The English Department offers a curriculum that encompasses a wide variety of literary genres, periods, and themes. In selecting courses, students are encouraged to build a program of studies that reflects this variety. Students should also aim for the experience of being taught by all members of the English faculty, as each teacher brings to the classroom a distinctive teaching style and special field of expertise. 

Writing is a central component of all English courses. Students compose critical essays and write in different literary styles and genres.

Requirements

Eight consecutive semesters of English, including English 9 and English 10. 

Any student taking an Independent Study must first be registered for an English course listed in the Program of Studies. 

Sophomores who wish to double in English first semester must have departmental permission.

 

Full Year Course

English 9

Grade: 9 Required

This course introduces students to various literary genres and modes of writing. An emphasis is placed on structured analysis of selected texts through formal and informal writing assignments including creative non-fiction, fiction, and analytical writing. Students further their understanding of the writing process, particularly as applied to the literary essay. Informed by feedback, students revise their work and, at the end of the year, create a portfolio of assignments. Texts may include a Shakespeare play a contemporary play, a novel, and anthologies of poetry and short stories.

Fall Semester Courses

10th Grade English Classes

Grade: 10 Required

In the fall term, all tenth graders are required to enroll in one of the sections of English 10 listed below. These courses are organized by theme, but each focuses on the writing process—brainstorming, drafting, getting feedback, revising—and on the rhetorical modes of description, narrative, comparison/contrast, analysis, and definition.

English 10: Writing About love                                                  

Every time you turn on the radio you hear about it, but what exactly is it? Is it true that “all you need is love”? Is the love you feel for your family the same as the love you feel for your friends? Is the love you feel for your friends the same as the love you feel for yourself? Is the love you feel for yourself the same as the love you feel for your possessions? In this course, students will be looking at descriptions of love in songs, novels, guides, studies, and films to try to make sense of this much-discussed feeling. Writing assignments will include both personal reflections and analytical responses to the texts they encounter.

ENGLISH 10: WRITING ABOUT now                                               

With journalism as our theme and the daily New York Times as our text, this class will read and write news articles, opinion pieces, features articles, and reviews. Gathering information and conducting interviews are standard components for writing each type of article; revising for publication is a goal, but not a requirement. Other activities include reading about and discussing current events, viewing films related to journalism, and understanding the New York Times crossword puzzle.

ENGLISH 10: WRITING ABOUT the past

How do we write about the past? With nostalgia? With 20/20 hindsight? With a cringy reluctance? While the course objective will focus on developing each student’s personal writing process and writing in a variety of essay forms, students will practice those skills by looking closely at the past: cultural history, personal experience, the origins of things, and more.

ENGLISH 10: WRITING ABOUT people

People are impossible to understand and the attempt to do so continues to be an inexhaustible source of material for writers. In this course, students will explore subgenres and ways of structuring the essay by writing about people, including themselves. Readings will include short stories, sections of memoirs, interviews, film, and journalism.

ENGLISH 10: WRITING ABOUT style

This course begins with the premise that writers’ styles are as distinctive as the trends that surround them — trends in fashion, speech, music, sports, art, food, and lifestyle. Through an intensive study of essays focused on personal preferences and cultural observations, students will investigate how writers analyze culture as well as what syntactical choices writers make. They will also ask: Who determines style? How does it change? How does geography influence style? When is style a trend and when is it idiosyncratic? These questions will take students to their bookshelves, refrigerators, closets, and current milieu as they consider conventions, patterns, trends, and practices in their writing and their lives.

