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 that reflects this variety. Students should also aim to take classes with different members of the English faculty, as each teacher brings to the classroom a distinctive teaching style and special field of expertise.

Writing and discussion are central components of all English courses.


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

Any student taking an Independent Study must first register 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. 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 look at descriptions of love in songs, essays, poems, scientific 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.


With journalism as the theme and the daily New York Times as the 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 in the school newspaper, The Postscript,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.


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.


Beyoncé sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker. Ariana thanked God her song is a smash. What is it about these lyrics that sticks with us? What exactly is pop culture? What does pop culture do to us and what do we do to it? This class will tackle these questions by  using some of today’s top critics as guiding voices.  Students will read profiles of movie directors, essays on various American obsessions, and album and TV reviews. These texts will serve as the basis on which the class will explore various forms of writing. The students will write both essays and reactions to the pieces they read.

English 10: Writing about Stuff

No matter who you are, you’ve got stuff — stuff you love and stuff you hate, stuff littering the hallways of your mind and stuff you trip over in the hallway to your room. In this course, students will study the ways in which writers organize their thoughts about stuff: How do I describe my stuff? What stories does my stuff tell? How does my stuff stack up against other stuff? How do I analyze my stuff? How do I define it? By reading models of other writers, both professional and student, and trying their own essays, students will grow in their capacity to write about stuff in lucid, engaging ways.

Crime and Culpability

Grades 11-12

In this course, students consider complex legal and ethical questions through literary texts. The course begins with the question, “What is crime?” and proceeds to explore deeper questions, such as, “Is there a meaningful distinction between legal and moral wrongs?” “Can an individual be culpable for acting within an immoral system?” “How does upbringing affect culpability?” “Can there be culpability where there is no criminal intent?” and “Are there times when the commission of a crime is justified?” Readings include short stories, plays, and novels as well as philosophy case studies and magazine articles.  Most of the writing assignments for this class will be analytical.

Etymology and Semantics

Grades 11-12

Etymology is the investigation of word origins; semantics examines how words mean what they do. Students study Latin and Greek bases, learn to tell the stories of particularly interesting 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’s no way to study 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.

Gothic Novel

Grades 11-12

Gothic novels are about monsters and love and how they are related. But, of course monstrosity, like beauty and love, is in the eye of the beholder, and so Gothic is also about the influence - sometimes so consuming and transformative and dominating that it could be described as demonic - that place and people can have over us. In this course students read two classics of the Gothic novel: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula. They will also read one novel, such as Patrick Süskind's Perfume or John Fowles' The Collector that tests the boundaries of the genre as practiced in contemporary literature.

Literature of Immigration, or Who Will Survive in America?

Grades 11-12

In 1970, Gil Scott-Heron released a spoken word poem entitled, “Who Will Survive in America.” In 2010, Kanye West releasedMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as an album that contained a song sampling this poem. In 2018, multiple Park students gave speeches to the Park community about their experiences as children of immigrants, or as immigrants themselves. With these events in mind, this class will read narratives of immigrants arriving to America. In an attempt to answer the question of what it takes to survive in this country and to extend the conversation that students started last year, this class will focus on various novels and poems about immigrants and will examine these experiences. 

The Novel, 1

Grades 11-12

Novels can take us anywhere. But when we read, do we most often seek to revisit what is already familiar to us? That is, is the novel a mirror? Is the love of familiarity why many people read long series of connected novels or focus on novels from a single genre? Or do we read to encounter what is strange or what we would otherwise perhaps never see? This course is an exploration of the very different things a novel can be--a series of letters or voices, places, or action sequences--and the very different worlds it can contain and invent. It is also an exploration of our own reasons for reading and our own responses. Course selections will draw widely across genres and voices, worlds and times.

Poetry of Reality

Grades 11-12

“My proposition,” writes Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz, “consists in presenting poems, whether contemporary or a thousand years old, that are, with few exceptions, short, clear, readable and, to use a compromised term, realist, that is, loyal toward reality and attempting to describe it as concisely as possible. Thus they undermine the widely held opinion that poetry is a misty domain eluding understanding.” In this course, students will read the international anthology Miłosz created, The Book of Luminous Things, enjoy its poems, learn from them how poetry works, and write about them. They will also write some poems of their own.

Psychology and Literature

Grades 11-12

“Character is destiny” – Heraclitus

“Character is plot” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

If character is destiny, or at least plot, what is character? To answer that question, this class will explore a repertoire of psychological approaches, which may include psychoanalytic, humanist, cognitive, trait, social cognition, and behavioral theories. Students will use that repertoire to ask crucial questions about the characters they encounter: Why do these characters do what they do? How do their personalities determine their responses? What environmental or social factors may have affected the development of their personalities? And, of course, students will be asking these same questions about themselves.

