Breadcrumbs

English

Students are required to take an English class during every semester of their enrollment at ASL, regardless of the number of English credits they may have accumulated. All Grade 9 students enroll in English 9; all Grade 10 students enroll in English 10.

The central goals of a good education are to engage a free and open mind, excite empathy and passion, nurture the habits and values of a citizenry, and ultimately lead students to think for themselves. In the English department, students read a variety of challenging texts to promote critical thinking and stimulate reflection. These include prose—both fiction and nonfiction—drama and poetry. In partnership with reading texts closely and writing across a range of genres, students cultivate increasingly dynamic speaking and listening skills at the Harkness table. All courses are designed and taught to enable students to develop their skills in all four pillars of our program: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

The department sponsors Jambalaya, a student-led literary and arts magazine that accepts submissions from all students. We also sponsor the Writers Seminar, whose members work with a writer-in-residence over the course of the school year. Applications for the following year's Writers Seminar are accepted from current Grade 10 and 11 students in the preceding spring. The students selected participate in the program for one year. 

Grade 11 and 12 English Electives

The English department offers a range of elective courses, each course providing the opportunity for sustained inquiry into a given topic, genre or place. Electives engage students as readers, writers, speakers and listeners—deepening, enriching and advancing the skills and understandings cultivated in English 9 and 10. By the end of the electives program, students are close readers sensitive to the nuances of diverse texts, thoughtful writers attuned to their own writing process, and dynamic discussion participants actively engaged as speakers and listeners. Each semester, students in Grades 11 and 12 take at least one elective course; journalism courses must be taken in conjunction with another English course. Some students elect to take one or both of the AP English examinations; for those students, a series of preparation sessions is offered each spring.

Anticipated semester I Anticipated semester II Anticipated semester II

Craft of Writing
Literature and Art
Russian Literature
Mythology
Asian Literature
Special Topics in Literature
British Literature
Gender in Literature

Individual and Society in Literature
Shakespeare
Literary Nonfiction
Middle East Literature
Poetry
Zen and Literature

Literature and Film
American Literature

 

English 9

1 credit; full year

English 9 is a yearlong course that focuses on the skills of close reading, discussion and writing. Students practice writing in a variety of forms, ranging from journal entries of a single paragraph, to short analytical essays and creative works. Grammar and usage are studied in the context of effective writing and speaking. There is a particular emphasis on discussion skills, cultivating a voice and presence at the Harkness table. Course literature typically includes at least one substantive novel, a play by Shakespeare, and selected short stories, poems and essays. By the end of this course, students are able to read and annotate various kinds of texts and to respond successfully in writing to their own and others’ questions about a major literary work. They acquire new skills and confidence as speakers and listeners and are prepared to thrive in English 10. All Grade 9 students are required to take English 9; students may elect to add a second English course by taking Beginning and/or Advanced Journalism.

English 10

1 credit; full year

English 10 is a yearlong course that builds on English 9. In English 10, students hone their skills in the four pillars at the heart of the high school English program: active reading, analytical and personal writing, and speaking and listening in student-led discussions. Students read increasingly complex texts in a variety of genres, including a wide range of poems, essays, stories and novels by diverse authors, as well as a Shakespearean play. Students write extensive literary analyses and creative pieces inspired by the texts. Members of the class speak and listen with purpose and respect for one another at the Harkness table. By the end of this course, students have the independence to develop their own lines of inquiry into a text and to respond successfully in writing to a major literary work. They know themselves as speakers and listeners and have the maturity and flexibility to participate in discussions alongside other Grade 11 and 12 students in our English electives program. All Grade 10 students are required to take English 10; students may elect to add a second English course by taking Beginning and/or Advanced Journalism.

British Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

This course draws on Britain’s rich literary tradition, from Chaucer’s day to the present. A balance of traditional and contemporary readings enhances students' knowledge of literary techniques, movements and cultural and literary concerns. Each semester’s readings may include works by both traditional and contemporary novelists, such as the Brontes, Dickens, Wilde, Woolf, James, Yeats, Coleridge, Ali Smith and Zadie Smith; poetry from the Renaissance through the Romantic period, as well as works by recent poets. A play by a British playwright may be included. Students practice their writing skills through a variety of genres, ranging from the analytical essay to poetry.

