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 English faculty members, for each teacher brings to the classroom a distinctive style and different fields 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 film                                                  

Students look comparatively and historically at various aspects of filmmaking, experiment with ways of describing films and moving images, and see what the art of filmmaking has to teach them about the art of writing. They read broadly in both historical and contemporary film criticism and review. Writing assignments include essays, short descriptions, appreciations, and a fragment of a screenplay.


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 Postscript is a goal, but not a requirement. Other activities include reading about and discussing current events, viewing films related to journalism, and meeting 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 while using some of today’s top critics as guiding voices. Students will read essays on journeys through Instagram, advertisement analysis, movie reviews, and definition essays on pop culture terms. These texts will serve as the basis on which the class will explore various forms of writing. The students will be writing both essays and reactions to the pieces we read. They also need to be ready to discuss pop culture as a serious part of culture that is to be examined in the same way one might approach Shakespeare.

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 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.

american classics from douglass to morrison

Grades 11-12

In this course, students will gain a sense of the rich diversity of the African-American literary tradition, beginning in the nineteenth century with The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and ending with a novel by the late Toni Morrison. Along the way, they will read works by W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others. Writing assignments will include both analytical and personal essays, as well as style imitations.


Grades 11-12

In this course, students will enter the world of downtown New York in the 70s and 80s to be among a world of diverse artists pushing against capitalism to make art on their own terms. The class will examine the work of poets, writers, artists, and filmmakers who tried to capture real-life depictions of New York’s underbelly through guerrilla journalism, handmade zines and fliers, alternative music and neo-expressionist art. Assignments may include Basquiat-like visual art, Warhol-like installations, Eileen Myles-like poetry, Spalding Gray-like monologues, and Velvet Underground-like music.

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 is no way to study etymology without memorizing a lot of roots and affixes. If students do not like this sort of work and don’t like being tested on their grasp of details, they should not take this course.


Grades 11-12

This class will attend to the big question of form. Do formal considerations constrain our expression or allow it? Does choosing a new form to express an idea necessarily change that idea? How do we find the forms that speak to us? To investigate these questions, students will read and write poems of all kinds (haiku, sonnet, villanelle, abecedarian—just to name a few), and then explore some contemporary experiments in form, including Jericho Brown’s duplex poems, Anne Carson’s novel in verse, and Maggie Nelson’s auto-theory. Students will be required to write analytical essays, poems, and genre-bending amalgamations of the two.


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 theories touching on four psychological domains: dispositional, intrapsychic, socio-cultural, and adjustment. Students will use that repertoire of theories to ask crucial questions about the characters they encounter: Why do they 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.


Grades 11-12

This course begins 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.


Grades 11-12

In this course, students will read the literature of geographical and imaginative travel, write some travel literature of their own, and reflect on the ways in which travels shape their minds and the ways in which their minds shape their travels. Texts may include Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, Tete-Michel Kpomassie’s An African in Greenland, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

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.

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.


Grades 11-12

William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” as a means to start a discussion on the role of the southern writer; one born out of the present that is seemingly endlessly attached to the past. Upon returning to the South, Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway writes, “I returned to a field of cotton, hallowed ground—//as slave legend goes—each boll// holding the ghosts of generations.” Effectively, drowning her return in the ghosts that haunt the land. Both writers seem to hold the South as a place that is mired in the past; a place that is unmoving. Students will start with this notion and expand it to question how we learn about our own country. When we do, what parts do we ignore? What parts do we judge? These questions, along with others will inform students' thinking in this deep dive into Southern literature. This class will examine the South closely and question how we as a country understand and reconcile with our pasts. This class actively seeks to dismantle the social construction that places the South as the lesser of the United States.


Grades 11-12

Ocean Vuong writes, “We possess this idea that salvaging and repair is automatic progress.” as a means to explain the fractured wholeness that his novel presents and to begin a conversation on Western storytelling ideals. Students will be using this idea to guide their thinking around immigration literature. How might survival be tied to progress or to salvaging a whole? What might it take to survive in this country? How might that answer be tied in stories? In fractures of stories or in manipulation of language? This class will be focusing on a variety of short stories and poems to support a deep reading of Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. The class will also be working closely with a fourth grade classroom to interview immigrant members of the Park community. They will also partner with Wolfe Street Academy in Fells Point, a school that has a high percentage of first generation students.