Race at Park

Grades 11-12

During the 2018-2019 school year, various students shared testimonies about their experiences at Park. Using these as texts to be examined, this class will take a close look at how Park addresses race and attempt to map this onto fictional texts based in Independent schools. Our hope is that this class will create students ready and willing to lead tough conversations around race. It is heavily encouragedthat you takethis class to attend either SDLC or The White Privilege Conference. This class will become a required “club” second semester in order to design WOKE day and for the students to lead weekly discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

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.

Shakespeare: From Page to Stage

Grades 11-12

Critic Mark van Doren writes that, “No play of Shakespeare’s is better than Henry IV, Part 1.” Echoing van Doren, Harold Bloom writes that, “if we are to represent Shakespeare by only one play, it ought to be the complete Henry IV. What makes Henry IV so compelling? Perhaps it’s the larger-than-life Falstaff, Prince Hal’s sidekick for all things mischievous. Or, maybe it’s Prince Hal’s rival, Hotspur, who fashions himself the most honorable of soldiers and leaders in his milieu. Or maybe it’s Hal himself, who must grow up and into his position as King. I argue that it’s because we know this play. We know these characters. Regardless of the titles and the royalty, we have seen and understand the push and pull of a young person who has to grow up, take on responsibilities, and step into leadership with fortitude.” In this course, students will study Shakespeare’s sonnets as an introduction to Shakespeare’s language. Then, they will read both Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 in preparation for the spring production. Students who have been cast as leads in the play are required to take the course, but the elective is also open to anyone who is interested in studying a Shakespearean coming-of-age story.

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 Practicum

Grades 11-12

This is an intensive writing workshop that is also about the teaching of writing. Students compose and revise a great deal of creative nonfiction. In recent years, assignments have included best earth memory, description of a real or imagined photograph, favorite song analysis, philosophical meditation, and college essay — as well as stories, poems, and Advanced Placement (AP) exam responses. The focus throughout is on the processof 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 course, students will serve for the rest of their Park careers as tutors in The Michael Cardin ’85 Writing Center.

Preference will be given to juniors; limited seats will be held for seniors.



Spring Semester Courses


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.

Black Guilt/Asian Innocence: Hyphenated American Literature

Grades 10-12

Who are we willing to empathize with? How proximate to whiteness do our sympathies lie? How do we create community among minorities? How have minority communities historically been rendered separate? In this class, students will grapple with these big questions centered around African-American and Asian-American identities. Students will read texts from both perspectives as a means of understanding the hyphenated reality and to attempt to unpack why Asian-Americans are described as model minorities and African-Americans are defined as guilty. This class requires all students to feel comfortable engaging in conversations that can be difficult and an openness to realize everyone’s role in perpetuating stereotypes about certain minorities.

Design Baltimore: Literature of the City

Grades 10-11

How does a city that has suffered economic, social, and political decline turn itself around? Where does a city planner, the city government, or its citizens begin? In this team-taught course, students will explore the role of social innovation and social entrepreneurship as a tool in addressing the persistent ails of our city, Baltimore. The class will look at inspiring examples and models that are working from Baltimore to Joburg and in between. Students will dare to dream of their own change by proposing sustainable solutions using a design-thinking framework, engaging in field research in the city, and collaborating with communities. Assignments will include building prototypes, pitch presentations, journal reflections, personal narratives, and more. Students who are enrolled in Park’s social entrepreneurship fellowship program are encouraged to join.

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, we 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. Discussions 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.


Grades 10-12

In this course students will read Latin American and Anglo-American literature to try to understand from each side what the border between the two cultures looks like and how it works, in historical terms as well as in emotional and cultural terms. In order to comprehend what the American West and Mexico have meant for Americans, the class will consider such works as Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horsesand Charles Portis's True Grit. When students turn their attention to what The United States has meant in Latin America, they will read works including Isabelle Allende's Daughter of Fortuneand Hector Tobar's The Tattooed Soldier.

The Graphic Novel

Grades 10-12

Graphic novels are garnering critical attention and accolades in circles that would have previously ignored their existence or derided them as “lowbrow.” Serious and funny, emotive and intellectual, philosophical and action-packed, graphic novels combine visual and literary techniques to bring stories from the margins to the mainstream. In this course, students will read and analyze a wide range of graphic novels, which may include Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, and Mira Jacob’s Good Talk. Sophomores and Juniors will create their own graphic novellas at the end of the semester (no drawing skills necessary!).

