Philosophy and Overview
The English Department is dedicated to educating boys to see the world around them clearly, critically, and sensitively. Through the study of literature, we strive to nurture young men to be thoughtful and generous forces in their communities and to be able to read, write, and speak with precision and power. As students examine literature both traditionally Western and more culturally diverse, they encounter attitudes and lives that expose them to new perspectives. As they write analytical papers, personal essays, and creative pieces, they build and explore their rhetorical and artistic skills. As they speak in small discussion groups and in formal presentation, they discover their own voices and learn to listen to each other.
The English Department program is structured in such a way that an increasingly sharpened critical awareness—in reading skills, in writing, and in oration—builds incrementally. As students learn to recognize linguistic structures and possibilities, they also come to understand the basic elements intrinsic to literature of all genres. We know that close observation of textual detail in all forms of literature enriches the rhetorical quality of thinking, writing, and speaking. In our efforts to shape and sharpen our students’ verbal skills, to expand their knowledge of literature, and to add to their general intellectual growth, we provide memorable and useful experiences. Such is our ambition: that our efforts and associations will instill habits and skills of lifelong value.
This course seeks to ground students in the essential elements of effective reading, writing, and speaking. Two major objectives of the course are to teach students to read for meaning as well as
assignments vary from formal analytical and personal essays to journal entries and creative exercises. Most assignments emphasize revision and require multiple drafts. During the year students study and discuss works from all genres and examine how plot, character, theme, and language inform each other. Selections from the Bible and Homer’s The Odyssey familiarize students with the background of the Western tradition, while providing a common base of reference for the future study of literature at Haverford. Other works in the recent past have included: Othello, A Raisin in the Sun, Lord of the Flies, and A Separate Peace, as well as selections of short stories and poems. English I also includes a formal study of grammar and vocabulary. The texts Warriner’s High School Handbook and Wordly Wise are part of the Fourth Form English curriculum as well.
This course exposes students to many genres of world literature and introduces them to the
critical idiom with which to think about and discuss literature in effective expository analysis. It places special emphasis on the close reading of the text and urges students to explore how figurative language, allusion, connotation, imagery, etc. enhance meaning. The basic text for such study is Perrine's Literature, in which students read authors such as García Márquez, Glaspell, Updike, Balzac, Kafka, Sophocles, and Donne. That text has been supplemented in recent years by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and Fugard’s “Master Harold”…and the boys. Expository essays help students to develop analytical and critical skills; personal essay assignments encourage Fourth Form writers to develop their own voice or rhetorical style. In order to further their ability to communicate effectively and gracefully, students also continue the study of grammar and vocabulary begun in Third Form, turning their attention to usage and the mechanics of writing. They continue to use the texts, Warriner’s High School Handbook and Wordly Wise 3000.
Building upon the grammatical foundation and introduction to literary genres established in Fourth Form, this course is a selective survey of important works by American authors. The course includes selections of poetry, fiction, and essays from authors such as Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Whitman, Douglass, Dickinson, Hemingway, Morrison, Twain, Frost, Fitzgerald, Hurston, Hughes, Kesey, and Wilbur. Core texts include Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and Death of a Salesman. This study of American literature serves as the basis for regularly assigned critical papers and personal essays. Teachers assign a variety of topics, and as the year progresses, students are given greater freedom of choice in their topics and their approaches. The department expects papers to be thorough, well organized, clearly worded, insightful, well documented, and substantially free of spelling,
grammatical, and mechanical errors.
For the fourth required year of English, the course is divided into two distinct terms. The fall term is devoted to honing the Sixth Formers’ skills in close reading and careful writing. Students write frequent analytical essays on demanding literary texts. They also spend considerable time during the fall writing personal essays to help them prepare for college admissions applications. Texts assigned in the recent past include Hamlet, selections from The Canterbury Tales and from Paradise Lost, and Romantic poetry.
In the spring, English IV becomes a seminar style topic-centered class based on the college model, in which students will assume more responsibility for class discussion and presentation. Students will be given the opportunity to indicate preference of seminars, but sections will be formed in the fall at the discretion of the department and depend upon staffing and class size limits.
Current offerings include:
Paying Attention ... to ourselves, to the world around us, to the decisions which determine who we are. This course will use decision making as a lens to explore the varied messages our world sends us. Through close analysis of advertisements, film, web environments, and other visual art forms, students will sharpen their critical thinking skills. A series of collaborative and independent video projects will culminate in documentaries on student-generated topics.
Page and Stage
After close readings of contemporary and classic plays, students will attend live performances on Philadelphia stages. We will evaluate the effectiveness of the productions using the critical language of the arts journalist. Whenever possible, we will discuss the creative process with writers, directors, designers, and actors.
British Empire and Bond ... James Bond
Ian Fleming’s Bond can be seen as a sign of the end of the British Empire. This course offers an introduction to contemporary British culture in an era of profound political and economic change and social upheaval. James Bond serves as a marker of huge shifts in
English society at the end of the Cold War. In order to give students a rich sense of context and history, the course will integrate multimedia elements drawn from film, art and popular music, with rigorous textual analysis of contemporary British literature.
Storytelling and Identity
The focus of this course is the presence of narrative in our lives: our frozen and shifting arrangement of experience. We will arrange these experiences in portfolios, which will include work with fiction, flash fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. Through our own voices and the voices of contemporary writers and critics, we will examine what stories we find worth telling and how we can craft these stories with purpose.
The Rhetoric of Force
Beginning with The Iliad’s conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles for supremacy among the Achaeans, Greeks regularly paired the effective use of rhetoric with the use of physical force. By reading and analyzing such authors as Sophocles, Plato and Aristophanes, we will examine the role of rhetoric in controlling and shaping violence within a democratic society.
This English IV fall seminar delves more deeply into the same challenging early British
texts as the standard Sixth Form English course. It may include one or more other British literary works, such as Beowulf
, Dr. Faustus
, and Romantic poetry. Students will write frequent papers of the length typically required in an introductory college course. Sixth Formers may enroll in this first semester course if they meet the following prerequisites: A- average in English III, the recommendation of their English III teacher, and, after consideration of a writing sample, the consent of the department. In the second semester, the department offers the variety of seminars as described above in English IV.