The Lawrenceville English Department believes in the slow, careful reading of great literature. We see no substitute for the patient efforts of teacher and student sitting at the Harkness table and in regular consultation, learning together.
To read and write about literature with clarity and intellectual honesty takes time and hard work; every term, our pedagogy and curriculum return to the practice of fundamentals. Our passion for the practice of close reading is matched by a respect for the demands of the writing process. This process of creating ideas, discovering evidence, revising essays, assessing and talking about student writing is the time-intensive center and ultimate priority of English education at Lawrenceville. We do this together: common texts and tiered expectations help us to establish and maintain high standards for fair assessment at each grade level.

While the department understands that at each level the differences in maturity and development of our students require the curriculum to be right for each age, students from forms two through five nevertheless practice many of the same skills and habits of mind, albeit at different levels of sophistication. Our curriculum is like a spiraled staircase: the journey requires significant time and repetition so that the student may achieve competence, let alone mastery. We believe students must return often to the same basic questions and problems so they can begin to acquire good habits of mind. Just as the student’s ongoing relationship with primary text is the core of this English education, it is also important that daily writing and frequent teacher feedback not be sacrificed to other competing educational objectives.

Our values remain traditional college preparatory ones; wide reading that fosters a love of literature and language; rigorous demands in essay composition and English grammar; and active seminar participation and constructive leadership in a round-table classroom. We want each graduate to write coherent sentences; indeed, we prepare all our students to construct meaningful interpretations, to recognize good evidence, and to write and speak persuasively. In this age of readily available information, we want to shape literate, articulate citizens, and we also wish to inspire and develop young men and women of letters. Like all our peer independent schools, we believe four years of high school English is the requisite preparation for an active intellectual, moral and civic life within and beyond the universities.

Four Year Curriculum Summary

Our core program extends for the better part of the first three years, with grammar instruction, vocabulary acquisition and writing practice sequenced to complement a literature study that happens in a roughly historical sequence. Second form Humanities students stay with the same teacher throughout the year to read works by modern authors in conversation with foundational texts from past centuries, China and India, Homer, Shakespeare, and various mythologies. Third form students have a yearlong introduction to the major literary genres, with fiction in the fall, poetry in the winter, and drama in the spring, all anchored by shared, foundational texts: The Great Gatsby, Othello, and Oedipus Rex among them. Students in English IV build on English III by studying long-form fiction in the fall, reading novels by a range of American authors from the 19th and 20th centuries, and developing arguments through discussion and literary-critical essays. Work in the winter term focuses on poetry and includes intensive study of Hamlet.  In the spring they undertake an intensive writing course devoted to enhancing their skills in writing non-fiction personal and persuasive essays.

After this three year sequence, the department believes students will have acquired the requisite skills, core knowledge and independence of mind to explore their passions in their fifth form year, an elective program that gives students the opportunity to do intensive work in a particular area of interest with a teacher who has expertise in that area. All fifth form English electives are devoted to helping students perfect skills in critical reading and writing and discover their own style. Electives in each semester represent not only a range of historical periods and genres, ancient to modern, but also of seminal writers and representative works from the major periods and movements in English and American letters. All course descriptions may be viewed in the on-line course guide.

Explore Our Courses

  • HU201 - Humanities - English

    This year-long English class stresses the development of students' skills in writing and grammar, close reading, and discussion, while introducing them to some of the works in the literary canon. The course begins with an intensive writing period, refreshing skills in description and narration while focusing on the students' place at Lawrenceville and in the greater community. We use modern and ancient stories to spur our thinking and discussion. Many sections study Antigone or one of the Platonic dialogues as vehicles through which we introduce and practice close reading and Harkness skills. Having deliberately outlined these skills, we move on to read the story of the Monkey King, The Ramayana, Homer's Odyssey, a Shakespeare play, Bible stories from the Old and the New Testaments, Old School, and several shorter works. Reading focuses primarily on the Western tradition with some work connected to the freshman theater production in the winter and modern India in the spring. While much of the writing students do in this course focuses on forming an argument and using a text to support the steps of that argument, students also write for a variety of purposes, including to express themselves, to explore and come to understand complicated ideas, and to imitate stylistic and formal features of the authors they study. Working in tandem with Humanities Cultural Studies, Humanities English builds a foundation of skills and knowledge for the beginning student of the humanities. Grants: NCAA; Terms: All; Forms: II
  • EN301 - English III

