The English Department's goal is to develop in every Salisbury student the ability to read and think critically and analytically, and to write and speak with clarity and precision. We strive to instill in our students a life-long love of reading through an understanding and appreciation of both the traditional canon of Western literature and the diversity of expression and ideas of different cultures. All courses include continual practice in writing, with emphasis on the expository essay as well as opportunities for creative and personal writing. Vocabulary development is stressed throughout the program.

In the third and fourth forms, the curriculum provides a solid foundation in thinking and writing skills and exposes students to a variety of literary genres and traditions, including mythology, short stories, novels, poems, plays and essays. A year-long theme unifies students’ reading and thinking in each of the lower forms: “coming of age” for the Third Form and “man’s dual nature” for the Fourth Form. Formal study of grammar is also an integral part of the curriculum for the lower forms.

The fifth form year concentrates on American literature. Students undertake a research project involving a particular author, period or theme, often in conjunction with their course in American History. Preparation for the SAT I and II tests is a regular part of classwork. Sixth form students, while continuing to hone their writing and test-taking skills, may select from a variety of elective courses in American and world literature or in modes and methods of composition. The most capable fifth and sixth form students enroll in the two-year program of Advanced Placement English Language and Composition followed by Advanced Placement Literature and Composition.

English Department Courses

Third Form (9th Grade)

E111 Foundations in Language and Literature Honors

This course is an accelerated version of E112. (Permission of the Director of Studies is required.)

E112 Foundations in Language and Literature

Foundations in Language and Literature will have four goals: to instill the basics of grammar and rhetoric; to teach students how to approach the study of short fiction, poetry, drama and longer fiction through annotation and reader response; to expose students to one longer work of fiction per trimester: and to present word skills for vocabulary building.

E113 Foundations in Language and Literature

Similar in structure and content to English 112, this course provides English language learners additional reinforcement in the basic skills of English, including grammar, organization of essays, spelling, and vocabulary.

Fourth Form (10th Grade)

E221 The Writer's Journey Honors

In the honors level English II course, the instructor augments the English 222 syllabus with works appropriate to this level of critical reading, thinking, and writing. (Permission of the director of studies is required.)

E222 The Writer's Journey

The Writer’s Journey will focus on the building blocks of reading and writing for all boys of the Fourth Form. Students will read and respond to short nonfiction readings in order to reach the following course goals: to understand, and to imitate how writers operate within various rhetorical modes; to learn and apply the grammatical, syntactical, and stylistic rules of standard written English; to write a cogent précis of a short nonfiction essay; to successfully analyze one longer work of literary fiction per trimester; and to incorporate supporting evidence into a student’s own writing.

Fifth Form (11th Grade)

E331A Advanced Placement English Language & Composition

This course prepares students for the Advanced Placement Examination in English Language and Composition through the study of non-fiction in American literature.  The reading list in AP English Language is drawn from a body of non-fiction that dates back to Colonial times and includes such genres as sermons, journals, slave narratives, autobiography, speeches, political documents, and journalism. Students continue to develop reading comprehension and writing skills, while preparing for the AP Exam, which requires their analyzing non-fiction passages in terms of such stylistic elements as diction, syntax, tone, rhetorical techniques, and figurative language.  (Permission of the English Department Chair and the Director of Studies is required, as is additional summer reading.)

E331H English III Honors

In the honors level English III course, the instructor augments the English 332 syllabus with works appropriate to this level of critical reading, thinking, and writing. (Permission of the Director of Studies is required.)

