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Noble and Greenough School is a rigorous academic community dedicated to inspiring leadership for the public good. Through mentoring relationships, we motivate students to achieve their highest potential and to lead lives characterized by service to others.

English

Upper School Academics

The English curriculum is designed to foster the development of writing, reading, thinking, and speaking skills. The literature we study ranges from the classics to more contemporary works that reflect today's diverse and multicultural world. In the classroom we encourage and depend upon student interest, involvement, and discussion as essential means to promote the skills of investigation, discovery, analysis, and synthesis.

Each course stresses the idea of writing as a process, with revision at the heart of that process. By the time students graduate from Nobles, they will feel confident in their preparedness for writing at the college level and beyond.

English IV | Full Year
Full Credit
Required For: Class IV

The Class IV English curriculum prepares students for the future demands of upper school courses by encouraging them to build toward mastery in fundamental critical thinking, reading, writing, and speaking skills.  Students strive to hone the precision and power of both their written and oral language over the course of the year.  By building distinct strategies for pre-writing, drafting, and revision through creative and analytic assignments, students come to understand writing as a process.  To build confidence in their public speaking voices, all Class IV students prepare memorized declamations from two of the works they read. Students also review grammar and build vocabulary throughout the year. In conjunction with skill-building, students explore a diverse and challenging reading list across a variety of genres: selected short stories Interpreter of Maladies (Lahiri), Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), The Odyssey (Homer), Macbeth (Shakespeare), Persepolis (Satrapi), and Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston).

 
English III | Full Year
Full Credit
Required For: Class III

Sophomore English will focus on American literature and the diverse perspectives of those who have sought, embraced, or survived the American experience. From various regions and in various genres, American writers have contemplated community and individualism, freedom and slavery, and nature and city, and have attempted to define an American identity, an American culture, and an American continent. Our national literature is often fraught with conflict, contradiction, and pessimism, but it is also full of hope, optimism, and inspiration.

During their look at the broad scope of American literature, sophomores benefit from taking concurrently their U.S. History course. This curricular dynamic creates valuable overlap and allows students to contemplate the literature within its historical context (and vice versa). Students will continue to build on the skills developed freshman year, especially the focus on close critical reading, as they push toward longer, analytical essays. Literature may include: The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne), The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Douglass), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain),The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), Long Day's Journey Into Night (O'Neill), poetry by Whitman, Dickinson, Hughes, Frost, and contemporary short stories.

English II | Full Year
Required For: Class II

As we continue to build students' reading, writing, thinking, and speaking skills, English II introduces juniors to a diverse array of the world's greatest literature as we venture beyond the American literary tradition. Through student-driven discussions, we will delve into novels, plays, and poetry from Great Britain, Europe, Africa, and Asia by such writers as Adichie, Achebe, Conrad, Shakespeare, Austen, Mary Shelley, Camus, Daoud, Ibsen, Chekhov, Tolstoy, Gordimer, and Roy. While continuing to hone their critical thinking and analytical writing skills with greater depth, originality, and sophistication, students in English II will also be writing extensive personal narratives as they focus on issues of style, voice, tone, and structure. To build confidence in their public speaking, all Class II students prepare memorized declamations from Hamlet. A final writing project, which involves expansion and substantial revision of at least one earlier piece of writing, caps the junior year in English. 
 

Class I Electives
Open to: Class I only

The following full-credit courses constitute the English Department's elective offerings. Students in Class I must select at least one elective for each semester.

Contemporary Arabic Fiction | Spring Only
Open to: Class I only

How do Westerners picture Arabs? From the first European translation of The Arabian Nights, the West has been captivated by stories – many intentionally, irresponsibly corrupted and exoticized - from the Arab world. And yet the fascination with the Arab storyteller’s art persists. Reading modern novels and short stories from around the Arab world, we confront our old, inherited assumptions and tackle real, modern cultural tensions spun out by new generations of Arab storytellers. Often finding themselves at the fraught contact points between cultures, the modern Arab writers we study confront interrelated tensions between East and West, tradition and modernity, Islam and western secularism, authoritarianism and democracy, and patriarchy and rising feminism. Among the texts we may read: Midaq Alley (Naguib Mahfouz)(Egypt), Season of Migration to the North (Tayeb Salih)(Sudan), The Story of Zahra (Hanan al-Shaykh)(Lebanon), The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist (Emile Habiby)(Palestinian-Israeli), and translated short stories Under the Naked Sky (Denys Johnson-Davies).