    This year long English class stresses the development of students' reading, writing, discussion, and analysis skills through the study of short fiction, poetry, and drama. Readings include works by a variety of nineteenth and twentieth century writers, including James Baldwin, Emily Dickinson, Scott Fitzgerald, Lorrainne Hansberry, Langston Hughes ,Mohja Kahf, and Flannery O'Connor. Students will also read tragedies by Sophocles and Shakespeare, among other writers, in their study of drama. Writing assignments ask students to read a piece of literature closely and to derive and support an argument that reflects their observations about the text as a whole. With particular awareness of audience, students craft text-based essays and practice analysis in class discussions. Grammar lessons review the basic parts of language and then move through the study of major usage guidelines. Grants: NCAA; Terms: All; Forms: III
  • EN421 - The Novel

    This course builds upon English III by developing students’ skills at interpreting and contextualizing works of literature written in different genres. The fall term is devoted to the study of long-form fiction. The reading materials include novels by a diverse range of authors from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Analytical writing continues to play a central role in the curriculum, with students composing analytical papers each of three novels. Discussion-based inquiry around the Harkness table encourages careful deliberation and constructive debate. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV
  • EN422 - Advanced Poetry

    During the winter term, IVth Formers apply their skills in close reading and literary analysis to the genre of poetry. The first five weeks are devoted to the analysis of poems written in English by diverse authors. Analytical writing continues to play a central role in the curriculum, but there may be time for students to write some poetry of their own as well. Discussion-based inquiry around the Harkness table encourages careful deliberation and shared construction of nuanced understanding. During the second five weeks of the term, students engage in an intensive study of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. We cultivate skills in reading and public speaking through opportunities for poetry recitation, dramatic recitation, and student-led discussion. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: IV
  • EN423 - Essay Writing

    In this spring term course, unique in the department's offerings as a form-wide writing course, students read three or four exemplary essays per week in The Norton Reader Anthology of Nonfiction and in The New Yorker, becoming familiar with a variety of rhetorical techniques to use in their own writing. For the first half of the term approximately every week-and-a-half, students write a short essay, often modeled on the published essays that make up the reading portion of the course. Class time includes a workshop component for students to help each writer to understand and realize his or her goals for the essay. The second half of the term emphasizes revision, and the final exam takes the form of a capstone essay, which students will expand, condense, and revise for a potentially larger audience. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: IV
  • EN501 - Writing Seminar

    PRIMARILY FOR NEW STUDENTS. Course 501 introduces new Fifth Form students and Post Graduates to writing about experience and literature. In the fall, students will write weekly personal essays and literary analyses, developing and securing critical writing skills needed for college-level literature courses. New Vth form students who have demonstrated a clear proficiency in expository and critical writing in the past may be permitted to enroll in other English electives, and some rising Vth form students may be encouraged to take Writing Seminar before enrolling in a different 500-level English course. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN506 - Literary Journalism

    Literary Journalists adhere to the ethics and methods of journalism but follow the timeline of non-fiction writers, creating rich non-fiction stories with hard-hitting facts and emotional weight. Examine this art form by reading the best writers of genre: John McPhee, Norman Simms, Adrian LeBlanc. As we analyze the techniques employed by these writers and their colleagues, students will craft their own series of vignettes that adhere to the tenets of literary journalism. As a final project, students will create a newsworthy article on a subject of their choice. Students will have the option to submit the piece for publication. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN507 - Literature Of National Pastime

    Baseball, with its encyclopedia of metaphoric language and freedom from the mechanical rigidity of the clock, has throughout its storied history captivated the literary imagination in a manner unique in the American sporting landscape. An “immigrant’s game” with a segregated past, a relic of a bygone era that evolves and reinvents itself with the times, baseball’s contradictions reflect those inherent in American democracy. Its season, beginning with the eternal optimism of spring, developing over a long summer, and concluding in autumnal decay, unfolds within a set narrative structure that nevertheless invites infinite variations and possibilities. Readings will include WP Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe, which inspired the film Field of Dreams; Don DeLillo’s novella Pafko at the Wall, which reimagines the scene of the 1951 World Series at New York’s famed Polo Grounds; Jim Collins’ The Last Best League, which chronicles college players during one hopeful summer on Cape Cod; and Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, which helped popularize the now-dominant data-driven approach to the game. Shorter form readings will explore the history of the Negro Leagues, the growth of the game in Japan and Latin America, recent inroads by women coaches and executives, and the stories of some of the sport’s mythical twentieth century figures. Course requirements include close reading, active Harkness participation, three critical essays and a final exam paper. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN508 - African American Literature

