English

 
* indicates that course is cross-listed with another department

EN120: LM English

Term: Year

This course is the foundation for subsequent English courses and focuses primarily on the development of clear, concise writing and speaking. The course improves the students’ close reading skills to sharpen their precision of thinking, writing, and expression. Students focus on such qualities as word choice and literary devices as they seek to unearth the significance of literary passages. Since each assertion or claim that a student makes in writing must be supported by evidence from the text itself, students aim to integrate quotations smoothly and effectively in their critical observations. In the first semester, students work on writing individual paragraphs to build incrementally toward passage analyses, poetry explications, and longer essays written in the winter and spring terms. Some assignments afford students opportunities to practice critical thinking in creative exercises; such assignments include memorizing monologues or poems, acting out scenes from dramatic works, and writing personal essays that are linked to texts being read in class. Modeling various writing styles and modes allows students to begin fusing rather than isolating analytical and creative work as they seek their own voices. Students begin building their English Portfolio with essays that critically describe their learning process throughout the course; they will assess their own skills and knowledge as readers, writers, and students of grammar, and they will demonstrate through their portfolio work clear thinking and precise writing. The Portfolio also includes an oral component. This Portfolio will accompany them throughout their Taft English career. Texts studied in recent years include Oedipus Rex, Antigone, A Raisin In The Sun, Macbeth, Things Fall Apart, Great Expectations, Seagull Reader Stories and Poetry (anthologies). Intensive study of vocabulary and grammar facilitates the students’ development of varied diction and sound writing. Effective class participation—both in informal discussion and more formal debates and presentations—is an essential requirement of the course.


EN130: Honors LM English

Term: Year

Although similar to Lower Middle English in reading and writing objectives, the Honors Program offers greater challenges for a select group of particularly talented and dedicated Lower Middlers. With the standard course, EN130 shares the central goal of preparing students for future English courses by emphasizing the basics of clear writing, close reading, and critical thinking. However, the pace and level of sophistication of classroom participation, reading, and writing assignments are greater. The course is designed to provoke and inspire the most intellectually curious, disciplined, and creative English students. EN130 teaches writing as a deliberate process through which students learn to communicate clearly and purposefully as they find their own voices. Students increase their understanding of the structure and logic of expression through systematic study of grammar, and they learn vocabulary words in context from the literature, moving these words from passive to active vocabulary in discussions and writing. Class discussions challenge and stimulate students and encourage them to take risks. In addition, students prepare a number of oral presentations throughout the year; these may take the form of poetry recitations, dramatic monologues, or collaborative performance pieces. Readings throughout the year will include poetry, a Shakespeare play, short stories, and novels. Students are evaluated through a variety of assessments, including a portfolio of various writing pieces which they both select and reflect upon and which will accompany them into their Middle year. Admission to the course requires consent of the Department.

EN220: Mid English

Term: Year

During the Middle year of English, students spend the first semester engaged in a substantial and systematic writing workshop that focuses on discovery and enhancement of the writer's voice. Students learn to express themselves clearly, purposefully, and creatively both in class and on paper. Students read, discuss, and analyze various models--essays, editorials, and fiction by classic and contemporary writers--and examine the choices a writer makes, the writer's purpose, and the resulting effects on the audience. Students experiment with narrative, descriptive, and expository forms, and will create their own essays using the process of preparing drafts, peer editing, and revising their work. At the end of the first semester, students turn to literary analysis, applying the writing skills gleaned during the preceding months. Beginning in January with the study of Shakespeare’s sonnets and a play, they develop their critical vocabulary and enhance their understanding of the forms of literary criticism, both in discussion and in writing. Students also engage in debates, recitations, and performances, both formal and informal. In the spring, students read a substantial novel such as Jane Eyre, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, or The Inheritance of Loss, as well as shorter works as time permits. Writing during the spring culminates with a longer critical essay, which facilitates the transition to Upper Middle English. At the end of the year students construct a portfolio that demonstrates their growth as writers and thinkers, and includes as well a substantial self-reflection. As in the Lower Middle year, the development of vocabulary in context, the study of grammar as a tool for effective written communication, and the discipline of both individual and group work are major components of each student’s study.

EN230: Honors Mid English

Term: Year

Although similar to Middle English in reading and writing objectives, the Honors Program offers a challenge to a select and limited number of particularly able and dedicated Middlers. This course introduces students to classic literary works from all genres and instructs students in the composition of personal essays and literary criticism. Given that these more able students have successfully begun the development of their personal voice in writing, the course turns to the use of that voice in a variety of contexts. Consequently, it differs somewhat from the regular course in pace, level of sophistication, and reading selections. Admission to the course requires the consent of the Department.