Can we talk? forms of public speaking

Grades: 11-12

This course starts with the imperative to stand up and speak out. Taking inspiration from the current youth movement to end gun violence, students will study various forms of public speaking — forms that have distinct parameters and audiences. Some possible assignments include the TED Talk, the Ignite speech, the impromptu speech, the tribute speech, a graduation speech, a persuasive speech, a call-to-action speech, and an entertainment speech.

chinese history and literature: a guide to the chinese century

Grades: 11-12

Global political, economic, and ecological crises will not be solved without reckoning with China. To develop some understanding of the historical and literary ideas fundamental to “Chinese civilization,” students will read a selection of important texts and try to enter the debates inside China itself as to what constitutes “Chinese civilization”— what will and won’t work for China culturally and politically. Arguably, the traditional course on modern China has been a barrier to such an understanding: Chinese history has been taught as a series of catastrophes culminating in the ‘Century of Humiliation,’ during which China was subject to political domination and economic manipulation by Western colonial powers. In this course, students will look at the history and the literary heritage of modern China in an attempt to understand the rise of Chinese power and the full range of possibilities for China’s modern identity and the world.

etymology and semantics

Grades: 11-12

Etymology is the study of word origins; semantics examines how words mean what they do. Students study Latin and Greek bases; begin to tell the stories of particularly intensive words, investigate the history of English, from its Germanic origins to its current status as a Lingua Franca, and write an essay or two. Please note: there is no way to learn etymology without memorizing a lot of roots and affixes. If students do not like this sort of work and do not like being tested on their grasp of details, they should not take this course.

fiction writing

Grades: 11-12

In a course designed to strengthen their abilities as prose writers, students will analyze the work of both published fiction writers and fellow classmates in order to gain a working knowledge of craft terms and concepts such as voice, character, point-of-view, setting, dialogue, pacing, and metaphorical language. How does the short story work? How do we draft stories that narrate one character’s specific experience and simultaneously address larger universal themes? While students will acquire a familiarity with major fiction writers, a large part of the course will focus on the workshop, in which they will study their own work to identify and hone the elements that make for successful fiction writing.

first-person american

Grades: 11-12

In this course students will gain a sense of the rich diversity of voices in the American literary tradition by reading fiction and nonfiction written in the first person. They will begin in the nineteenth century with the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Continuing into the twentieth century, they will read W. E. B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk (excerpts), James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The course will end by covering fiction and nonfiction pieces by writers such as Edward P. Jones, ZZ Packer, Ta- Nehisi Coates, and Thomas Chatterton Williams. Student writing will include journal entries, analytical and personal essays, and style imitations.

Great books: the question of happiness

Grades: 11-12

Through reading the powerful, provocative, complex works — both fiction and non-fiction — of thinkers from Aristotle to Freud to Flannery O’Connor, students will examine the question: what is happiness? The focus of the course will be engaging the texts and the ideas they generate in conversation and in writing. Discussion will be conducted primarily in the seminar format, so class participation will be an essential aspect of the class with an emphasis on careful, active listening and learning to pose strong and incisive questions about complicated texts. Students who are eager to enter serious and playful conversation about great books with peers, please come join us!

the modernist novel

Grades: 11-12

“Make it new!” Ezra Pound’s dictum succinctly captures the spirit of literary modernism, which responded to destabilizing social forces by destabilizing literary forms. Modernist writers took the traditional novel and turned it on its head. Students will make their way slowly and carefully through a few modernist novels — beginning with William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse — and will pay attention to their idiosyncratic approaches to narrative. Written assignments will include both analytical writing and students’ own experiments in fiction.

of cross color and culture: an examination of mixed race literature in america

Grades: 11-12

Miscegenation was illegal in the U.S. until 1967, and yet, there exists in the United States a sizable population of people who identify as mixed race. How is identity confused when one belongs to two races? In this class students will read contemporary novels written by and about mixed race individuals in the United States. Though the class will focus on black/white mixed narratives, it will also spend some time examining other narratives. The aim of this course is to attempt to understand complex identities in America and the space they are allotted in culture. Books may include Caucasia by Danzy Senna, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, and On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

the reading or writing classroom

Grades: 11-12

This class begins with a false division: students will designate themselves either readers or writers. Each reader will plan an ambitious personal reading plan for the semester (and design writing projects that enhance the reading experience); each writer will plan an ambitious writing schedule (and draw inspiration from selected readings). Everyone — readers and writers — will be responsible for sharing their work with the class through peer review, writing workshops, student-led discussions, and oral examinations. Students: if you’ve got a shelf of books you’ve been longing to read or if you just haven’t had time to start your novel, this is the class for you.

scorched earth: books about environmental devastation

Grades: 11-12

This course will take shape around two novels set in India: Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide and Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People. Both of these novels dramatize lives at the scene of environmental catastrophe. As students read these texts, along with selected shorter fiction and nonfiction, they will consider questions about ethics, activism, and “world citizenship.” The class will also include discussions about the place of humor in environmental literature and students will write creatively about environmental problems.

