12th Grade English Program

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Seniors study English following one of three paths. The first path is composed of term seminars. Seniors in this program take a common seminar [English IV] in the fall term and then select their course of study for the Winter and Spring terms. The second path is pursued by most post-graduates. These students take English V in the fall and then select their course of study for the Winter and Spring terms. The third path is an honors curriculum that is taught within the context of a full-year course.

English IV [Full Year]  This course is designed to fulfill two functions for Suffield seniors. Chronologically, its first function is to assist students in the college admissions process by providing feedback on college essays. Students read a selection of sophisticated short stories as they work on their essays, paying particular attention to character development. The second and over arching function of this course is to continue students’ exploration of foundational literature in its different forms. In addition to the short stories, they read Hamlet, and sonnets of Donne and Shakespeare. Writing assignments are frequent, and students are expected to be active participants in discussions. In sum, they begin to bridge the gap between high school and college English courses.

English IV: Honors [Full Year]  This course is designed for students with advanced skills who take full advantage of a challenging and rich curriculum. The course prepares students for undergraduate work in English, and is intended as a survey of the major developments in British literature, from its beginnings through the 20th century. The course begins with Beowulf, and continues to trace the developments of the language by examining Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Students approach the 18th century through Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and practice writing essays of steadily increasing length. Our study of the 19th century introduces students to the major Romantic poets in the context of the revolutionary philosophies of their time. Students produce an extensive critical essay, and the winter term finishes with discussions of major Victorian poems and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, followed by a presentation on a 19th century novel of each student’s choice. The spring term uses novels, poetry, and plays to explore the breakdown and experiment of language that characterize the modern period. Students delve into novels by Joyce and Woolf, the poetry of such authors as Yeats, Owen, and Eliot, and conclude with plays by Beckett and Stoppard. Highly focused papers provide students an opportunity to hone their skills. Prerequisite: Permission of the department chair or the Dean of Academics & Faculty

English V [Fall]  This course is designed for post-graduate students who have already completed four years of high school English. Its focus is on the close reading and accurate analysis of prose fiction, poetry, and drama. During the term, the students take several reading quizzes and write many three-to-five page papers. The goal of these writing assignments is to reveal, through careful organization and thorough documentation, the theme of each work. The papers are evaluated on their thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and control of standard written English. The intention of this course is to further hone the writing skills of students in preparation for their college experience.

American Studies [Winter / Spring]  The American Studies course focuses on an historical issue that has local as well as national implications. With an appreciation for the pedagogy of “place-based” learning, some of the course’s underlying goals are for students to develop an appreciation for preserving historical resources and an awareness of the history of our campus [www.promiseofplace.org]. Each year a single topic is chosen and a comprehensive study is completed. Students often visit historic sites and will work as a team to explore a variety of ways to conduct our challenging research. The class will make a presentation to the community of what was learned about the chosen topic. In terms of writing skills, each student will create an inventory of their strengths and weaknesses as a writer. We will tap into these strengths when we break into research groups. We will also take time to address writing issues important for each writer in the class. Given the challenges of proving and documenting a topic, students will be conducting a good deal of research and writing.

Answering the Bell: The Role of the Servant in Literature [Winter / Spring]  The popularity of the BBC series Downtown Abbey illustrates that, though not as much a part of our contemporary society, people are still as fascinated today with those who polish the silver spoon as those who eat from it. Servants play a critical role in running households and therefore have a unique glimpse into the intimate lives of those they serve. This places the role of the servant in literature in an unparalleled place among minor characters; they are within and outside of the action. Whether they are the traditional British butler, the upscale Manhattan nanny, or the southern African American domestic worker, servants witness and often quietly influence the lives of the main characters. Though these main characters have all the wealth and power society esteems, the servant is often the character in the work that wields unseen power. Some authors even chose to focus on the servant’s perspective as the main character due to this driving tension. This course will examine the servant in works such as Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, Bronte’s 19th century classic, Jane Eyre, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, The Remains of the Day. We will also read about more Americanized versions of servants in The Help and The Nanny Diaries. Cinematic versions of some of the works will also be viewed and compared. Students will write several short papers as well as a comparative essay.

Black Lives Matter: Understanding the Movement in Literature, Film, & Music [Winter / Spring]  This course is designed to help students understand the history of the BLM movement and explore its influence on modern artforms. The course will begin by taking a look at the BLM movement, with the purpose of understanding its origin, its purpose, and who is involved. From there students will use their knowledge of the movement to discuss and analyze contemporary novels, films, works of art, and music. Some of the texts we will read are The Hate U Give, Welcome to Braggsville, and Citizen. Some of the films we will watch are The Hate U Give, 13th, and Get Out. Other class texts are flexible and will adjust to student interest. Students will be expected to lead and actively contribute to discussion as well as complete several short writings throughout the course. The class will culminate in a final project that focuses on building connections between literature and world.

Classic Adventure Stories [Winter / Spring]  This course is designed to introduce seniors to a selection of adventure stories and authors. In addition, several movies are shown to augment the understanding of the adventure story. As the two terms progress, students explore the characters, elements, and motifs central to these works. They learn to define what constitutes heroic behavior and how to differentiate between the respected opponent and the vile enemy. Journeys and quests are taken to alien lands where strange new beings, customs, dangers, and events constantly appear. Course texts have included Havelock the Dane, A Night to Remember, King Solomon’s Mines, Tarzan of the Apes, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Films have included The Hero’s Journey, Zulu, Search for the Titanic, Robin Hood, Stage Coach, and The Princess Bride.

