Nora H. Landon, Department Chair
The English Department nurtures and celebrates verbal and written expression. Its mission is to help students write clearly and powerfully, read perceptively and critically, speak articulately and listen actively. The department offers students opportunities to write in a variety of modes and for a variety of audiences, and it engages students with a broad range of texts—poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary. Penn Charter students establish a solid foundation of language use through close reading and focused analysis. Finally, students develop strategies to formulate persuasive arguments, to gather and synthesize information, and to create ideas with an eye towards clarity of expression and innovative thought.
All students are required to take a full year of English each year. The requirements are to be met in the following manner:
- Two semester units (E100 or E110) are required in 9th grade.
- Two semester units (E300) are required in 10th grade.
- Two semester units (E500, E510 or E520) are required in 11th grade.
- One semester unit (E701 or E701A) is required in Semester 1 of 12th grade.
- One semester unit is required in Semester 2 of 12th grade. Seniors have their choice of electives.
|E100 English IX|
|E110 English IX Literature and Composition|
|E300 English X|
|E500 English XI|
|E510 AP English Literature and Composition|
|E520 American Studies, English|
This is a full-year course for all 9th graders. The course is concerned with questions surrounding power and how individuals assert themselves in the world. Furthermore, the course stresses the basics of rhetoric, analyzing a variety of texts and crafting a range of written arguments. The fall semester consists of an intensive focus on how to read, annotate, and process different texts, and how to recognize a range of literary elements. Throughout the year, students learn the fundamentals of composition and argumentation and become accustomed to the writing demands of Upper School. In teaching writing, the department stresses the writing process—from brainstorming, collecting evidence, crafting claims, supplying analysis, drafting, revising, to editing. The course also includes systematic vocabulary and grammar study. Possible texts include nonfiction; short stories; a graphic novel such as Maus; traditional novels like 1984; and drama such as Julius Caesar. (9th)
ENGLISH IX: LITERATURE AND COMPOSITION
(2 UNITS) ALL YEAR
This is a full-year course for 9th graders. The course is concerned with questions surrounding power and human agency and requires students to understand the basics of rhetoric, analyzing text and creating written arguments. The fall semester consists of an intensive focus on how to read a variety of texts and how to recognize a range of literary elements. Throughout the year, students learn the fundamentals of composition and become accustomed to the writing demands of Upper School. In teaching writing, the department stresses the writing process—from brainstorming, collecting evidence, crafting claims, supplying analysis, drafting, revising, to editing. The course also includes vocabulary and grammar study. Possible texts include print advertisements; short stories; a graphic novel such as Maus; more traditional novels like 1984; and drama such as A Soldier’s Story and Julius Caesar. Students in this class receive explicit instruction in reading comprehension, textual annotation, note-taking and study skills. They also receive intensive writing instruction to ensure that they are well prepared for the writing expectations of tenth grade English teachers. By the end of this course, students will have a strong foundation in the reading and writing skills, work habits, and growth mindset requisite for success in Upper School English classes. (9th grade)
This is a full-year course for 10th graders with a focus on the experience of alienation. Studying poetry, nonfiction, novels and drama, students refine their ability to read closely, accurately and analytically. The course also integrates reading skills with the study of writing; hence, students work towards developing their ideas in a variety of written modes and with increasing complexity. Special focus is allocated to closely studying language and how language creates meaning. Additionally, the course includes vocabulary and grammar study. Possible texts include The Awakening, Interpreter of Maladies, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Merchant of Venice. (10th grade)
This full-year 11th grade course focuses on the literature of the United States, both classic and contemporary. Students read and discuss material while contemplating the question, “What does literature say about who we are as Americans?” To this end, teachers select texts that promote inquiry about community, power, privilege, ownership, diversity and identity. Perennial favorites include The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man, and poetry by Walt Whitman. In addition to reading extensively, students refine syntax and usage as they acquire a more sophisticated understanding of written expression and style. Finally, students hone their analytical writing skills by constructing complex arguments. At the end of the course, students produce a capstone project, which has traditionally consisted of an analytical paper, a reflection paper and a creative component. (11th grade)
Intended for those who love to read and write, this course delves deeply into the texts and issues of the English XI curriculum. This course will focus on American literature, with classroom activities and assessments that cultivate students’ skills in literary analysis and to foster writing at the most sophisticated level. Interested students should have excellent reading comprehension skills and be prepared to lead discussions about literature. Since the course is writing intensive, students should be able to formulate and defend complex arguments in writing; the course will include regular short papers (1-2 pages in length), long analytical papers (5+ pages), and essays that incorporate literary criticism or theory (3-5 pages). Students are positioned to and required to take the AP English Literature and Composition Exam at the end of the course. AP students read additional works of fiction, work at a faster pace, receive less support in the development of their work, are self-motivated, and engage ideas in the text at a deeper level. The reading and writing load is markedly heavier than in English XI. Prerequisites: honors grades in English X, teacher recommendation, writing sample, departmental approval. (11th grade)
American Studies is an interdisciplinary course that seeks to explore American culture and identity through the intersection of history and literature and satisfies the graduation requirements of United States History and English XI. Collaboratively, students and teachers build and design curriculum. This course encourages student inquiry and the development of multiple strategies for responding to their own and others' queries. It challenges students to listen carefully to each other, build on each other's ideas and experiences, and create new meaning and relationships with each other and with the material. Collaborative discussions and projects with Advanced Placement English, other departments and organizations beyond Penn Charter are also objectives. The culminating experiences include the Junior Capstone project and the term paper. This course must be selected with SS520 American Studies, Social Studies. (11th grade)
(1 UNIT) SEMESTER 1
This one-semester course is designed to develop students’ critical thinking abilities through careful and close reading of select texts, thoughtful discussions and challenging writing. Central to developing these skills is a thorough exploration of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, in conjunction with examination of other challenging texts. In addition to scrutinizing language, characters and themes of complex works, students will be challenged to think broadly about literary analysis and to consider a variety of perspectives and frameworks from which to interpret Hamlet, in particular. While the course will include a variety of assignments, the major analytical paper for the course will require students to integrate perspectives from scholarly articles into their own interpretations of Hamlet. This essay will serve as the culminating piece, in many ways, of the Penn Charter writing curriculum. (12th grade)
As with the English XII course, the Advanced English XII class provides students with an in-depth examination of Hamlet and the challenge of formulating their own critiques of the play while utilizing and potentially disputing the work of published literary critics. Advanced students read additional works of fiction, work at a faster pace, receive less support in the development of their work, and engage ideas in the text at a deeper level. The course is writing intensive, and students are expected to develop their own literary criticism—typical of what they will be asked to do at the college level—with relative ease and independence. Finally, the course will include a culminating assessment of a greater length and complexity and than that required in English XII. The reading and writing load is markedly heavier than in English XII. Prerequisites: honors grades in English XI, teacher recommendation, writing sample, departmental approval. (12th grade)
12th GRADE ELECTIVES
The English electives are arranged around themes and texts that are both relevant to seniors at this stage in their Upper School experience and push them to think about the next stage in their lives. In particular, teachers design classes to grapple with the essential question, “What does it mean to be a human being in a changing world?” Quaker testimonies also serve as significant touchstones in the electives.