Grades 11-12

The play’s the thing wherein students will make much ado about appetite, authority, and alienation along with murder, mayhem, and madness. Three tragedies set the exploratory stage — the first a political thriller just in time for the 2020 election — Julius Caesar, Othello, and Hamlet. The class will supplement close readings and classroom dramatization with a viewing of each of the plays. If a local production is available at either Center Stage or The Chesapeake Theatre, students will look to attend a production.

Writing Practicum

Grades 11-12

This is an intensive writing workshop that is also about the teaching of writing. Students will write and revise creative nonfiction. In recent years, assignments have included a best earth memory, description of a real or imagined photograph, favorite song analysis, philosophical meditation, and college essay—as well as stories, poems, and AP exam responses. The focus throughout will be on the process of writing, and students will learn—through reading, discussion, role-playing, and lots of practice—the techniques of effective peer tutoring. They will tutor writers from the Lower, Middle, and Upper School.

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

Author, comedian, and actor Michael Ian Black recently wrote in the New York Times: “The past 50 years have redefined what it means to be female in America…Boys, though, have been left behind. No commensurate movement has emerged to help them navigate toward a full expression of their gender. It’s no longer enough to 'be a man'” — we no longer even know what that means.” This course is a historical and cross-cultural exploration of what it means to be male in America. Through essays, articles, novels, and plays, students will unpack how men and boys are portrayed in literature while considering how these portrayals reflect an understanding of concepts of masculinity within American culture. Students will be asked to consider how race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and historical context intersect with concepts of masculinity. In addition to a literary exploration, the class will examine current events, popular culture, sociological research, and its own experiences as students wrestle with what it means to “be a man.”

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.


Grades 10-12

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.


Grades 10-11

What is and was the “Harlem Renaissance”? In what ways is it emblematic of American historical trends of migration? Of the Jazz Age and the Gatsby phenomenon? Students will sample the literature, art, politics, and the culture of “The Harlem Renaissance,” a remarkable phenomenon of the 1920s and 1930s. In addition to reading poetry, prose fiction, and non-fiction by a wide array of writers from the 19th and 20th centuries, they will study other important artistic manifestations of the Harlem Renaissance: photography, painting, music, and dance. The course is planned to include a very full-day’s class pilgrimage to Harlem to do a walkabout and to visit The Studio Museum, The Arturo Schomburg Center for Research, the Jazz Museum, and Langston Hughes’ home.


Grades 10-12

“Hip-Hop is More than Just Music to Me. It’s the vehicle I hope will someday lead us to change.” —Gwendolyn Pough, Check It While I Wreck It

With this mission in mind, students will study hip hop as the art form and force for change that it is. They will look at the history of hip hop, the style of its poetry, and its larger impact on our culture. This class will also examine rap’s influence on poetry and vice versa. Most of the class readings will be handouts and readings that seek to look at hip hop as a critical art form. Likely assignments include a spoken word poem and performance, a freestyle, a hip hop education project, and various analytical essays. Students: please be excited and ready to engage with this form of music as serious literature to be analyzed.


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 our understanding in order to grow as writers. Texts will include David Crystal’s Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of Grammar, Ben Yagoda’s How to Not Write Bad, and Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Several Short Sentences about Writing. 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 make others feel bad about confusing the use of who vs. whom. Park Grammar is for students who are curious about how language works and who want to become more flexible, playful writers.


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, students will have to think about writing in translation—how closely can they read it? What might we be missing? And they will have to think about English as a common language. In postcolonial India, is it a language of emancipation or of oppression? Both? Neither? The answers to these questions will, of course, be subject to change—and to thoughtful scrutiny and lively debate.


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 LOVE

Grades 10-12

Every time you turn on the radio you hear about it, but what exactly is it? How does it work? How do we decide who to love and how to love? What spoken and unspoken rules govern our relationships? Students will primarily engage with novels to begin unpacking these questions, which may include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. The class will also look at descriptions of love in songs, guides, studies, and films to try to make sense of this much-discussed feeling. Writing assignments will largely focus on analytical responses to these texts.

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? The class will examine some icons of both success and failure and will also look at examples of fair play and questionable ethics.