WRITING PRACTICUM

Grades: 11-12

This intensive writing workshop is also about the teaching of writing. Students compose and revise a great deal of creative non-fiction. In recent years, assignments have included best earth memory, favorite song analysis, description of a real or imagined photograph, philosophical meditation, and college essay—as well as stories, poems, and Advanced Placement exam responses. The focus throughout is on the process of writing, and students learn—through reading, discussion, role-playing, and lots of practice—the techniques of effective peer tutoring. They tutor writers from the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. After completing the Practicum, students serve for the rest of their Park careers as tutors in The Michael Cardin ‘85 Writing Center. Preference is given to juniors. There are limited seats for seniors.

WRITING as ritual

Grades: 11-12

Throughout history, writers have claimed that their most inspired works have seemed to come from outside of themselves, as if they were simply taking dictation from a voice speaking in their ear. In fact, the etymology of “genius” connects us not to our innate talents, but to a spiritual force that comes to possess us. Writing may not be a process of invention, as we often assume, but of becoming receptive to what exists, swirling around us. Following contemporary poets, students will develop rituals to cultivate receptivity and mindfulness in order to hear what there is to be heard, see what there is to be seen, and allow their minds to become homes for wandering genius.

WRITING through modern poetry

Grades: 11-12

Most poets become poets as much through their reading as through their writing, and often the sorts of readings of poems that lead to new poems are idiosyncratic, reactive, creative. In this course, students will look at late 19th and 20th century poetry as a series of incitements to their own work — that is, largely through imitation and personal response, rather than primarily through analytical writing. In addition to poetry, students will often read the prose and examine the lives of poets in order to see more clearly what they are writing about and why. Assignments will include short pieces on poems, imitations and parodies, and original poems that use other poems as their point of departure.

Spring Semester Courses

adaptation

Grades: 10-12

What happens when you turn a poem into a song? What happens when you turn a short story into a film? What is gained and what is lost when we move from one medium to another? Can verbal art forms be translated into non-verbal art forms? In this course, students will analyze and evaluate various adaptations to discover what works — and what doesn’t. The class will culminate in adaptation projects of students’ own creation.

art of the essay

Grades: 10-12

In this course, students will work toward a deeper understanding of the essay—its history, its elegance, and its inner workings. If the essay represents the mind in motion, then they will seek to harness that motion and shape it into clear, eloquent, and insightful pieces of writing. To do so, students will study the work of published essayists, write essays of their own, and discuss these works in a workshop setting. Forms covered may include narrative, meditative, and lyric essays.

contemporary drama

Grades: 10-12

The stage gives voice to the mighty and to the meek. Characters stand before audiences and reveal their pain, show their flaws, speak their minds, articulate their disappointments, enact their lives. In this course, students read a sampling of plays from the last 20 years of theater to hear the voices of our contemporary society, voices that tell us about fathers, feminists, neighbors, lovers, friends, enemies, voices that maintain dignity in the face of difficulty, voices that show us ourselves.

foundational texts of the western tradition (bible and literature)

Grades: 10-12

From the “forbidden fruit” of the Garden of Eden to the idea of a suffering savior, our culture is deeply infused with images, themes, and questions that can be traced back to biblical and other ancient sources. In this course, students will read some of these foundational, ancient texts and then examine some of their more modern manifestations. Readings may include Genesis, The Book of Job, Ecclesiastes, The Gospel of Matthew, Paradise Lost (excerpted), and the play, J.B., as well as sermons, stories, and essays. Discussion will be conducted primarily in the seminar format, so class participation will be an essential aspect of the class. There will be opportunities to write in response to the readings in both creative and analytical forms.