 

Creative Nonfiction | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

How do we tell the truth? How do we access and research our world, organize and structure it, verbalize and express it? How far can we stretch the truth for the sake of story and still call it nonfiction? This course will explore multiple subgenres of creative nonfiction, from the nonfiction novel to the magazine profile, from the autobiography to personal narrative, from immersion journalism to memoir. Students will examine and respond to nonfiction as an art form as well as craft their own personal essays, articles, and profiles. They will confront our texts both as writers of nonfiction and as readers of literature, creating their own stories and responding analytically to others’. Works may include In Cold Blood, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Into the Wild, Autobiography of Malcolm X, Autobiography of a Face, The Glass Castle, The Bookseller of Kabul, and A Civil Action, as well as nonfiction essays, both classic and contemporary.

Creative Writing | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

In a note to an apprentice, Michelangelo wrote: "Draw, Antonio, draw. Draw, and do not waste time." It is in this spirit that the Creative Writing elective has been designed. Students will be expected to write, and write daily, with longer pieces due each week. Those pieces will be discussed in a workshop setting in which students learn to analyze each other's work in terms of craft and technique. Published writers will be placed under the same kind of scrutiny of style as we try to understand the effects of choices in elements such as diction, dialogue, tone, character, and perspective. This course welcomes prose writers, poets, playwrights, and screenwriters alike.

Ethics and Literature | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

To what length would most of us go to uphold our moral principles let alone our dignity? Through our readings, we will examine the decisions and actions that characters make and, in the process, explore the nature of ethical dilemmas. To that end, this lively, discussion-based course, bolstered by interesting literature and trips into Boston, will sharpen our own sense of morality as well as our analytical and writing skills. Readings: Winter's Bone & The Death of Sweet Mister (Woodrell), The Assault (Mulisch), Passing (Larsen), Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Garcia Marquez), The Assistant (Malamud).

Introduction to Intellectual History | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

This course will be structured around the history of ideas and will investigate some of the major contributions to mankind’s intellectual heritage, shifting during the course as if from one academic department within a university to another: philosophy, psychology, visual art, government, gender studies, mythology, anthropology, English literature, physical science. Some of the topics to which the class will be introduced: the nature of man,  postmodernism, consciousness, political and religious systems, semiotics, quantum physics. In each section, students will read a short theoretical work and then a work of literature which is somehow connected with the theory. For instance, Freud’s theory of dreams with Shaffer’s “Equus;” Plato's theory of government with Huxley’s Brave New World; Joseph Campbell on mythology with Barth’s Chimera.

Not Offered in 2017-18

 

 

Literature and Leadership | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I Only

This course will use the study of literature to examine fundamental questions about leadership: What are the characteristics of effective leaders? Why do some leaders succeed while others fail? How do leaders navigate competing ethical obligations? Does power corrupt, and if so, how?  Is there such a thing as a “born-leader?” Through the critical reading of novels, short stories, plays, and poems, students will learn to articulate their own definitions of leadership. In addition to fiction, readings will include excerpts from philosophical works and historical narratives. Course assignments will include analytical and creative writing, personal reflections, debates, role-playing exercises, interviews, presentations, and collaborative projects.

Madness in Literature: Reading the Rebellious Mind | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

What exactly are we talking about when we use the phrase “Madness in Literature”? Are we looking for fictional characters who think, speak, or behave in aberrant ways? Or are we looking at writers whose personal demons and mental or emotional disturbances find expression through their fiction? In this course, we will do both as we familiarize ourselves with an array of terms and theories borrowed from modern psychology as a lens through which to study varied literary responses to the absurdity of our human condition. We will also question our own cultural assumptions about “normal” behavior as we examine socially unacceptable (or even downright deviant) behavior and thinking in masterpieces of modern literature. Among the texts we may study:  Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys), The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson), Notes from Underground (Fyodor Dostoyevsky), Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf), The Hours (Michael Cunningham). 