Individual and Society in Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

Reading literature with this perspective in mind, we explore the relationship between a person and his/her larger community to appreciate the varied ways in which society influences an individual’s choices and identity. Society may take the form of an intrusive state or a set of expectations on a person, such as on an artist or scientist. Society takes a hand in shaping an individual’s identity, including social identifiers like race, class, and gender. How people respond to such expectations and societal perceptions is varied and our dialogue about this develops over the semester by reading authors such as George Orwell, Ariel Dorfman, Carolyn Forche, Jon Krakauer, Chang-Rae Lee, Richard Wright, Nawal El Saadawi and Jennifer Egan. Our class writing takes a variety of forms: the personal essay, short story and analytical essay, to name a few.

Russian Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

This course is organized around the careful reading of key texts in Russian literature in translation. Because of their beauty, complexity and depth, these works have had an enormous influence on literature internationally. Their study provokes our thinking about the individual in relation to society, about human psychology, and about the great currents of history. We begin during Russia's literacy Golden Age, the 19th century, with Alexander Pushkin's 'novel in verse,' Eugene Onegin, and the satirical short stories of Pushkin's contemporary Nikolai Gogol. We continue with a classic Russian novel, such as Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina or Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Further readings include a play by Anton Chekhov and the poetry of Anna Akhmatova. The course concludes with contemporary Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015. To read, discuss and write about these texts enlarges our horizons, opening one of the world's greatest literatures.

Asian Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

Is there such a thing as Asian Literature? This course serves as an introduction to contemporary literature from several countries in this varied and complex region. We avoid assumptions and generalizations, and instead seek nuance and complexity in our understanding. Students gain insight into the unique cultural traditions of each nation and examine the effect of specific political events within individual countries. Authors studied may include Lisa See, Yasunari Kawabata, Dai Sijie and Julie Otsuka.

Literature and Film

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester II

This course considers literature and its adaptation to film. Students study the role of the text and the reader in literature, the camera and the viewer in film, and how the distinctive qualities of each genre require certain approaches to narrative. Short stories, graphic novels, and novels have all been adapted into compelling films, and students spend time studying each of these forms. As part of their exploration of literature and film, students write both analytically and creatively, demonstrating their understanding of both media. Texts might include Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank RedemptionDoubt: A Parable and It Had to be Murder (upon which Rear Window is based). Students write their own 10-minute screenplays that are submitted to the ASL Film Festival for consideration.

Craft of Writing

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

Craft of Writing is a semester-long, writing- and reading-intensive class that provides continuing instruction in a variety of forms, including (but not limited to) personal writing, argument and fiction. Designed for students who are interested in developing sophistication, nuance and voice in their writing, this course includes a variety of assignments focused on elements such as voice and audience, perspective, rhetoric, tone and mood, narrative distance, image and sound, theme and metaphor. A workshop format allows students to write and revise in a supportive atmosphere. Students read actively and analytically, with a focus on the writer’s craft, bringing multiple pieces through a drafting and revision process. Students must demonstrate a readiness to share their work at all stages and to respond sensitively to the work of their classmates.

Gender in Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

This course is directed by the study of how gender has been portrayed in literature, media and culture. All of our discussions are founded upon the central questions: What is gender? How have our understandings of what it is to be a certain gender been formed? How does the intersection of gender with other identities (such as race, socio-economic status, sexuality and religion) affect experience? What effect does gendering in literature and other cultural products have on ourselves and our society? Writers studied may include Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Tennessee Williams, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Rebecca Solnit and William Shakespeare.

Literary Non-fiction

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester II

In the first book of The Histories, Herodotus tells a story about how the Persians’ children were “carefully instructed from their fifth to their twentieth year, in three things alone––horsemanship, archery and truth-telling.” By adding “truth-telling” to the so-called Trivium, Herodotus leaves us to wonder what could possibly take 15 years of study to master. In Literary Non-fiction, we ask questions about the nature of truth-telling as we seek to explore some of the problems and challenges associated with telling true stories.  In the hope of shaping ourselves into better writers, we read exemplary works by the modern masters of long-form, fact-based writing, including Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, Lawrence Weschler, Joseph Mitchell, Ian Frazier, Susan Sheehan and W.G. Sebald. We investigate how the works have been constructed, paying special attention to the strategies authors employ (such as internal narration, scenes, dialogue, compression of time and character development) to construct ‘true’ stories.

Middle Eastern, Afghani & Pakistani Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester II

In this course, students ponder the frailty and majesty of the human condition under extremely difficult circumstances. Diverse, compelling stories present students with rich discussion opportunities as they examine the challenges faced by Middle Easterners, particularly women and children, adapting to the realities of the modern world. Authors studied might include Naguib Mahfouz, Elie Wiesel, Khaled Hosseini and Kamila Shamsie.