the harlem renaissance

Grades: 10-12

The Harlem Renaissance was a period between 1919 and 1940 when African-Americans, who lived in Harlem and other major American cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., created their own literary and artistic movement. Writers and artists did not necessarily agree on all of the same ideologies or pursue the same art forms — in fact, the art was quite diverse — but they were all pursuing the freedom to express themselves and, for many, searching for an audience to accept their work. This course will examine this period centering on three themes: location, language, and identity. Students will ask and answer the question, Why Harlem? They will consider the forms and words artists selected — in poetry, prose, painting, photography, sculpture, and music — to establish their distinct voices and visions. The class will investigate the ways in which writers developed their art — looking back in history and looking around their communities — to celebrate their identities. And, finally, the class will go to Harlem to see the milieu in which the artists and writers worked. As students study, they will ask how this movement helped to pave the way for the Black Arts movement in the 1960s and their own current literary renaissance.

indian literature

Grades: 10-12

In this course, students will read Indian literature in English and in translation to English from Indian vernacular languages, in an attempt to sample heterogeneous literatures from India. Along the way, the class will have to think about writing in translation — how closely can we read it? What might we be missing? And students will have to think about our common language, English. In postcolonial India, is it a language of emancipation or of oppression? Both? Neither? Answers to these questions will, of course, be subject to change — and, we hope, to thoughtful scrutiny and lively debate.

the interview

Grades: 10-12

Humans find each other endlessly fascinating — their lives, interests, and secrets. And, in today’s media, the interview has become a vehicle for finding out more about each other. Consider TV and radio talk shows that bring in guests for conversation, the columns in newspapers and magazines that provide snippets of a person’s activities, and investigative journalism that, by asking good questions, produces electric exposes. In this course, students will focus on the art of asking good questions, and from the interviews they conduct, will produce segments for print, television, and radio, write monologues, profiles, and immersive pieces, and publish oral histories. The class will work from models of writing as students prepare to write their own. Texts may include The New Yorker, Longform, Humans of New York, The Paris Review, Storycorps, and Jails, Hospitals & Hip Hop and Some People, Interviews from Fresh Air, and more.

introduction to lgbtq+ studies

Grades: 10-12

This course explores the history of gender and sexuality in the United States through the vantage point of queer communities. The term “queer” encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-fluid identities. The central goals of this class are twofold. On the one hand, students seek to understand how and why binary categories such as male/female and gay/straight came to be seen as “normal” and “natural” in mainstream culture and politics. On the other hand, they will explore alternatives to these binary categories by engaging with writers and thinkers within the LGBTQ+ community. Topics include the lived experiences of queer communities; the intersection between LGBTQ issues and the politics of race and class; foundational readings in queer theory; and the rise of LGBTQ activism. This course can be taken for either English or History credit.

irish history and literature

Grades: 10-12

The Irish poet William Allingham probably could not imagine what this course might cover. On November 11, 1866, he summed up the history of Ireland in a diary entry: “Lawlessness and turbulency, robbery and oppression, hatred and revenge, blind selfishness everywhere — no principle, no heroism. What can be done with it?” So where did the Ireland that we know come from? — the Ireland of noble freedom fighters, brilliant poetry, beautiful music, and earthy wit? In this course students will study the history of how a poor, despised “subject people,” thought incapable of governing themselves, came to capture the imagination of the world. The course will begin at the ancient druid barrows that still stand in the Valley of the Boyne, then examine the reinvention of Irish myth and legend, and follow the violent Troubles between Catholic and Protestant Ireland from their origins to the present. This class will be taught by members of both the History and English Departments and may be taken either for history or English credit.

literature of adventure

Grades: 10-12

In January 2003, Outside magazine published a list of “The 25 Essential Books for the Well- Read Explorer,” non-fiction works “that offer the truest inspiration, the deepest reflection, the strongest provocation.” Students will read a few books from the list — including the number-one pick, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars—and investigate what it means “to adventure on life now” (Thoreau). Writing will include both analytical and personal essays, as well as style imitations and parodies.

literature of sports

Grades: 10-12

Through readings and films, students will try to determine the criteria that lead to the mythologizing of certain athletes and teams. What is it about these people and their performances that makes them legends? In this course, students will examine some icons of both success and failure. They will also look at examples of fair play and questionable ethics.