EN320: UM English

Term:  Year

The Upper Mid English course explores American identity over two hundred years of the country's existence and through a variety of genres, including creative non-fiction, the novel, lyric poetry, satiric prose, and drama.  Students are expected to practice extensive close reading, engage regularly in seminar discussion, and write both analytical and personal essays.  Such writing takes place inside the classroom and out, allowing UMs to hone their critical thinking skills and multiply their forms of written expression.  The course seeks to uncover the varieties of the American experience as well as identify the formal elements of creative writing that produce powerful art.  Readings may include Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson, Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Nella Larson's Passing, and a collection of short stories, poetry, and essays in conjunction with these longer works.

EN401: Senior Literature and Composition

Term: Semester 1

This course is a workshop for students who need training in close reading, logical and critical thinking, and writing skills.  The readings are used to increase respect for detail and inference, to inspire ideas, and to serve as models for student writing.  The forms of composition range from personal narrative to exposition to analysis; students write almost daily, in or out of class, and the group edits much of their writing.  The objective of this workshop is to unify the students in a group effort, guided by the instructor, toward self-confidence and marked improvement in reading and writing skills.

Students must have the permission of the Department to take this course.

EN403: Literature of War

Term: Semester 1

The French writer Voltaire once wrote of his contemporary government, "It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."Such irony in the morality of war has been hotly debated from the beginning of human history, and yet war continues on in our world, as prevalent as flowers in spring.Often framed in politlcal rhetoric as a 'battle for peace,' war frequently promises the rewards of chivalry, but more frequently delivers death, suffering and psychic loss.This course will consider the literature and film of war, primarily focusing on its many contradictions and devastating effects.Texts will include The Things They Carried, All Quiet on the Western Front, Farewell to Arms, and Slaughterhouse-Five.

EN407: The Quest

Term: Semester 1

As every seeker has before, the student in this course asks: What is the good life? How can I find happiness? What duties do I owe my family, my friends, myself? How can the single man or woman integrate fully into a shared culture, retaining one’s individuality while contributing to the greater good? What obstacles will stand in the seeker’s way, and what aid will she find, on the path toward enlightenment? Should knowledge, glory, or revenge be pursued at any cost? Students may read some of the classic epics of literature as well as a variety of voices in works that focus on the theme of the quest. Texts may include Homer's Odyssey, Beowulf or Gilgamesh, Dante's Inferno, Voltaire's Candide, and Hesse's Demian. Through lively conversation, students will examine the literature of the quest and consider for themselves the worth of this physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual endeavor.

EN422: Literary Film Adaptation

Term: Semester 2

This course examines the relationship between writing and cinema by focusing on film adaptations of literary genres such as the novel, short story, nonfiction essay, and poem. Students will examine a variety of literature including short stories, essays, and news articles.  Students explore research methods and learn how to evaluate source material to determine which material invites adaptation. Further, they learn techniques and strategies to translate the essential elements of the source material’s story, theme, main characters, and tone into well-structured screenplays and films.

EN424: The Literature of Ernest Hemingway

Term: Semester 2

This course will offer an overview of the singular American writer, combining novels with biography, memoir with short stories.  Hemingway’s public persona—the myth he partially helped promote—will be considered in some detail, though his literary output matters most in our study.  Learn why this writer’s shadow looms so large over contemporary authors and why his work continues to be relevant for scholars, students, and the general reading public.  Expect to read two novels, many short stories (perhaps his most accomplished genre), as well as critical articles and excerpts from Hemingway’s letters.  You’ll have a chance to write imitations of his famously terse style, a number of short essays on individual stories, and will complete a long-form presentation stemming from a final research paper.

EN431: Media and Identity

Term: Semester 1

This course seeks to interrogate the social, cultural, political, and economic impact of media on contemporary American society as well as on the adolescent experience.  Our focus is divided into three units of study.  Our first unit, “Me in the Media,” considers the following questions:  Does the media reflect or produce reality?  How has it shaped the way in which I see myself?  What about how I see other people?  What have I learned about race and gender through the media? In “Relationships in the Media,” we will reflect on the behaviors related to friendship, love and romance that are normalized in the media through popular narratives.  The final unit, “Networking Alone,” will allow us to examine issues related to social media use and the veracity of news coverage.  Our readings will range from articles selected from popular non-fiction periodicals to Twitter threads and Instagram stories to The Circle by Dave Eggers to selections of critical theory by Baudrillard and Benjamin to an array of scenes from films and documentaries.  The course culminates in an extensive research project and presentation.