 

Noir: Mystery, Espionage and Crime Fiction in Post-WWI World Literature | Spring Only
Open to: Class I only

In Noir: Mystery, Espionage and Crime Fiction in Post-WWI World LIterature, we will be reading masterpieces like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (John LeCarre), The Talented Mr. Ripley (Patricia Highsmith), The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett), The Postman Always Rings Twice (James Cain), and Devil in a Blue Dress (Walter Mosley). Additionally, short stories selected by modern-day noir master James (L.A. Confidential) Elroy will also serve us well. Mr. Elroy asserts that "the real importance of noir is its grounding in the big themes of race, class, gender, and systematic corruption. The overarching joy and lasting appeal of noir is that it makes doom fun."  Other authors to be explored: Alan Furst, P.G. Sturges, Dennis LeHane, Graham Greene, Ken Follet, Mayra Montero.

Philosophy and Literature | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

This course will introduce the student to the major philosophers in the Western intellectual tradition, and students will read literature that either offers a fundamentally philosophical approach to a subject or focuses on questions raised by philosophers. Topics include: the perception of reality, the nature of reality, ethics, aesthetics, personal freedom, service to self, service to a community, the social institutions of home and marriage, the nature of love, the impact of technology. Books may include: The Brothers Karamazov, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Brave New World, Grendel, Medea, Equus, Chimera, Passion of the Western Mind, Copenhagen, Moby Dick, The Fountainhead

 

 

Poetry | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I

This elective will explore a variety of poems and poets to unveil the power of language in this precise form. We will listen to, read, write, understand, and publish poems. Local published poets will visit the classroom to enrich our study of their work. Texts may include: The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (Eavan Boland and Mark Strand), Dien Cai Dau (Yusef Komunyakaa), Rose (Li-Young Lee), Habeas Corpus (Jill McDonough), Life on Mars (Tracy K. Smith), and Repair (C.K. Williams)


 

Race and Identity in America | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

This team-taught course will examine the power of race as a biological reality and as a social construct that has affected American history, culture, and literature as much as any other human force or entity. Looking at race through the lenses of literature, film, outside speakers, and field trips, we will explore the impact of race on us individually, collectively, and nationally. Texts may include: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria (Tatum), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao ( Diaz), The Human Stain (Roth), When the Emperor Was Divine (Otsuka), and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (Sherman Alexie).

Russian LIterature and Culture | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

An overview of one of Europe’s most distinguished 19th and 20th Century literatures, ranging from the work of Pushkin through the Soviet period and including works from writers such as Gogol, Goncharov, Lermontov, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Chekhov. In the final weeks of the spring, we will focus on that period leading up to and immediately following the Revolution when Russian culture was particularly avant-garde and innovative with new ideas abounding in literature, film, art and music: Bely,  Zamyatin, Akhmatova, O. Mandelstam, Nabokov, Malevich, Tatlin. Nobles grad and best-selling author, Amor Towles, may help to teach this course.

Satire and Humor | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I Only

This course will examine the function of satire and humor as a vehicle for criticizing, protesting, and mocking societal conventions. Through a variety of critical reading and writing exercises, we will discuss the following questions: What is the definition of satire in relation to other literary forms? What literary techniques do satirical writers employ?  Why do groups in positions of authority often view satire with scorn and condescension? Is it possible for satirical writing to change the world? Readings will include, but are not limited to, Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift), Candide (Voltaire), short stories by Margaret Atwood, George Saunders, and Lorrie Moore, and excerpts from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Saturday Night Live. As part of the course, students will have the opportunity to write satire and develop satirical projects and presentations.

Shakespeare I | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

“The more one reads and ponders the plays of Shakespeare, the more one realizes that the accurate stance toward them is one of awe.  The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement…We need to exert ourselves and read Shakespeare as strenuously as we can, while knowing that his plays will read us more energetically still” (Harold Bloom).

In this course we shall study selections from Shakespeare’s poetry and drama, including some sonnets, a history play, a comedy, and a tragedy. With each selection, we shall exert ourselves in reading and pondering strenuously what Shakespeare’s characters teach us about ourselves, what it means to be human, and what the worlds he created teach us about our world. We shall consider how production and acting choices illuminate, translate, and reinvent Shakespeare’s texts. Professional theatrical renderings and student-directed dramatic readings of scenes will be used for this purpose. We shall close the course by investigating the roles of Shakespearean drama in the 21st century.

Plays: Henry IV Part One, The Merchant of Venice, Othello.