native american literature

Grades: 10-12

In this course students will examine both contemporary Native American literature (novels, memoirs and poetry) and also traditional oral literature (including folktales, origin stories, and ritual), to try to experience these stories both as readers and as anthropologists. As students enjoy these works for their own merits, they will also be looking to them for an understanding of Native American politics and cultural identity, religion and folklore, ideas about personal identity and power, and views of the earth and the environment.

the new african novel

Grades: 10-12

Africa is usually depicted as a continent with savages, poverty, and war. In this class students will attempt to broaden our understanding of the continent. Students will read novels written about Africa that might challenge their prejudices about the continent, and should be prepared to question all preconceived notions about Africa.

park grammar

Grades: 10-12

In this course, students will study the history of English grammar; learn a bit about how words, phrases, and clauses are classified; and apply their understanding in order to grow as writers. Texts will include David Crystal’s Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of Grammar, Constance Hale’s Sin and Syntax, Ben Yagoda’s How to Not Write Bad, and others. Please note: This course is not remedial; it is not for people who are obsessed with object complements and the use of the possessive before a gerund; it is not for those who want to call out others who confuse ‘who’ and ‘whom.’ Park Grammar is for students who are curious about how language works.

rich kid, poor kid: growing up classed in america

Grades: 10-12

What does it mean to be part of a social class in the United States? Is class determined by the work you do, the money you have, the place you live, the color of your collar? When do you get your class? Can you change it if you want to? In this course, students will pursue answers to these and other questions by reading contemporary writing that gets at what it means to grow up in a social class in America. Texts may include Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell, Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson, and Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School by Shamus Khan.

shakespeare's remixes

Grades: 10-12

When reading a play, we often focus on the main characters, but often there are others surrounding these characters. As readers, we overlook these minor characters. Thankfully various playwrights have since taken up the challenge of making these often silent characters speak. In this course, students will read the original productions of Shakespeare’s plays along with various re-tellings to see what exactly these characters might have to say. Texts might include Othello, The Tempest, and Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Desdemona by Toni Morrison.

THE TIMES (READING AND WRITING NON-FICTION) 

Grade 12

The title of this class refers to the newspaper and the context of news. What’s happening in these times, and what was happening in journalism in those times, specifically during the Watergate era. How does journalism succeed and how has it failed? Students read The New York Times and use it both as a textbook to learn how to read newspapers and as a model for writing commentary and reviews. They also watch a number of classic movies and documentaries. Students who have taken English 10: Writing About Now are likely to find some repetition in broad topics and a few movies and assignments, but the news changes every day. Open to seniors only.

utopia/dystopia

Grade 12

The dystopian novel, and perhaps many periods in history, seem to suggest that one person’s utopia is another’s hell. In this course, students will read novels that deal with attempts to remake the world, and also read novels in which people attempt to survive the damages of worlds that have been remade. Students will begin with one classic dystopian novel such as Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale or George Orwell’s 1984, and then look at a couple of novels that deal with the carefully orchestrated hells and the utopian impulses in American life, such as Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.

Women in poetry and song

Grades: 10-12

This course will focus on women writers who are crucial in our understanding of female empowerment in literature and music. Students will look at poetic and lyric content, different music genres, rhythm, and rhyme. Work by songwriters/poets such as Patti Smith, Neko Case, Maya Angelou, The Indigo Girls, Nikki Giovanni, Amy Winehouse, Adrienne Rich, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Sylvia Plath, Patsy Cline, Carole King, and Ruth Carter Cash will be ingested. Assignments will include analysis, imitations, arrangements, and original compositions. Students need not be a song writer or a poet to take this course. This course may be taken for either English or Arts credit.

Writing through contemporary poetry

Grades: 10-12

Picking up where Writing through Modern Poetry left off, this class will read and respond to poetry written from 1950 to the present. The course will move through poetry movements (Confessional, Beat, Black Arts, Language) to arrive in the current moment, a moment in which poetry as a recognizable category has been called into question by various forms of hybrid writing. As with Writing through Modern Poetry, students will approach each poem as an incitement and draw inspiration from poets’ experiments with language.