EN433: Screenwriting

Term: Semester 1

Students are introduced to structuring and formatting techniques used in most major motion pictures. Through critiques of films and screenplays from various genres, structure breakdowns, and reading the advice of successful screenwriters, students learn how to write a powerful movie and complete the course by finishing a short screenplay (10-20 pages).  Extensive script workshopping, as well as critical writing in response to course texts, is expected throughout the term.

EN435: Dante: Hell and Hope

Term: Semester 1

T.S. Eliot once claimed, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them.  There is no third.”  Much of our understanding of Christian Hell and Purgatory stems from Dante Aligheri’s Commedia.  His influence is vast, his poetry gorgeously crafted.  Students in this course will read the first two of Commedia’s three books, walking alongside the pilgrim on his descent through Hell and climbing the terraces of Mount Purgatory, burning away sins in refiner’s fire before reaching Heaven’s gate.  Expect to read two epics—Inferno and Purgatorio, a smattering of scholarly articles, and we’ll screen a movie of damnation and redemption.  There’s even an Inferno video game.  Students will write frequent, informal reaction pieces, two long papers, and will make multiple presentations to classmates.

EN445: African American Literature: 1900s to the Present

Term: Semester 1

This course is both an introduction to some of the great works of black literary expression and an examination of this category from the 1900s to the present.

Beginning with W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, we will examine the uneasy relationship between race and writing by asking: What role has writing by African Americans played in the long fight for political freedom and equality? How has that writing changed over time—stylistically or otherwise—to reflect the different political needs of its historical moment? How has that writing been shaped by different ways of thinking about race? How has race, in turn, been shaped or constructed by that writing? And how do representations of gender and sexuality participate in a literary construction of race? In an effort to critically map the trajectories of contemporary African American literature we will be interrogating not only the historical and political contexts of the works, but also the ways in which issues of gender, sexuality, and class specifically inform the works.

Authors may include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Ibram Kendi.

EN454: Literature of the Developing World*

Term: Semester 2

This class offers students the opportunity to sample an array of works by authors from developing nations.  In this way, students engage with literature as well as the social, philosophical, and economic themes which concern writers in these areas.  Assigned authors may include Jamaica Kincaid, Chinua Achebe, Nawal El Saadawi, Edwidge Danticat, JM Coetzee, and Isabel Allende among others.  Assessments include presentations, regular reading responses, critical essays, and final project.

EN468: Dystopian Literature

Term: Semester 2

This course asks students to train a critical eye on contemporary society. “Mother, do I trust the government?” What role do violence and torture play in the creation of political peace? How can the individual effect change in the face of Big Government, Big Corporations, Big Entertainment Media, or Big Culture? Is social control derived from force or allurement? Looking together at four novelized visions of unhealthy societies, we will search for answers to these questions. Finally, we’ll consider the political/intellectual role novelists play in a modern, liberal country. Students may read these works or these authors: Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, George Orwell, 1984, Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange, Vonnegut, Le Guin, Clarke, Bradbury, Asimov, Butler, Atwood, Zamyatin, Shakespeare.

EN472: Senior Literature and Composition

Term: Semester 2

This is a continuation of Sr. Lit and Comp (EN401) from the fall semester.

EN491: Gothic Literature

Term: Semester 1

Tales of the supernatural, ghosts, demons, and monsters, are universal and timeless. For many, they help to explain the unknown and provide a sense of comfort and control amidst a seemingly mysterious and terrifying physical and psychological existence. The Gothic Literature course will examine such endless fascination with the forbidden and frightening. Students will explore gothic archetypes, Freudian psychoanalysis, gothic feminism, gothic cinema, and applications of the gothic into other genres. Possible texts and artists include selections from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, short stories from Nathaniel Hawthorne, HP Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe, novels such as Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, along with films from Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton, and Guillermo Del Toro.