Mythology

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester II

Mythology is the first literature. It is also the first religious expression and the first scientific exploration. Myths ask the basic questions of creation. Myths are filled with gods and heroes whose descendants we see in religion, literature, and the fine and performing arts even today. By studying mythology, we study the origins of our societies and consider what myths might teach us about ourselves. Texts in this course may include Greek and Roman stories, drama and poetry, as well as myths from non-European cultures.

Literature and Art

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

What do Beat poetry, jazz music and the works of abstract expressionist artist Wassily Kandinsky have in common? Literature and Art explores the ways in which the visual arts, literature and other texts relate to each other. The course is designed to raise awareness that meaning is not just in the text, but is co-created by audiences. Students intellectually and creatively explore the myriad relationships that exist among texts (prose, poetry, painting, sculpture, film and music). Texts may include Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, poems by Langston Hughes and William Carlos Williams, music by John Cage and Nirvana, and film selections from Tim Burton and Joss Whedon. Going beyond the four walls of the classroom and directly interacting with the many visual texts that are on display in London is an integral part of the course.

Shakespeare

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester II

No figure has done as much to explore our motivations, reveal our passions, and sound the depths of the human condition as Shakespeare. This course examines his continuing relevance through the careful reading of three or four plays from the categories of comedy, tragedy and history, as well as some sonnets. The plays are approached as both scripts and texts, inviting oral as well as written interpretation. Special emphasis is placed on developing skills of close reading and cross-referenced annotation. Attendance is required at occasional theatrical productions, usually on weekday evenings or Saturdays. The cost of tickets is covered by the English department budget.

Special Topics in Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit

Where does meaning reside? How do we make music from the total noise that surrounds us? What does it mean to read, write and think actively, and with a sense of agency? These are some of the big questions we explore on this intertextual course. We place texts and images into a web of other texts in order to approach known and strange things in new and surprising ways, leading us to our own enriching questions for further inquiry. Students make connections across texts and make connections between themselves and the contemporary world, culminating in an extended, first-person definition essay, with a goal to synthesize seemingly disparate texts. Topics change annually—for 2019-20, the theme is “flight.”

American Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I and II

The literature studied in this course is drawn from America’s multicultural heritage and focuses on selected themes and cultural, historical and aesthetic issues. Students read a broad range of works that gives voice to diverse perspectives on being American. We read a balance of contemporary and traditional readings and look at their relevance to what is happening in America today. Reading lists typically include authors such as O'Brien, Chopin, O'Connor, Proulx, Wright, Hawthorne, Whitman, Twain, Ellison, Silko, Alcott, Kushner, Miller, Morrison, Coates, Cunningham, Boyle and Fitzgerald. Students practice their writing skills through a variety of genres, ranging from the analytical essay to poetry.

Poetry

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I and II

This course provides students the opportunity to develop their skills in the reading and appreciation of poetry through sustained class discussion and analytical writing. Students also have the chance to write poetry, beginning with simple exercises, moving to more sustained pieces. A wide variety of poets are studied, including famous names, such as Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickinson, Rilke, Eliot, Plath, Neruda, Duffy and Boland. An international anthology such as The Book of Luminous Things, compiled by Czeslaw Milosz, opens our study to the wider world of recent and contemporary poetry written in languages other than English. The class may visit occasional poetry events in London. In these cases, attendance is required.

Beginning Journalism

Grades 9-12; ½ credit; semester I

This course is an introduction to the fundamentals of journalism. Students learn to write in a variety of journalistic styles and explore the rules of copy editing. Regularly, students undertake a range of writing, for publication in print and online, in conjunction with a study of the many facets of journalism, including media law and ethics. Students may enroll in Beginning Journalism only if it is taken as a second English course (along with English 9, English 10, or a Grade 11/12 English elective).

Advanced Journalism

Grades 9-12; ½ credit; semester I and II
Prerequisite: Beginning Journalism or commensurate experience

This course focuses on writing for the high school newspaper, The Standard, and its companion website, standard.asl.org. Students consider ways to create a responsible, inclusive and lively print and online publication for the entire ASL community. Students complete writing in a variety of journalistic styles for publication in print and online, and they undertake the primary responsibility for copy editing and proofreading all content. Students may enroll in Advanced Journalism only if it is taken as a second English course (along with English 9, English 10, or a Grade 11/12 English course). Students who are unable to enroll in Advanced Journalism are welcome to contribute work to The Standard in a non-editorial capacity; however, credit for Advanced Journalism can only be given to students who are enrolled in this course.