Ever. Seriously, ever. Trust me; these stories will change your life. This course will examine what makes short fiction effective. How does a short story differ from a novel? What are the challenges and the advantages of the form? What role does style play? We will begin our study with the Russians, Tolstoy and Chekov, and then read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Joyce. We will next focus on the second half of the 20th century with authors including Salinger, Cheever, Updike and Borges. We will also spend significant time examining the current state of the short story with contemporary authors Lahiri, Munro, Adichie and Saunders, among others. Throughout our study, we will write both original short stories as well as analytical papers of varying lengths. (12th grade)
In a post-9/11 world, America is inextricably enmeshed in ideological, military and cultural conflict with countries within the broad horizons of the Islamic world. In this course, we will explore the cultural dissonance and political tensions between East and West through the lens of contemporary literature. Readings will include poetry and short stories from the anthology Tablet and Pen, along with the following novels: Seasons of Migration to the North (Sudan), Second Person Singular (Palestine) and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Pakistan).
What does the Caribbean “mean”? What is our relationship to the Caribbean as American citizens and scholars? In this course, students will examine central aspects of Caribbean literature and culture, focusing on the work of several key writers in the region. We will explore the concerns and motifs of Caribbean (or "West Indian") writing, distinguishing this tradition from others, linking it to the larger English literary tradition, and researching how history continues to inform Caribbean literature (and vice-versa). In addition to our core readings, our course will include discussions of contemporary Caribbean-American culture and art, lectures by members of the West Indian Penn Charter community and discussion of Rastafari culture.
In the 2016 presidential election and aftermath, much was made of the so-called “divide between rural and urban America.” In this course, students will consider rural America through literature of the last 30 years. Through imaginative texts by Marilynne Robinson, Kent Haruf and Annie Proulx, students will be introduced to the landscape, characteristics and tendencies of rural and small town communities. This work will be augmented by nonfiction pieces from Hillbilly Elegy, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, and selections from contemporary periodicals. Finally, students will consider the day-to-day culture of rural America and its role in the oft-discussed “divide” within our country.
LITERATURE, JOURNALISM AND SPORT
(1 UNIT) SEMESTER 2
Sport and media have always been intimately connected, but the way in which we conceptualize this relationship today is necessarily – and, perhaps, regrettably – informed by the rise of the Internet and television. This course will take a step back from our present-day obsession with sports and the 24-hour news cycle and examine a more antiquated notion of “sports media.” In other words, this course will focus entirely on the written word, and students will interrogate the relationship between sport, literature and society through the lens of various authors and sports journalists. These authors may include but are not limited to: Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice, Dan Jenkins, Charles P. Pierce, Hunter S. Thompson, Jay Caspian Kang, Jason Whitlock, Kate Fagan, William Faulkner and Gary Smith. Assignments will include short response papers, longer analytical papers, original pieces of sports journalism and group projects. (12th grade)
In a time when it seems we are constantly encouraged to join camps, to put ourselves and other people into categories and label them neatly, what can literature teach us about the complexity of the human experience? How can we challenge ourselves to look past the surface truths we are given? How can we try to find unity as we seek meaning in a world where truth is always contested? In this class, we will look to great literature and film for models for how to seek deeper understanding and find ways to grapple with uncertainty and complexity. Texts will include The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevski, Fight Club and works by Kurazawa.
LITERATURE OF EVIL
(1 UNIT) SEMESTER 2
Whether it is the boogie man under your bed or the Garden of Eden, accounts from the Nazi concentration camps or a present-day serial killer, human experience is punctuated by or even formed against a notion of evil. One of the functions of literature is to present characters and worlds that highlight moral questions, assumptions and responsibilities at the core of human experience. This course will explore the idea of evil as depicted by a variety of authors, including Joseph Conrad, Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy, as well as a selection of short stories and essays. We will also read excerpts from philosophical and religious writers on evil. Students will take reading quizzes and write several papers over the course of the semester. Not to worry, it won't be all doom and gloom – a study of evil cannot proceed without serious consideration of goodness, and we will examine notions of goodness as well. (12th grade)
Arrangements must be agreeable to teacher and student, and a regular schedule of meetings set up, as well as a thoroughly conceived and structured course of study. Available as an alternative to required courses only rarely with the approval of the English Department chair and the Director of the Upper School. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)