writer’s works. Throughout the semester, students read a critical mass of texts by that writer before the course culminates with the author’s visit to Walker’s. During this visit, the writer will teach master classes, conduct writing workshops, and participate in class discussion. The writer will also deliver a schoolwide assembly and a public reading to our community.

English Seminar: Shakespeare

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Grade 12

Credits: 0.5

Students will dive deeply into the work of William Shakespeare, and in the process will discover a writer who is more complex, ambiguous, troubling, and just plain fun than the images of him in popular culture. Through his life and works, the class will wrestle with questions of socioeconomic class, sexuality, race, colonization, and gender as we study his sonnets, tragedies, comedies, and histories. Students will write creatively and critically in response to the readings. Some memorization of poems and soliloquies is expected, but mostly a willingness to read challenging and immensely satisfying texts is required. Students in this seminar will also play a large role in our school-wide Shakespeare Fest.

English 8

Middle School

Grade 8

English

Grade 8

In English at the eighth grade level, independent thinking and writing play major roles, as every student is encouraged to further develop their creative and critical skills in response to literature and in preparation for secondary school. Through discussion and writing, which include analytical and personal essays designed to promote mastery of essay writing, each student is supported as they learn to express herself clearly, accurately, and fluently. In this way, student voice is at the heart of English 8. We read short fiction, novels, narrative nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Texts may include Macbeth, The Poet X, The House on Mango Street, and One Last Word, among others.

English 7

Middle School

Grade 7

English

Grade 7

At the seventh-grade level, students maintain their momentum and build new skills by continuing an exploration of the various genres of literature. We read a challenging collection of texts that may include: Cast Away; Howl’s Moving Castle; Poetry Speaks Who I Am; Romeo and Juliet; Good Master, Sweet Ladies; and The Outsiders. Other texts, including individual poems, myths, fairy tales, short stories, and essays, are carefully selected to be appropriate to the age and developmental level of seventh grade students. Teachers strive to help students truly love to read. Students will learn to present their work to an audience — aloud and in writing. Students continue to enhance their composition skills through a study of analytical writing, with an emphasis on the process of writing, not just the final product. Language mechanics, also taught in English 7, concentrates on understanding the passive voice, parallel structure, audience engagement, and logical flow. Students will read beyond the curriculum in this course. They will also have many opportunities for creative writing in a wide variety of genres.

English 6

Middle School

Grade 6

English

Grade 6

At the sixth-grade level, students learn to read deeply, to love reading, and to analyze literary works. The study of literature at our school draws upon many genres to focus largely on works about growing up and emerging into society. Texts in English 6 may include: World of Wonders, Land of the Cranes, Harbor Me, The Night Diary, Joyful Noise, and a dramatic production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Other texts, including individual poems, myths, fairy tales, short stories, and essays are carefully selected to be appropriate to the age and developmental level of sixth grade students. Teachers will challenge students to think and to express themselves in increasingly complex ways. Students will learn oral presentation and discussion skills in class. Each student will begin to develop her authentic voice through a wide variety of writing assignments in nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and drama units. Language mechanics, also taught in English 6, concentrates on logic, clarity, and flow, as well as on grammar and syntax. Creativity of all kinds, including explorations of literature through the visual and performative arts, will be at the heart of this course.