Sixth Form (12th Grade)

E441A ENGLISH Advanced Placement English Literature & Composition

This year-long course will prepare students to take the Advanced Placement Test in English Literature and Composition. It is a course for students with a serious interest in reading, thinking, talking, and writing about some of the English-speaking world’s greatest literature. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, our principal text, will provide most of the material for a selective survey of literature in English from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to contemporary writers such as Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Nadine Gordimer, and J.M. Coetzee. Shakespeare will be an important focus in the course. In addition to Hamlet, students will study closely a selection of Shakespearean sonnets. In recent years, the AP class has also read Henry IV: Part One. Other key texts will include Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, James Joyce’s Dubliners, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, and Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers. In addition to the summer reading required of all Sixth Formers, students preparing for AP English Literature also read Leon Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall. Projects assigned throughout the year give students a high degree of responsibility to make presentations and lead discussions. Some of these projects engage students with critical resources about a particular writer or work, which material is then incorporated in both presentations and essays. Students will also practice writing essays following the AP format and rubric as well as becoming familiar with the multiple-choice component of the test. Whether or not a student continues to explore literature in college, he will develop skills in this course that will serve him well in a variety of disciplines throughout the humanities. 

(Permission of the English Department Chair and the Director of Studies is required, as is additional summer reading.)

E 441H-1 A Survey of English Literature
Fall Trimester: Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the Age of Satire

In the fall trimester of the sixth form honors course, students will begin by studying Chaucer’s late 14th century work Canterbury Tales, a work which, at the time, was surprisingly written in English, not French and was thus legitimized in many ways. Students will study selected tales from Chaucer’s work and will be given additional short stories and will view film clips to broaden their understanding of the tales. Moving chronologically, students will read and act out portions of the 1601 play Hamlet. They will also view and interpret different film adaptations of the play and be asked to wrestle with unusual, sometimes controversial interpretations of the play. Finally, students will finish the fall trimester by reading and analyzing the satirical works of Jonathan Swift, Pope, and William Hogarth, representatives of the “age of wit” in the 18th century. 

Winter Trimester: The Romantic Period

Students will begin the winter term by studying Mary Wollstonecraft, who is a valuable writer both for her pioneering feminism but also her rhetoric brilliance. Students will then further their understanding of the progressive politics of the Romantic writers by studying the first and second generation canonical Romantic poets: William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Keats. Students will finish the poetry unit by completing a project in which they will research and present on one of the Romantic poets and their poems. The class will then read the classic Romantic novel Frankenstein, which represents the gothic, supernatural sect of the Romantic Movement and relate it to the science fiction film "Blade Runner" to illustrate the ways in which the Romantic philosophy is not something of the past. 

Spring Trimester: TBA

(Permission of the director of studies is required.

English Electives:

E442LF From Literature to Film

While some films are blamed for falling short of the books on which they are based, other films enlarge the ideas of the original author and surpass the written text in greatness. This course will look at novels and short stories that have been made into films to see the potential – both positive and negative – of the transition. (Fall)

E442BB Banned Books

Some of the greatest works of literature have been (or currently are) banned in various school districts, bookstores, and even countries. This course will look at some of those texts and will debate the validity of their ban. Readings will include Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. (Fall)

E442FS Fathers and Sons Literature

It is particularly relevant that we, as an all-boys school, have a course exploring the bonds between men. This course will explore the often complex relationships that exist between sons and their fathers. This class will explore literature that examines this complex, rich and sometimes troubling aspect of the human experience. (Fall) Tentative Readings: A River Runs Through It, Big Fish, Oedipus the King

E442BE The Black Experience in American Literature

The two major works in this course will be Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. In addition, we will read poetry of the Harlem Renaissance by writers such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay and short stories from some of the most renowned black writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Students will also choose a work for an independent reading project from among Richard Wright’s Black Boy, Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land, Malcolm X’s Autobiography of Malcolm X, or other works of comparable literary merit.  (Fall)

E442NF Meet the Muse

Students will experience a wide variety of poets and poetry from the classic to the contemporary. We will us Laurence Perrine’s classic text Sound and Sense, but students will also have the opportunity to pursue poets of personal interest for in-depth study. “How to read a poem” – both aloud and quietly to oneself – will be an important focus, involving exploration of the many musical, figurative, and rhetorical techniques poets use to reimagine and intensify their subjects. Writing poetry will also play a part in the course. (Fall)

E442FD Family Drama and Dysfunction Literature

As Joan Didion notes in her essay “On Going Home,” the relationships within a family evolve and devolve as the individuals within it enter new stages of their lives. This trimester-long course will examine two 20th century novels in which families struggle to navigate the balance between individual and family needs. Students will pay particular attention to character development and narrative voice, as both authors manipulate their readers’ penchant for identifying and sympathizing with a heroic protagonist. In this comparative literature course, students will read, analyze, and compare and contrast the readings both in class discussions and in essays.