Advanced Journalism: Editors

Grades 10-12; 1 credit (½ credit technology and ½ credit English); full year
Prerequisite: Advanced Journalism or commensurate experience with the approval of the instructor and selection by committee following application

To be an editor, a student must be enrolled in Advanced Journalism: Editors, which focuses on the production of the high school newspaper, The Standard, and its companion website, standard.asl.org. Editors establish newspaper and website policy and design, and are expected to write for each production cycle, participate in editorial meetings and attend all extra work sessions, some of which may occur outside normal school hours. Editors also learn and practice advanced design techniques using Adobe software. Students may enroll in Advanced Journalism: Editors only if it is taken as a second English course (along with English 10 or a Grade 11/12 English course). Students who are unable to enroll in Advanced Journalism: Editors are welcome to contribute work to The Standard in a non-editorial capacity; however, credit for Advanced Journalism: Editors can only be given to students who are enrolled in this course.

Zen and Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester II

Over the past five years, a number of ASL students have completed some zen/mindfulness training at Plum Village in South West France. By the 2019-20 school year, all Grade 11 and 12 students will have participated in mindfulness or ‘full awareness’ training in Grade 10 Health class. Zen and Literature offers the opportunity for students to study literary texts from both eastern and western perspectives, which either exemplify the zen tradition or raise questions that can be addressed through a zen lens. Concurrently, students engage in a sustained experience of zen/mindfulness training, thereby connecting theory with practice.While the classical eastern texts and practices are taught in a modern secular way, they are rooted in a vibrant zen tradition, over 1,000 years old. Zen practice has had a profound influence in the arts in Asia and, over the last 50 years, in the West as well—to the extent that the current impact of eastern philosophy on the west may be one of the great re-shapings of how we understand and engage in the world. 

Not offered in 2019-20

African Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit 

Although the written literary heritage of Africa is relatively recent, it is immensely rich. Students explore the complexity of modern Africa through its literature in an effort to understand this vast continent and to place its literature in context. Students consider questions to do with the literature of place, distinct and diverse African voices and identities, and both limitations and possibilities of studying global literature in English. Students read a wide variety of genres and study authors such as Achebe, Paton, Aidoo, Ba, Coetzee, Soyinka, Adichie and Ngugi. 

Dramatic Literature and Performance

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

Drawing on the riches of London's theatrical culture, this course explores the nature of dramatic literature and dramatic production. The aim is to develop a clearer understanding of the nature and scope of a challenging and rich genre. We read in the European dramatic tradition, focusing on major works by Chekhov and Ibsen, as well as other more contemporary plays. All the while we see and consider several productions taking place on the London stage. The plays are chosen from current offerings in London and thus change from year to year. Students should be aware that this course requires attendance at several evening performances. The cost of tickets is covered by the English department budget.

Latin American Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit 

This course seeks to explore the engaging and complex cultures of Mexico and South America. The Spanish literary tradition in North and South America is one of the richest and most engaging in the world.  This course explores themes common to Latin America, such as the complex identity of a people from both European and indigenous backgrounds, the role of family in the lives of characters, and the unique literary style of magical realism. Authors may include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes and Laura Esquivel, among others.

Philosophy and Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; semester I and II 

In this course, students consider some of the major areas of western philosophy and explore some of the basic questions of life that comprise an individual's worldview. The course includes an overview of theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism and existentialism, and considers how writers from these perspectives address topics such as faith and knowing, morality, the nature of the cosmos, human freedom, death and truth. Writing assignments include personal, philosophical and analytical essays. Authors might include Sartre, Camus, O'Connor, Morris, Crane, Hemingway and Frankl.

European Literature

Grades 11-12; ½ credit; anticipated semester I

The course explores 20th- and 21st-century literature of Europe. The significance of historical events and the manifestation of literary movements, such as Modernism, Surrealism and Postmodernism, are considered through the literature. In analytical writing, we explore theme, character and setting, in particular, while emulation of authors’ choices in tone, style and structure inspire our creative writing. Reading selections may include works by Thomas Mann, James Joyce, Wislawa Szymborska, Franz Kafka, Federico Garcia Lorca, Albert Camus, Italo Calvino, Marguerite Duras and Nina Bouraoui.