Shakespeare II | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

“The more one reads and ponders the plays of Shakespeare, the more one realizes that the accurate stance toward them is one of awe.  The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement…We need to exert ourselves and read Shakespeare as strenuously as we can, while knowing that his plays will read us more energetically still” (Harold Bloom).

In this course we shall study selections from Shakespeare’s poetry and drama, including some sonnets, a history play, a comedy and a tragedy. With each selection, we shall exert ourselves in reading and pondering strenuously what Shakespeare’s characters teach us about ourselves, what it means to be human, and what the worlds he created teach us about our world. We shall consider how production and acting choices illuminate, translate, and reinvent Shakespeare’s texts. Professional theatrical renderings and student-directed dramatic readings of scenes will be used for this purpose. We shall close the course by investigating the roles of Shakespearean drama in the 21st century.

Plays: Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear.
 

The City in Literature | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I Only

Since the birth of the novel, cities have figured prominently as metaphoric characters in fiction. Cities draw the jaded and the dreamer, the insider and the outsider, the opportunist and the altruist. They are fixed in their hierarchies yet depend on and foster social mobility. They are places of possibility and hope as well as decadence and decay, representing the heights of human innovation and the depths of immorality and corruption. In this course, we will explore how novelists reconcile this multiplicity, examining a variety of cities and the ways in which authors use their cityscapes to reflect on the individual in society and on the global society at large. We will explore the key role that cities play in embodying and propelling difference— in thought, in philosophy, and in artistic expression. Our literature will take us to several cities around the globe, from Paris to Johannesburg, from New York to Delhi, and may include such texts as A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens), White Teeth (Smith), Cry the Beloved Country (Paton), Age of Innocence (Wharton), Let the Great World Spin (McCann), and White Tiger (Aravind Adiga).

The Epic | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

This course will explore the epic from one of its earliest inceptions in western literature to one of its most recent and most imaginative versions. We will look at the epic as a poetic form, as a cultural commentary, and as a literary means of immortalizing epic heroes. The texts we will read are The Iliad (Homer), that focuses “in medias res” on the Trojan War, and Omeros (Derek Walcott), which brings Homer’s tale and characters to a Caribbean time and place. Walcott won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. Students who have been to the Island School are not eligible for this course.

The Modernist Movement | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, artists began exploring new ways to express their impressions of the world. This period, which later became known as the modernist movement, marked a moment when artists began to push the boundaries of art, altering our expectations of the arts and of artists in the process. In this course, we will consider the culture that inspired the modernist movement and the work produced by modernists by studying literature and the visual arts. During this course, students will read a wide variety of texts that may include To the Lighthouse (Woolf), Light in August (Faulkner), Dubliners  (Joyce) and poetry by W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Wallace Stevens. Visual artists studied may includes: Picasso, Matisse, Klimt, and Cezanne.
 

The Novel: From the Czar to Hitler | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: Class I only

Reading a selection of the world’s great literature, we will look at the historic and social contexts in which they were written. Our focus will be the 19th and 20th Centuries. Possible titles include: Anna Karenina (Tolstoy); The Metamorphosis (Kafka); Dracula (Stoker); and The Tin Drum (Grass)
 

Journalism | Full Year
Full Credit
Prerequisites: Open to students in Class I and II who have been selected as members of The Nobleman

Using the contemporary model for journalism, students will study all aspects of news gathering and dissemination through reading and discussions of major national and international media outlets, including print, online, and radio.  Students will be responsible for writing articles and creating multimedia features engaging photography, video, text, and animation as a means of communicating their content. The focus is on developing sophisticated news ideas and engaging myriad potential outlets for news distribution.  Daily classes give time to practical concerns relating to the upcoming issue, including writing and mulitmedia assignments, journalistic principles and practice, production schedules, lay-out design, current events and, most importantly, significant school issues. The end product of this academic pursuit is The Nobleman. This course does not fulfill the English requirement.

Independent English | Fall or Spring
Half Credit
Open to: Class I only

This course allows one or more students to work with a teacher on a tutorial basis. It should involve a curriculum not offered in departmental electives (or unavailable to the individual for scheduling reasons), and will require extra independent work to make up for a reduced number of class hours. In order to obtain approval, students must prepare a proposal and syllabus in consultation with the teacher who will direct their study. Students must present the proposal to the Department Head at least one week before the end of the term preceding the semester in which the student plans to take the independent English course.

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