Family Drama and Dysfunction in Literature will incorporate the customary demands of a challenging secondary school English course. These will include regular expository and creative essays, class discussions using note-taking skills, study of vocabulary in context from the stories, and also regular SAT practice.  (Fall)

E442 CW Creative Writing

The purpose of this course is to prepare students to develop creative themes in their writing and communicate them in a clear, enlightening and interesting way. Ideas – the way they are presented, reworked and the way they are evaluated – will form the basis of this elective. All types of writing genres, including short stories, poetry, songs and play writing, will be included. (Fall)

Goals will be met through a variety of reading, writing and speaking activities. Students must be ready to present their work to the class. They will also be required to critique their own work and that of others in a positive and constructive way.

Emphasis will be placed on writing styles and the use of diction, word choice, sentence length, symbolism, imagery and metaphor to enhance the effectiveness of storytelling.

E442PS Public Speaking

Public speaking is an invaluable tool that a boy can utilize throughout his lifetime. This course will introduce Salisbury boys to practical tactics of public speaking and the techniques of speech writing. Topics include the basics of speech writing and delivery, how to formulate and convey a clear and concise message, and develop the self-confidence to overcome the nerves that accompany speaking publicly. Students will learn to utilize technology and visual aids to enhance a presentation. The college and job interview process will be among the topics covered. Students will be expected to give a minimum of six speeches to the class, with one speech given to a greater audience. (Fall, Winter, Spring) 

E442W Modes of Written Expression

This course will cover the foundations of writing by reviewing basic elements (words and clauses) and by studying more advanced components (transitions, tone, point of view). Students will write frequent shorter pieces and will read professional models to gain a deeper understanding of how to improve as a writer in any rhetorical mode. (Fall) 

E442S More Than a Game: Sports and the Changing World

A mirror to society...a catalyst for social change...; a propaganda tool: sports and athletes have, over the past century, been all of these things and more. Through non-fiction works such as Sally Jenkins'; The Real All Americans, Jeremy Schaap's Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics, Marshall Jon Fisher’s A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played, and Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World,students will gain an appreciation for the emergence of sports as a crucible for some of the most controversial issues on both the American and the international stage, particularly in the 1930s. Readings will be supplemented by two documentary films: Leni Riefenstahl’s "Olympia" and Aviva Kempner’s "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg".

E442PL American Protest Literature

America was founded in a bold act of political protest. The Constitutional protections for free speech combined with the democratic system of government have allowed for a rich tradition of written dissidence. Covering issues of race and slavery, the role of women in society, the appropriate role of government in the lives of citizens, and social inequality this tradition carries on and provides a rich narrative backdrop of American history. Readings will include Common Sense (Paine), The Jungle (Sinclair), Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Agee/Evans), The Feminine Mystique (Friedan), Modern Musical and Film Selections.

E442BN The British Novel

This elective will explore two powerful narratives from the British Isles: the high seas adventure of Master and Commander and the moral decline apparent in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Students will explore the literary devices of the novel while also putting the narratives in historical and literary context.

E442BA Brothers in Arms

This course will explore the theme of brotherhood, one of the core values of the Salisbury School experience.  What does it mean to be a brother?  What are the characteristics of a fraternal relationship?  Are there differences between the relationship of familial brothers (by blood) and metaphorical brothers (by close bond or association)?  Students will be responsible on a daily basis for generating discussion topics and analysis of literature that features brothers who have to navigate a shifting and sometimes complex dynamic.  Students in this course will read such titles as The Things They Carried, The Sisters Brothers, and As I Lay Dying as well as texts in the genres of drama and poetry. They will write frequently and be responsible for a research paper of literary criticism and/or a substantial project in the spring trimester.