    Students study the best works written by black American writers after the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, with a primary emphasis on fiction and drama. The central concern of this course will be the efforts of black writers to explore artistically the conflicting claims of their racial and national identities and their perception of themselves as both apart from and a part of the American cultural scene. Readings include Richard Wright's Uncle Tom's Children, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Toni Morrison's Beloved, and August Wilson's The Piano Lesson. Essays, stories and poems by James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Hayden will also be considered. Writing requirements include two short essays, a midterm, and a longer final paper. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN510 - Literature Of The Beat Generation

    In the midst of the tense, Cold War-obsessed 1950s, a group of writers emerged from obscurity, entering into mainstream literary and social circuits. Extolling values of freedom and non-conformity in their unusual, yet innovative approach to writing, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg solidified the movement paving the way for other writers to find their voices through literature. This course examines the Beats and their literary and social influence on American culture; focusing primarily on the birth and height of the Beat movement in the 1940s and 50s, the course will also explore the Beats' impact on literature, music, and social issues of the 1960s and 70s, such as the antiwar, civil rights, gay rights, and women’s movements. Various analytical and creative writing assignments, group work, and daily preparation and participation in class discussion will factor into the overall grade. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN511 - Creative Writing: Techniques in Poetry and Short Fiction

    This class has three major elements: 1) We will read and discuss very contemporary (often published in the last 5-10 years) poetry and short stories.  Our aim here will be both to see where the conversation in American literature is right now, and to look for what those stories and poems can teach us about how to write our own stories and poems.  2) You will write short stories and poetry of your own, jumping off from a number of possible prompts each time, but with generally a lot of freedom.  3) We will spend a large percentage of class time workshopping your creative writing (your poems and short stories), which means you should expect to have your classmates read what you write in this class and expect to do a lot of talking around the Harkness table as a workshop participant.  At the end of the term, you’ll have a small collection of your own creative writing to be proud of! Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN512 - Radical Love in African American Literature

    Radical Love in African American Literature: Reading and Writing Nonfiction and Poetry
    What is it to love radically? In this course, students will be asked to remember and re-envision love through reading works by Black cisgender women authors of the 20th and 21st centuries. Beginning with bell hooks’ All About Love as a foundation, students will continue on to read works by Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and the poets Jericho Brown and Danez Smith. We will culminate our reading with a viewing of Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust” and, potentially, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” Through actively engaging with these works, students will be asked to discuss queer and heteroromantic love, familial love, love between friends, and love within communities. Through discussions and critical essays, students will inquire about and discover the power that love has to create social change. Additionally, students will be asked to write personal essays and poems about their own experiences with love - specifically reflecting on its ability to create personal and greater change - influenced by and infused with the readings. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN513 - Nobel Pulitzer National Booker

    Our mission at Lawrenceville is “to seek the best for all.” Our world often makes this mission hard to pursue. This course uses award-winning contemporary literature to dive deep into issues challenging our society—and into the crucial work of figuring out how to respond. With so many people in the US and around the globe experiencing marginalization deriving from racialized identity, next fall the course will feature texts focusing on this problem. We will study some combination of the following: Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies; National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing; Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys; National Book Award winner Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown. Course requirements include close reading, active co-leadership of class discussions, three major essays, and a final paper. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN514 - American Indian Literatures

    This course will focus a number of issues that are fundamental to American Indian literature, including major themes and motifs, the relevance of tribal histories and cultural background, and the importance of sovereignty. This course will focus on fiction and poetry by modern and contemporary American Indian writers from various parts and tribes of North America. Our readings will be diverse, but we will pay close attention to themes of place, community, and self-governance. We will ultimately discuss the possibility and appropriateness of defining an authentic American Indian aesthetic. Grants: Honors; NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN515 - From Pulp to Pop: Literature Outside the Canon

