English

English 9 encourages students to think logically, analytically, critically, and independently. Novels, short stories, poems, and plays are used to promote a love of reading and encourage an awareness of theme, characterization, conflict, setting, point of view, style, tone, and literary devices. Students expand their vocabularies while improving their reading and writing skills. Writing exercises focus on basic sentence structure, punctuation usage, paragraph structure, and logical essay format. In addition to formal essays, students discover their own voices through creative writing. Students are also introduced to the basic principles of literary research and documentation. Texts may include The Odyssey, Macbeth, A Raisin in the Sun, Lord of the Flies, Oedipus Rex, and two modern novels.

English 10 focuses on the development of reasoning skills and writing techniques. Class discussion and writing assignments emphasize critical thinking, with personal and analytical essays evolving from the assigned essays, novels, poetry, and short stories. Reading in English 10 focuses on world literature, especially the literature of Africa, India, the Middle East, China, and Japan and is taught in conjunction with the 10th grade World History II course to broaden the students’ understanding and appreciation of different cultures. Through reading and discussing non-Western texts, we emphasize the impact of historical events on the development of individuals, communities, and nations.

English 11/12 (Juniors and Seniors must choose one course, Fall Semester)

African American Literature In this course, we will read literature by African American authors from slavery to contemporary writing, as well as examine the idea and construction of race and the reality of racism. The class explores the ways in which authors have approached race, as well as the ways in which authors have challenged the idea of race itself, refusing to be categorized as other. We will read works in a variety of genres: novel, autobiography, poetry, and essay. In addition to discussing and writing about the literature, we will learn about the historical and cultural context for these works of art. We will explore how African American literature has developed, how these writers have influenced our own ideas and beliefs, as well as how they speak to our lives today. Texts may include: A Mercy by Toni Morrison, Jubilee by Margaret Walker, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" by Frederick Douglass, "On Lynching" by Ida B. Wells-Barnett, "The Souls of Black Folk" by W.E.B DuBois, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" by Langston Hughes, excerpt from Cane by Jean Toomer, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Native Son or Black Boy by Richard Wright, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, and Citizen by Claudia Rankine.

American Literature I (American Literature to 1900) will trace American writing from the seventeenth century to the 1850s. The class will begin with a study of colonial texts, and focus on the art of the nonfiction narrative. We will compare the experience of the European American with that of the African American and the Native American. The second half of the course will emphasizing major works of the American renaissance by Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Stowe, and Whitman. The student will analyze and critique non-fiction, poetry, essays, and fiction. The student will develop and strengthen communication skills, both oral and written. The student will formulate structured and well-supported arguments about the literature and its connection on American culture and philosophy. Texts may include: Introduction to Puritan writing, Excerpts from A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, short story selections by Washington Irving, poetry selections by Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson, The Scarlet Letter, selected essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walden, Leaves of Grass, and Huckleberry Finn.

British Literature I (British Literature to 1800) students read representative British works ranging from the Anglo-Saxon period through 1800 and varying in genre from poetry to essays (general and personal), short stories, and novels. The students continue to develop analytical and critical skills (in both prepared and spontaneous writing), while they also refine their individual styles by writing personal essays and journals. An important emphasis of the course is the development of students' abilities to read and interpret poetry in all its forms. In addition, students often address recurring themes of the course through their own creative writing, in original short stories and poetry, as well as occasionally in the forms of the works studied (such as the Anglo-Saxon poem, the heroic couplet, the ballad, and the sonnet). The study of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax is an important component of the class. Texts may include: Beowulf, Gawain and the Green Knight, Grendel, The Canterbury Tales, The Norton Anthology of Poetry, poetry selections by Thomas Wyatt, Christopher Marlowe, Walter Raleigh, and William Shakespeare, and The Taming of the Shrew.

Contemporary British Literature students will read representative, modern British works varying in genre and voice, expressed through poetry, short stories, and novels. The students will develop analytical and critical skills (in both prepared and spontaneous writing), while they also refine their individual styles by writing personal essays and journals. Texts will be used from the last hundred years and focus on expanding students’ understanding of this multicultural metropolis. The study of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax is an important component of the class. Texts may include: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Children Act by Ian McEwan, Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith, Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis, and Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.

Short Fiction In this course, we will pursue short fiction from a wide variety of cultures and time periods. We will investigate and draw conclusions about the defining elements of the genre, highlighting the unique challenges of developing character, setting, conflict, plot and theme within the confines of shorter narrative. Students will apply this reading in critical writing, class discussions, and creative explorations.

Writing Workshop: Creative Nonfiction provides students with the tools and guidance needed to critically analyze the writing of contemporary non-fiction writers, as well as instruction and feedback in replicating the form. Texts are selected with the intent of providing a diverse collection of voices. Thematically, this course will focus upon family dynamics and the complexity familial relationships. Texts may include: In Fact: The Best of Creative Non-Fiction, The Truth About Butterflies by Nancy Stephan, The Color of Water by James McBride, and Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates.