E442SW Screenwriting

This trimester elective is designed to equip students with a skill-based, practical knowledge of the syntax of classical film narrative. We will study the presentation and development of character as the key element in writing for the screen. Students will learn how to “read” films as well as screenplays, which will enhance their understanding of narrative structure and dramatic writing. This course will explore the works of accomplished screenwriters such as Billy Wilder, Francis Ford Coppola, Alan Ball, and Joel and Ethan Coen.

E442AP Argumentative and Persuasive Writing 

This course will build upon the skills developed in Modes of Written Expression by reviewing the basic elements and by studying more advanced components necessary to build a coherent, substantive argument in writing. Students will write frequent shorter pieces and will read professional models to gain a deeper understanding of how to improve as a persuasive writer. Text: Patterns for College Writing.

E442DY Dystopian Fiction

Dystopian fiction is a popular genre of literature in which authors depict societies that are inherently malevolent, often by exaggerating the ills of actual society. Analyzing these broken societies allows us to examine sociological concepts and brings us closer to an understanding of how society functions.  These stories give us a chance to ask questions about human nature and the effectiveness of different forms of social organization.  Placing these texts in their proper historical context will allow students to think critically about the author’s motivation and inspiration for their work, while the texts will also give students an opportunity for valuable insight into aspects of contemporary society.  Readings will include Brave New World, Cat’s Cradle, and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

E442SU Literature of Survival

In the course of human civilization, we often discover accounts of individuals who encounter overwhelming odds in order to navigate and overcome extreme danger. This course will explore three texts that detail the human response to being at the edge of death. Readings include Endurance, Fever 1793, and Wind, Sand and Stars.

E442JM Journalism

This trimester-long elective provides an overview of the basics of journalism. Students will learn how to assess the news value of an event or situation, how to develop story ideas, and how to craft an informative, thought-provoking article. Writing clearly and accurately is the primary skill students will practice, although interviewing techniques and journalistic ethics will also drive class discussions. Course text: Telling the Story: the Convergence of Print, Broadcast and Online Media.

E442CS Contemporary Short Fiction

This course will survey more recent trends in American short fiction. By examining different writing styles and artistic trends it will provide students with a broad exposure to the changing landscape of modern American writing. The course will focus on works from the 20th and 21st centuries.

E442SE Rich Man, Poor Man: Social Class in Literature

In our early groundwork, we will examine statistical data and social markers identified with all classes of American society. Our primary focus, however, will be on those in the upper and lower strata. Readings will start with the widening class divisions of the late 1800s as reflected in works such as Stephen Crane’s novella Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and the fiction of Edith Wharton. The short story will be the principal genre, including works by such writers as Hamlin Garland, Sherwood Anderson, Katherine Anne Porter, and William Faulkner. A feature of the course will be a multi-media study of the social upheaval of the Great Depression, which will involve not only fiction but also drama (Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty), autobiography (Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory), photography (Dorothea Lange’s work for the Farm Security Administration), and music (from Woody Guthrie and from Tin Pan Alley).

E442PM The Post Modern Novel

This literary tradition emerged as a major form of creative expression after the Second World War. While it traces its roots back to the Enlightenment, it is largely a product of the 20th century. By challenging norms and more traditional modes of expression, the postmodern style continues to excite readers with provocative characters and subject matter. Readings will include Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis.

E442SV Shakespeare's Venice

Shylock, the central figure of Shakespeare’s drama The Merchant of Venice, is one of the most problematic characters in Western literature. This course will take a close look at the play, exploring whether Shylock is a heartless villain or a persecuted victim. In constructing their opinion, students will learn how point-of-view affects the meaning of the text.

E342AS American Literature 

This team-taught course year-long class will follow the chronology of American history to explore the interplay between society and literature in the ongoing development of America.


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