EN492: Tragedy

Term: Semester 2

Fundamental to the study of Western literature is an understanding of the idea of tragedy. This course will consider its origins with the Greeks in the writings of Aristotle, Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Plato; its evolution in the Elizabethan era as represented by Shakespeare; its present incarnation in the works of writers like Conrad, Miller, and Williams. Fundamentally, “Tragedy is the narration of self-inflicted punishment. It is ironic that, in an attempt to further his own interests, the protagonist should actually destroy them.” In studying the tragic hero we discover a kindred spirit; in his humanity we find our own.

EN494: Short Story

Term: Semester 2

Raymond Carver once observed that the art of the short story is “to endow certain things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring—with immense, even startling power.” In this course we will read a comprehensive and diverse collection of short fiction, paying attention both to the craft of the short story writer as well as to the insights and themes of the stories themselves. We will ask ourselves questions such as the following: What artistic decisions do the authors make in terms of plot, character, and dialogue, and how and why are they effective? What world views do the texts contain and how are they communicated? What moments of “startling power” occur in each story? Students will write critically about the stories they read and will write their own stories as well. At the end of the term, we will have read thirty stories, will have deepened our critical and creative literary skills, and will have challenged ourselves to explore the human condition.

EN501: Modern American Drama

Term: Semester 1

This course will explore Twentieth Century American drama. The sweeping economic, political, social, and cultural changes that occurred in America in the last century influenced authors such as Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee and Eugene O’Neill.  Other playwrights like Lillian Hellman and Thornton Wilder added their distinct voices to the American stage.  All dealt with different aspects of “the American Dream”.  This course will explore how modern American dramatists defined that dream.

EN502: Japanese Fiction and Film*

Term: Semester 2

Through the exploration of Bushido (Samurai Code), individualism, filial piety, and spiritualism, the Japanese Fiction and Film course, exposing students to a wide range of Japanese authors, artists, and filmmakers, will examine Japan’s classical era, samurai age, wartime and post world war II social change. Throughout the course, students will also focus on Japan’s cross culturalism through Western appropriation of Japanese stories/values and vice versa. Possible authors and filmmakers include Murasaki Shikibu, Ueda Akinara, John Allyn, Kenji Mizogushi, and Akira Kurosawa.

EN503: Race and Gender in Hollywood Film*

Term: Semester 1

As the course title would suggest, Race and Gender in Hollywood Film is a class that investigates the ways in which contemporary Hollywood cinema shapes our understanding of race and gender. We will explore and define key terms -- for example, race, racism, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual identity, masculinity, femininity -- and use these concepts to examine the explicit as well as implicit messages conveyed by recent, popular films. This course is both reading and writing intensive, with a goal of preparing students for the types of reading and writing they will be expected to do in college. Readings will be taken from a range of critical and theoretical sources, and in weekly writing assignments students will be expected to incorporate ideas from these secondary texts in analyzing films. Viewings will include documentaries as well as five or six feature films produced in the past five years. Ultimately, we will use readings and films to explore one essential question: How do Hollywood films construct the way we think, see, feel, and act with regards to race and gender?

EN506: Boarding School Literature

Term: Semester 2

From Old School to Testimony, writers have worked arduously to capture the unique and elite boarding school experience. The media and the public are obsessed with uncovering the perceived unbecoming and ugly underbelly of this elite world. Through studying novels, memoir excerpts, and films, we will identify and explore the archetypes associated with the boarding school narrative and how these archetypes have changed over time. We will explore the obsession with the prep school world and its coveted status. We will also examine the relationship between these schools and society, and more importantly their purpose. Do these schools provide intangible goods or an education beyond their mission statements? Who has access to these schools and why? Lastly, we will culminate the course by writing brief memoirs on our own experiences in boarding school.

EN520: Honors Comparative Literature*

Term: Year

This course will focus on the Middle Eastern, Asian, and European cultures of the Mediterranean region beginning with pre-Christian Greek, Asian and Arabian cultures and working up through the development and establishment of Christianity and Islam in the Mediterranean region. As its name suggests, this course is interdisciplinary in scope, studying the cultures of the Ancient and Medieval Mediterranean worlds through an exploration of the literature, religion, philosophy, art, and architecture produced within those cultures. Taught as an honors Harkness seminar, this course will entail a range of assessments, including oral presentations, analytical and creative writing projects, and collaborative performances – all of which will require students both to demonstrate an understanding of the texts and cultures in question and to apply ethical and philosophical concepts from those texts and cultures to their own lives. Cultures, topics, and texts covered will include some or all of the following: Ancient Greece (Hesiod’s Works & Days; Theogony; Sappho’s poetry); Athens in the 5th Century (Plato, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes); Mesopotamia (The Epic of Gilgamesh); Arabic (The Qur’an); Persian (One Thousand and One Nights); Islamic art; Roman civilization (Virgil, Aeneid; Lucretius, On the Nature of Things; Ovid, Metamorphoses; Plautus; Roman architecture); Early Christianity (St. Augustine, Confessions); Spain (The Song of the Cid; Don Quixote)