Creative Nonfiction Workshop: Shaping and Crafting the Real [Winter / Spring]  Creative nonfiction is a broad term that unites a wide range of writing including memoir, travel, familiar and lyrical essays, profiles, nature, sports, literary journalism, and humor. The source of the material must be real and true, but the writer unleashes the tools of the novelist and poet to engage the reader. In this class students will be transforming their knowledge and experience into literary works. This workshop class will immerse students in the critical reading of important published works and the intensive writing and rewriting of their own work. During the first nine weeks students will read and examine masterworks of travel, humor, essay, and memoir by authors such as David Foster Wallace, Annie Dillard, Bill Bryson, David Sedaris, and Pat Conroy. In conjunction with these readings, students will experiment with a wide variety of techniques on a broad range of topics of their choice. During the final trimester, students will extensively develop and revise their own creative nonfiction piece and pursue their own reading agenda in nonfiction writing.

Current Black Voices: Race in Popular Culture and Media [Winter / Spring]  The course will explore the current media and journalistic representation by and about Black/African American identity, focusing on representation in and by social media, music/music videos, fashion, stand-up comedy, art, fiction, streaming dramas, and other artifacts of popular culture. In addition to considering their personal participation with and consumption of Black-themed popular culture and media, students will think critically about the influence of popular culture and the implicit call to anti-racism within this medium. Selection of texts will vary with student interest and current events. Finally, in addition to analyzing sources studied, students will have opportunities to write their own blog posts, editorials, poetry, and more.

Dramatic Literature [Winter / Spring]  This course explores contemporary dramatic literature, focusing on the cultural, literary, and political contexts of individual works by diverse playwrights. A number of aesthetic movements emerged in the 20th century, including realism, naturalism, expressionism, absurdism, and postmodernism. Theatrical conventions, innovation, and techniques developed in the Western and Non-Western theatres will be explored. Some of the plays discussed in this two-term course include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Ruined, Top Girls, Miss Julie, Clybourne Park and Twilight: Los Angeles. In addition to the reading and discussion of the plays, students will be responsible for analytical writing and creative projects including playwriting.

Multicultural Graphic Novels [Winter / Spring]  Comic or Graphic Novel? That is the question. Get ready for a nerdy romp through the world where visual art and fiction intersect. In this course we will read a number of graphic novels written from often underrepresented perspectives. Questions guiding our study will include the following: What distinguishes a comic from a novel? How do illustrations augment text? What does an artist consider in designing the panels for a graphic novel? What is the vocabulary that best helps in analysis of these works? Finally, we will consider what types of stories lend themselves most readily to this genre. Readings will include works on the theory and practice of sequential art by authors Eisner and McCloud. In addition, we will read a variety of graphic memoirs including works by Alison Bechdel, Marguerite Abouet, Marjane Satrapi, Lila Quintero Weaver, Mat Johnson, Art Spiegelman, Kim Dong Hwa, John Lewis, and Thi Bui.

On the Road Again: Coddiwomple & Wanderlust in American Literature [Winter / Spring]  Americans have a long-standing fascination with the open road and with traveling; iterations of this intrigue have shaped modern American ideas about self and society. This class will explore the fascination of travel through readings about epic American road trips. From Jack Kerouac of the Beat Generation to more contemporary writers like Cheryl Strayed, the class will examine how writers have explored the theme of travel in American writing, history, and life. Readings will include works by Kerouac, Lopez, Pirsig, Steinbeck, and Strayed, among others. These will be augmented by screenings of famous road trip films including Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, and The Wizard of Oz.

Representations of Boarding School in Literature and Culture [Winter / Spring]  Popular culture has long been intrigued by what has occurred behind the well-manicured lawns and brick wall facades of boarding schools. Through the lens of films and shows such as Dead Poets Society and Gilmore Girls to literature such as A Separate Peace and Looking for Alaska, the course will explore how culture depicts the student boarding school experience. Students will consider the perspectives of outsiders versus insiders, common perceptions and stereotypes that surround boarding school, and what each medium ultimately teaches their audience about such an experience. To supplement our study of fiction and film, students will read scholarly essays as well as ethnographies to gain insight into the history, culture, and contemporary issues that surround such institutions. At the heart of the course, students will reflect on their time at Suffield and examine the ways in which such an experience has shaped their own identity and understanding of the world.

Shakespeare’s Comedies and Romances [Winter / Spring]  How can modern readers master Shakespeare’s challenging language? With a good laugh, of course! By senior year most Suffield students know several of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Now it is time to appreciate the Bard’s genius through his ability to create thoughtful laughter and artful romance. This course will devote the first week of the class to establish everyone’s comfort level of understanding Elizabethan English. We will then build islands of competency around Shakespeare’s language and dramatic tools. Elizabethan puns and comic put-downs will be rolling off the tongues of students by the end of week three. Throughout the whole course students will truly development an appreciation for why Shakespeare commands the title of one of the greatest writers in English. Traditional papers will be balanced with technology projects and journal assignments. The class will try to attend a local performance of one of our plays. Plays include: Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest. We will also take advantage of a wide range of movies in order to help us improve our understanding of Elizabethan language. Assessments will range from analytical essays to journal responses to some creative writing pieces involving comic conventions.

The Literature of Evil [Winter / Spring]  Readers are fascinated with tales of human depravity. Often, a writer’s greatest skill comes in his or her depiction of evil. The Literature of Evil course includes plays and novels. Classic works such as Shelley’s Frankenstein, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, and Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will be joined by more modern works such as the existential exploration of evil in Sartre’s No Exit and Camus’s The Stranger. We will examine each author’s definition of evil, and the conflict between interior and exterior loci of evil. Some cinematic representations may be included in our study. Frequent shorter papers will be the main focus of our written expression.