Grades 10-12

The magical world often seeks to soothe us in a time of chaos. A child is asked to imagine their wildest dreams on a boring car ride in the same way an escaped slave must conjure their murdered child’s ghost to exist. How does magic yoke our realities to our dreams? And in what ways are the magical realism traditions in North and South America in conversation with each other? This class will focus on the rich tradition of magical realism in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States. Students will look at short stories, novels, paintings, and films to attempt to answer why they seek out the paranormal to explain their normal existences.


Grades 10-12

By looking closely at the intersection of races, a goal of this class is to have a critical discussion on racial categories and break down the understanding of them in America. How is identity confused when families belong to two different cultures? In this class students will read a contemporary novel, a play, and poetry written by and about mixed race families and couples in the United States. Though the class will focus on black/white mixed narratives, students 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.


Grades 10-12

Most people think of Robert Frost as the craggy New Englander who wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the kind of jovial greeting-card poet you would find sitting by the cracker barrel in a Vermont country store. (The truth is that he was a native Californian named after Robert E. Lee, and he had a mean streak.) By reading a substantial part of his Collected Poems and some critical essays, students will form their own judgment of his work. They will also use some of Frost’s poems as models for writing of their own.


Grades 10-12

This course will use concepts students learned in Psychology and Literature to analyze the dynamics they witness in a number of plays written in the past fifty years. What understandings of personality and selfhood underpin contemporary theater? How do those understandings shape how characters speak to one another and to themselves? Students are required to take Psychology and Literature before taking this course — though they do not need to have taken it the previous semester.

Prerequisite: Psychology and Literature

Scorched Earth

Grades 11-12

This course asks the question, “What is the role of the artist during climate change?” In our lifetimes, we are likely to see great changes in nature as we’ve known it. How will artists respond? How will they document catastrophe? How will they shape the public’s understanding of it? Students will read widely to see how artists are already responding. They will also draft their own responses, as well, through creative projects in a range of forms.


Grades 10-12

The image of the devil is at once so familiar and so strangely various. He is somehow both a monster reeking of decay and sulfur, and a sophisticated dandy promising pleasures and undermining sureties. By the time the devil meets the young Mississippi blues player Robert Johnson at the crossroads offering him heavenly guitar skills in exchange for his soul, the image of the devil has gathered elements from the Bible and the figure of Dionysius in the Classical Mediterranean world, from West African religion and Carribean voodoo, from American folklore and the European Faust tradition. In this course students will look at the various cultural threads that inform the figure of the devil and try to decide what it means. Readings may include Zora Neale Hurston’s versions of African-American folk tales, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Goethe’s Faust, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, and Wole Soyinka’s The Bacchae of Euripides.

The Times

Grade 12

The title of this elective class, The Times, refers both to the newspaper itself, 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 will 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. The class will 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.

This class is offered in alternate years. It will NOT be offered this year, but it will be offered in 2021-2022.


Grade 12

Over the course of their high school career, students have studied and analyzed how writers and artists sound on the page, in a song, and on the stage. In this class, students will focus on cultivating their own distinct and authentic voice. Participants will look at the most memorable voices of writing, song and speech, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou, Tupac Shakur, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Toni Morrison, Nas and Joan Didion, and will use them as models for developing a voice that carries authority and personality. This seminar will have an emphasis on short works with assignments that include writing essays, monologues, lyrics, songs, and poems. Students will share their work with each other and with a wider audience.

This course can be taken for English or arts credit.


Grades 10-12

The following quote opens the novel that is central to this class, “The problem with trying to tell their story,” Luiselli writes, “is that it has no beginning, no middle and no end.” By beginning her story of the Mexican-American border story this way, Valeria Luiselli breaks down what we expect of a narrative; her story is endless. Students will be using this idea to guide our thinking around immigration literature and particularly our southern border. What might it take to arrive to this country? How do our stories sustain a narrative of survival? In fractures? In questions? This class will focus on a variety of short stories and poems to support a deep reading of Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends. The class will also work closely with a fourth grade classroom to interview immigrant members of the Park community. Students will also partner with Wolfe Street Academy in Fells Point, a school that has a high percentage of first generation students.

is class is a continuation of the fall elective Who Will Survive in America? The fall class is not a prerequisite to this one; new students are welcome to join.