EN540: Honors Humanities*

Term: Year

This interdisciplinary course is a chronological introduction to some major figures and ideas of western civilization. Students explore how a seamless integration of philosophy, literature, history, the arts, and science comprises a cultural experience. As students learn about various cultures and periods, they will discuss the application of their understanding to their own lives in making responsible, informed decisions concerning philosophical, spiritual, and moral issues. Readings from the Old and New Testament, and such authors as Homer, Plato, Sophocles, Dante, Chaucer, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Galileo, Voltaire, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, Einstein, and Sartre reveal the thoughts and experiences that have shaped societies and individuals over the last 3500 years. Some recurring themes in the course are the nature and use of power; the relationships between men and women and between parents and children; the nature of spiritual experience and the divine; changing perceptions of the natural world and the position of human beings in the context of nature; and the causes and consequences of the development of science and technology. Discussions of art history illustrate the historical and social contexts of the readings. Various writing projects, period tests, oral presentations, and collaborative performances enable students to demonstrate their understanding of the moral and intellectual positions represented in the material and to exercise personal critical judgment regarding the value or validity of the ideas to which they have been exposed. And periodically students are asked to form and share their own opinions about the essential questions raised in the course.

EN591: Independent Tutorial in English

Term: Semester 1

Students interested in pursuing a topic in which they share a common interest with a member of a department can apply to do an Independent Tutorial (IT). Students must demonstrate the ability to work independently, creatively, and be in good academic standing. Students will meet twice a week formally with a teacher and must obtain the approval of the teacher, the Department Head, and finally the Dean of Academic Affairs. The deadline for an IT in the 1st semester is May 1 of the previous spring, and Nov 1 for a 2nd semester IT.

EN592: Independent Tutorial in English

Term: Semester 2

Students interested in pursuing a topic in which they share a common interest with a member of a department can apply to do an Independent Tutorial (IT). Students must demonstrate the ability to work independently, creatively, and be in good academic standing. Students will meet twice a week formally with a teacher and must obtain the approval of the teacher, the Department Head, and finally the Dean of Academic Affairs. The deadline for an IT in the 1st semester is May 1 of the previous spring, and Nov 1 for a 2nd semester IT.

EN820: AP UM English

Term: Semester 1

This course is for Upper Middlers who have demonstrated exceptional ability, motivation, and achievement in previous English courses. While the fundamental objectives of this course are similar to those in Upper Mid English, the course demands more engagement from students and sets higher standards. Focusing on American literature from the traditional canon, as well as contemporary works, students will study literature in all genres, students develop their skills in critical thinking, purposeful writing, and effective speaking. The curriculum features assessments that are designed to offer not only analytical experience, but also opportunities to develop both intellectual curiosity and a confident, disciplined approach to writing. Students will work both collaboratively and independently on activities related to these goals. In learning how to read nonfiction literature critically, how to write precisely and cogently, and how to think clearly and logically, students will also be prepared to take the Advanced Placement Examination in English Language and Composition in May. Following the administration of the A.P. exam, students will complete the course with a final project that asks them to synthesize their ideas about the literature they have read throughout the course, examining a theme of critical and personal importance. Admission to the course requires English department approval and a times application essay.

EN830: AP SR English Lit

Term: Semester 1

This English course is divided into two distinct, but integrated, semesters, and all students should plan to take the Advanced Placement Examination in English Literature and Composition. Students should elect this course on the basis of their strong commitment to English and their ability to excel in understanding and writing about literature. The curriculum of the course is sophisticated and demanding; more is expected of an AP student than of the typical Senior. The course includes British and other non-American literature. Consistent with the composition of the A.P. Examination, the course always studies poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. The course requires close analytical reading and an ability to communicate an understanding of the literature with organization, clarity, and supporting textual detail. Students write both critical and personal essays and are expected to participate extensively in class discussion. Although the teachers and content of the course vary, the course always includes specific preparation for the A.P. Examination in May. Students may elect to take AP Literature as well as another Senior elective course. Admission to the course requires English department approval and a timed application essay.