Gender and Sexuality in America

Grades 10-12

This course explores the history and literature of gender and sexuality in America. From “two-spirit” Indians to “cisgender” heterosexual men, gender and sexual identities have varied dramatically over time and across space in American history. They have come from a variety of sources. Lived experiences in diverse communities have molded them. Institutions like the church, media, and medicine have prescribed them. The law has attempted to legitimate and regulate them. Class, race, and ethnicity have complicated how we express them. The goal in this class is to interrogate this rich history and use it to contextualize our discourse today. Topics include: the “normalization” of binary categories like male/female and gay/straight; the roles of medicine, media, and the law in prescribing and regulating identities; the lived experiences of diverse genders and sexualities; the intersection between gender/sexuality and other social categories like race, class and ethnicity; legacies of that long history for identity politics today.  

This class may also be taken for an English or history credit.

“I am not your tourist”: Caribbean Literature

Grades 10-12

Jamaica Kincaid writes, “Every native of every place is a potential tourist” and “A tourist is an ugly human being.” What exactly does it mean to be a native in the Caribbean? What does it mean to be from a land that has been repeatedly colonized? How is the legacy of colonization still carried today? What does it mean to visit these places? What does it mean to not be able to live the life of a tourist in a tourist destination? What is an “ugly tourist?” How can we avoid being one? Is that even possible? These and many more questions will be examined in this class as students consider both novels and poetry written by Caribbean authors.

Journal to Essay

Grades 10-12

In this course students will read selections from a number of writers’ journals and from Phillip Lopate’s anthology The Art of the Personal Essay. They will keep journals and use the entries as raw materials for their own essays, which the class will discuss and students will revise. Please note that this course asks students to write quite a bit, to share that writing, and to serve as critical and kindly readers of others’ work. 

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. 


Grades 10-12

In this class, students will look at the boundaries that seem to make us what we are: boundaries between sexes and genders, between the animal and human worlds, between the living and the dead, the mortal and the immortal, and we will ask how and why people transgress these boundaries – whether deliberately or not. The course will begin with selections from Ovid's Metamorphosesand the Indian epic The Mahābhārata, and then read modern works such as Lewis Carroll's Alice books and Virginia Woolf's Orlando. Students will be asked to write both critical essays and to experiment in their own fiction with the forms of boundary crossing entertained by each of these works.

The New African Novel

Grades 10-12

Wakanda Forever.

What makes Black Pantherso good? Black Pantherbrings to life a fictional African country that has not been touched by westerners, and in turn we are able to see how the country was able to flourish. This makes clear what is at risk on the continent, and the continued legacy of its Western discovery centuries ago.  This class will introduce students to contemporary African literature. The aim of this course is to question our perception of Africa as a continent. How can we challenge what we are told exists in Africa? In the same vein of Black Panther, students will present a different Africa than the one that is constantly war torn and poor.  Theywill read novels written about Africa that might challenge their prejudices about the continent, and should be prepared to question all preconceived notions about Africa.

The Novel, 2

Grades 10-12

Novels can take us anywhere. But when we read, do we most often seek to revisit what is already familiar to us? That is, is the novel a mirror? Is the love of familiarity why many people read long series of connected novels or focus on novels from a single genre? Or do we read to encounter what is strange or what we would otherwise perhaps never see? This course is an exploration of the very different things a novel can be--a series of letters or voices, places or action sequences--and the very different worlds it can contain and invent. It is also an exploration of our own reasons for reading and our own responses. Course selections will draw widely across genres and voices, worlds and times. (Note: Novel 1 is nota prerequisite, and students will read different texts than in the fall).

Poems and Lives

Grades 10-12

It seems clear that there is a reciprocal relationship between writing and living, but this can work in so many ways. For starters, do we merely write what we live, or do we live differently because of how we write? And as people seeking to understand books and writers, how literally are we to take what we read? In this course, students will ask these sorts of questions as they examine and imitate the works and lives of writers from very different times and places: from the archaic Greece of Sappho to Basho’s 17thC Japan, from John Keats’ early 19thC England to Sylvia Plath’s and Ted Hughes’ version of the 20thcentury.

Scorched Earth: Books about Environmental Devastation

Grades 11-12

This course asks the question, “What can art say about climate change?” To help draft answers, students will read Future Home of the Living Godby Louise Erdrich, and The Uninhabitable Earthby David Wallace-Wells. As students examine 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.

Short Novel

Grades 10-12

The scholar Jerome Beaty remarks that, “The short novel can be as simple as a short story and as complex as a novel; it is a happy hybrid.” The work of this class will be reading, discussing, and writing about a number of examples of this beautiful form. In past years, texts have included works by Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, Henry James, Kate Chopin, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Stefan Zweig, Katherine Anne Porter, William Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez, François Sagan, Alice Munro, and others.

The Times

Grade 12

The title of this class refers both 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 TheNew 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 movies and documentaries. Students who have taken English 10: Writing About Now will find some repetition in broad topics, and a few movies and assignments, but the news changes every day. Open to Seniors only.