English

English I: First-Year Foundations Course
Instructor: Flor Mota

Our first-year English course is a foundational and transitional time. We will focus on Socrates’ famous words: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Or, as the wisest of Jedi masters, Yoda, once said: “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” Our quest will involve self-exploration and exploration of wider worlds — real and imagined — through literature and film. 

Huck in The Ballad of Huck & Miguel, Kambili in Purple Hibiscus, Esperanza in The House on Mango Street, August in Another Brooklyn, Marjane in Persepolis all examine their lives and their worlds through harrowing challenges and attain their independence, though not without costs. Moonee in The Florida Project learns to be resilient in the face of poverty. In Macbeth, the titular character falls under the spell of dark forces that ultimately lead him down the deepest recesses of his own hubris.

This school year, we’ll examine ourselves, our motivations, our desires, our fears through the characters we will read about and study. For if ever there was a time of self-exploration, in the age of the selfie, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram — the time is now. 

The Ballad of Huck & Miguel, Tim DeRoche (summer reading assignment novel)
Purple Hibiscus,
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Things Fall Apart,
Chinua Achebe (only for pre-AP students)
The House on Mango Street,
Sandra Cisneros
Another Brooklyn,
Jacqueline Woodson
The Complete Persepolis,
Marjane Satrapi
Macbeth,
William Shakespeare, Oxford School Shakespeare Series

English II: In the Land of Gods and Monsters
Instructor: Rudy Ramirez

“The only way you’ll find happiness is to accept that the way things are is the way things are.”

“The way things are stinks!”

—the Cow and Ferdinand the Duck, Babe (1995)

The conflict at the heart of Babe, filmed in the ancient times known as the 1990s, stretches all the way back to the even more ancient times of the Greeks, when a bunch of Athenians decided that, instead of just reciting the stories of their gods and heroes, they would act out the characters and call it theatre. In the tragedies that have survived to this day, the Greeks return again and again to the social order, “the way things are,” what the Romans would later call the status quo. To disrupt the social order is to invite disaster, to call down the wrath of the gods, but as Sophocles explores in his play Antigone, it isn’t always easy to determine who has violated the social order and who is working to defend it. Writers throughout the years have adapted Antigone and other Greek tragedies to question not only when we should work to change the status quo, but whether it can be changed at all.

Certainly, the status quo seems impossible to change in Never Let Me Go, where the children of Hailsham face a mysterious fate mandated by the government, but it’s often just as hard to change the status quo inside your head. The family at the heart of Everything I Never Told You lives in times of great change for women and people of color, but old ideas are hard to shake, and those ideas can lead to tragedy as terrible as any brought on by the gods.

Monsters, of course, disrupt the status quo by their very existence, drawing inspiration from our fears and anxieties to reflect the changing world. William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, written as Britain was establishing its first American colonies, features supernatural creatures inspired by stories of indigenous Americans and African slaves. Centuries later, H.P. Lovecraft’s own fears of racial others in Brooklyn spawned the monsters of his horror stories even as African Americans were experiencing a cultural renaissance a few miles away in Harlem. Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom brings these two moments in history together to confront the racism that still affects African Americans today, while Philip Osment plucks a line from The Tempest as the title of his play about the racism and homophobia of 1980s Britain, This Island’s Mine. Both of these works look to the past and to the present to ask: who are the real monsters?

It isn’t only monsters that disrupt the social order: musicians and poets from Woody Guthrie to Janelle Monae have spoken truth to power with protest songs, and comedians since the time of the Greeks have used satire to laugh their way to a new world. The French playwright Moliere lampooned 17th Century religious hypocrisy in his scandalous comedy, Tartuffe, but change comes slow, and lessons need repeating, so the film Saved! takes on the same subject in the 21st Century.

Throughout English II, we will look to the past and the present to help us to a better future, to think about how all these creators looked the problems of their world in the face and reached for something different. We will read works from the Western Canon and the writers that have responded to them. We will work critically and creatively, we will write essays and autobiographical stories, stage a scene or two from the plays (I am a theatre teacher, y’all) and we will even do some grammar lessons along the way (sorry). We will not, sadly, watch Babe, but we will approach the following texts (which you will need to acquire by the beginning of the respective semesters) with all the bravery of a duck trying to avoid being Christmas dinner. Let’s do this!

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Course Reader, provided in class
Antigone, Sophocles, Translated by Anne Carson
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle
The Tempest, William Shakespeare, Folger Library Edition
Tartuffe, Moliere, Translated by Richard Wilbur
This Island’s Mine, Philip Osment

English III: Intro to Rhetoric and Argumentation
Instructor: Flor Mota

English III is a course in argumentation that will enhance your understanding of academic writing and give you practice in producing it. Lectures and discussion relate to the writing process, methods of development, argumentation, research, revision, and editing. Readings will be discussed as a class. Some class periods are devoted to writing workshops or reading days. In general, the more reading and writing of any kind you do in and out of class, the faster your learning curve straightens out.