English 11/12 (Juniors and Seniors must choose one course, Spring Semester)

American Literature II (from 1900) focuses on learning to read closely and perceptively and write clearly, effectively, and convincingly. Every day we will discuss and analyze literature in class, using 20th century American novels, stories, and poems as our texts. We will have regular in-class writing assignments as well as personal and analytical papers written out of class. Personal essays will be at least one typed page in length and center around an idea seen in the literature we are reading. Analytical writing (paragraphs and essays) will generally center around a specific aspect of the text – character, style, or theme. Vocabulary study will grow out of the texts we read. Students will keep a notebook of their essays and paragraphs, so that they can view comments over a series of papers. Texts may include: The Awakening by Kate Chopin, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, Light in August by William Faulkner, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Ancient and Medieval Literature and Philosophy samples some of the landmark literary and philosophical texts that define the still-evolving cultures of East and West in a sweep of several millennia of history and a fairly wide swath of geography, from the ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia/Babylonia, India, China, and Greece to the almost-modern medieval worlds of the Middle East, Europe, and Japan. Readings represent many genres: poetic cycle, epic, drama, biography and autobiography, lyric, as well as religious and philosophical writings. Study and discussion will mostly address the texts, but also the historical periods that inspired them. By comparing and contrasting readings from different cultural backgrounds, we will explore both the values and questions that are universal and enduring, as well as the beliefs that distinguish the intellectual and spiritual worlds the readings project. Texts may include: Inanna, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Ramayana, Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching, The Writings of Chuang-Tzu, The Bacchae, Sappho’s poetry, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, Dante's Inferno, and Pillow Book.

British Literature II (from 1800) Beginning with reading Ian McEwan's novel Atonement, students in this class will discuss themes which can be seen in 17th-20th century English novels. We will discuss honor (personal and societal honor), power (how it is gained or lost, and what the price of power involves), social norms (what is considered acceptable and unacceptable in English society), religion (the place of religion in British society and within individuals), and nature (the relationship of human beings to the natural world), among other ideas. Texts may include: As You like It, Frankenstein, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Shakespeare Pre-1600 In this course, we will trace specific themes throughout the early period of Shakespeare’s works. We will practice formalistic criticism, and we will analyze the plays using critical sources. This course will explore the different screen and stage adaptations of the plays, and we will perform our own adaptation of a chosen play. The student will analyze and critique Shakespeare’s plays. The student will communicate complex and well-informed thoughts both orally and written. The student will use critical essays to augment their own analysis and develop a critical eye for Shakespeare adaptations. The student will perform a Shakespearean play, exhibiting his or her understanding of the subtle nuances of rhetoric. Texts may include: The Taming of the Shrew, Henry VI, Part I-III, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Titus and Andronicus, Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, King John, The Merchant of Venice, King John, Henry the IV Part I-II, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, As You Like It, and Julius Caesar.

Women Writers: Feminism and Society teaches feminist concerns and ideals through the lens of known feminist authors. The chosen authors present the complexity, as well as the social heredity, of gender conflict. Additionally, these authors propose alternate gender paradigms through their imagined worlds, while exploring and exposing existing social constructs. Students will be expected to—in both essay and verbal debate forums—investigate, critique, and analyze each of these literary perspectives. Additionally, students will explore—through personal essay and creative writing assignments—the influence and impact of gender difference and conflict in their own lives. texts may include: The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Four Ways to Forgiveness by Ursula LeGuin, Dawn by Octavia Butler, Paradise by Toni Morrison, Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Writing Workshop: Investigation in Bildungsroman Bildungsroman, a German word meaning “a novel of formation,” is one of the most often used genres in literature. This course will focus on the development and creation of an individual when faced with the situations and questions that define humanity. Our readings will speak with a variety of diverse voices to show the differences and similarities in all of us. Students will closely investigate the styles of specific authors and the experiences of their characters. Additionally, students will use different forms of writing, from poetry and journals to short story and essays, to express their own formation. Texts may include: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Cider House Rules by John Irving, and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.


Some of the many benefits of our relationship with the University of the South, are the opportunities to enjoy cultural events on the university campus and to welcome speakers from the university to our campus.

Each year The Sewanee Review, America's oldest continuous literary magazine, awards the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry to a writer who has had a substantial and distinguished career. And, almost every year, the Aiken Taylor Award winner has joined us in Chapel to read from his or her works.

Over the years, we have welcomed:

  • 2016 — Christian Wiman
  • 2015 — Marie Ponsot
  • 2014 — Dana Gioia
  • 2013 — William Logan and Debora Greger (2012)
  • 2011 — Billy Collins
  • 2009 — Donald Hall
  • 2008 — John Haines
  • 2007 — Anne Stevenson
  • 2006 — Brendan Galvin
  • 2005 — B.H. Fairchild
  • 2004 — Henry Taylor
  • 2003 — Daniel Hoffman
  • 2002 — Grace Schulman
  • 2001 — Frederick Morgan
  • 2000 — George Garrett reads Eleanor Ross Taylor
  • 1999 — George Garrett
  • 1998 — X. J. Kennedy
  • 1997 — Fred Chappell
  • 1995 — Maxine Kumin
  • 1994 — Wendell Berry
  • 1992 — Gwendolyn Brooks
  • 1991 — John Frederick Nims
  • 1990 — W. S. Merwin
  • 1989 — Anthony Hecht
  • 1988 — Richard Wilbur
  • 1987 — Howard Nemerov

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