In English III, you will learn how to: 

➢ identify, evaluate, construct, and organize effective arguments; 

➢ read critically; 

➢ conduct research and document sources; 

➢ produce a clean, efficient style and adapt it to various rhetorical situations; 

➢ edit and proofread your own and others’ prose. 

I will help you to develop your writing as…

  • A skill to be honed 
  • A tool for critical thinking 
  • A tool for synthesis and analysis
  • A critical communication tool
  • An opportunity to join a disciplinary community
  • Preparation for college, advanced study, and career
  • A key component of your academic growth and success

Classes combine reading, discussion, lecture, writing, and revising. You can expect to work independently as well as with partners or in small groups. Our texts include written works as well as video clips and other forms of media. You will complete an initial/clean draft and a final draft for each assigned essay. 

Everyone Knows You Go Home, Natalia Sylvester 
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
King Lear, William Shakespeare (Oxford School Shakespeare Series)
Course Reader 
At least one self-selected novel or work of non-fiction of your choice per semester

AP English III: Intro to Rhetoric and Argumentation
Instructor: Jack Kaulfus

English III AP explores modes of argument through both fiction and nonfiction. Students will read and carefully analyze a broad and challenging range of literary selections, deepening their awareness of rhetoric and syntax. Through close reading and frequent writing (both formal and informal), students will develop ability to work with language and text with a greater awareness of purpose and strategy. Equally important – while learning to analyze their own ideas, students will also be figuring out how their own individual writing processes work.

The most important part of this class involves developing a new framework of argument that incorporates multiple points of view. In class, we rely on discussion of issues that affect the way we choose to live, make decisions for our futures, and treat other people.

Student projects and homework assignments are designed to prepare them for the AP test in May. They will practice AP-specific writing and reading comprehension skills, learn AP-specific vocabulary, and practice AP-style multiple choice questions.

AP English III units include:

  • Everyone Knows You Go Home: Austin author Natalia Sylvester’s evocative, lyrical novel about family, culture, relationships, and the importance of home
  • American Transcendentalism: A literary movement during a most contentious social time in America
  • Great Philosophical Questions: What is morality? Do I have free will? Is beauty objective?
  • The 57 Bus: Dashka Slater’s exhaustively researched book about two teenagers brought together by a chance meeting and the cultural systems that impacted their lives
  • Research and Current Events: Students choose from a variety of topics to research – Human rights, Education, Racial Justice, Gender Justice, Socioeconomics

English IV: Fictional Literary Works
InstructorJack Kaulfus

Students will read and carefully analyze a broad and challenging range of literary selections, including poems, music lyrics, novels, plays, creative nonfiction, short stories, and experimental fictional media.

Selected American literature and World literature representative of various cultures, philosophies, and time periods will be read and examined for comparative reasons.  Students will learn, through close reading, to analyze literary devices, diction, tone, narrative structure, theme, point of view, and poetic devices.  They will then practice communicating their ideas through various modes of academic and creative writing.

The most important part of this class involves the recognition of symbol and structure in literature as a direct reflection of the lives we live. Once those patterns become recognizable to us, the world begins to feel more connected and accessible.

English IV units include:

  • Passing and American Literary Movements: Harlem Renaissance and Modernism
  • The Buddha in the Attic: Julie Otsuka’s multi-award winning book about the lives of Japanese Picture Brides and the American Dream
  • Cultural Mythology: Popular mythmaking and sacred texts
  • There There: Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange’s Pen/Hemingway Award-winning masterpiece about family, belonging, resilience, and identity
  • Jane Eyre: This English classic is the focus of a student inquiry-driven annotated bibliography and creative endeavor
  • The Metamorphosis: Existentialism, Free Will and finding purpose in human life

AP English IV: Fictional Literary Works
Instructor: Jack Kaulfus

AP English IV’s focus is on fictional literary works. Students will read and carefully analyze a broad and challenging range of literary selections, including poems, music lyrics, novels, plays, creative nonfiction, short stories, and experimental fictional media.

Selected American literature and World literature representative of various cultures, philosophies, and time periods will be read and examined for comparative reasons.  Students will learn, through close reading, to analyze literary devices, diction, tone, narrative structure, theme, point of view, and poetic devices.  They will then practice communicating their ideas through various modes of academic and creative writing.

The most important part of this class involves the recognition of symbol and structure in literature as a direct reflection of the lives we live. Once those patterns become recognizable to us, the world begins to feel more connected and accessible.

Student projects and homework assignments are designed to prepare them for the AP test in May. They will practice AP-specific writing and reading comprehension skills, learn AP-specific vocabulary, and practice AP-style multiple choice questions.

AP English IV units include:

  • Passing and the American Dream: Harlem Renaissance, Modernism, and the rise of voiceless
  • Station Eleven and King LearClassic Shakespearean tragedy and its cousin: an updated, post-apocalyptic bildungsroman
  • Cultural Mythology: Popular mythmaking and sacred texts
  • There There: Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange’s Pen/Hemingway Award-winning masterpiece about family, belonging, resilience, and identity
  • Jane Eyre: This English classic is the focus of a student inquiry-driven annotated bibliography and creative endeavor