    The term “pulp fiction” was coined to describe the vast number of inexpensive texts that were published on cheap pulp paper and made available to the masses in the early 20th century. Known today as pop or genre fiction, writers of the form are not only gifted at their craft but are producing works that extend beyond simple entertainment. Texts tackle important issues of the day, elevating them beyond escapist readings. They now offer legitimate responses to problems and concerns that have real-word implications. From a critical approach, we will explore the intersection between pop fiction and canonized literature; between academic and non-academic texts. Assignments include an analysis of early pulp works and excerpts from canonized texts, personal responses, and analytical prose. This term we will read Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle; Pym by Mat Johnson; Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely. Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN516 - Essays Of Reflection

    “Experience,” said Aldous Huxley, “is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” This course will help you to transform key moments in your life to into instructive experience. To that end, we will write (and write and write—an essay each week), recollecting significant things that have happened to you in order to turn them from ephemeral occurrences into recognizable passages in a more carefully examined life. If you have not yet sifted through crazy family rituals or what happened in your Humanities classes during Second Form or on Outward Bound, here you get a chance to consider and to communicate what that part of your life was (and now is) about. However you have spent the past few years, this course intends, through rigorous writing, to help you to enunciate who, what and where you’ve been; who, what and where you are; to what and where you might be going. Course requirements include one essay per week and a final essay. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN517 – Doing Philosophy with the Movies: Other Minds, Acting, Being and Perception

    If you’re interested in the philosophical questions raised by Hamlet, you’ll love this.  In this hybrid literature & film course, we will look largely at metafictional narratives on both the page and the screen (a metafiction is a work of fiction that draws attention to its own fabrication, constructedness, or genre).  We will spend some time learning how to “close-read” movies on screen the way we read texts, before expanding out to “do philosophy” with a number of texts and films. Expect questions about acting, lying, counterfeiting, pretending, performance, truth-telling, audiences, witnesses, surveillance, authenticity.  In other words, we will be generally interested in how we make sense of other people and perform versions of ourselves for them. We will also have some occasion to talk about theory of mind, what we see as the purpose(s) of art, and what these self-conscious moments in both film and literature have to teach us about their respective mediums.  In addition to some short stories, expect to read some philosophy (G. E. M. Anscombe, J. L. Austin, Wittgenstein, Cavell…) and to watch (and write about) several films (Hitchcock, especially). *Formerly called "Storytelling in Literature and Film" Grants: Honors; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN518 - Literature as Philosophy

    Ultimate questions and compelling characters are often joined to great effect. This course will investigate some ways philosophers have used literature to present new ideas and how writers have mixed philosophy into their fiction. We will explore dramatic, literary, and poetic formulations, and the reading list may include Plato, Voltaire, Nietzsche, Borges, Silko, Murdoch, and Pirsig. Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN520 - From Freud To The Void

    First off, we ground ourselves carefully in the rudiments of Sigmund Freud's scandalous psychoanalytic theory (The Rat Man and Civilization and its Discontents). Then we pick up the trail of the good doctor as it surfaces in the America Dream of the early 1950s. We pursue it, psychoanalytically, through the post-war mannerists of repression like John Cheever and J.D. Salinger, who explored some possible modes of behavior in response to the Freudian predicament. We then turn to the libidinous Beats (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William Burroughs) who reshaped the project into the apocalyptic postures that were politicized in the 60s, commercialized and/or pastoralized in the 70s, romanticized in the 80s, then detoxed and archived on t-shirts for our own new century. Last stop: Hunter S. Thompson. Course work includes three essays and a final paper. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN522 - Inventing Truth: The Art of Memoir

    Everyone has a story to tell. Our backgrounds can determine what we value and who we ultimately become. This course focuses on the study of the memoir, a type of personal narrative that zooms in on poignant and formative moments from one's past. In recent years, more and more young people have taken a stab at this genre - some successfully, and others not so much. This course centers around the former type. The three primary texts - Fun Home, Hillbilly Elegy, and Men We Reaped - feature young writers of the 21st century, as they come to terms with their cultural, racial, or sexual identities through the art of storytelling. For the first half of the term, students read, analyze, and write about these texts, exploring each with a critical eye and a close attention to detail. During the second half of the term, students shift their focus to creative writing, as they craft their own work using methodology and techniques learned during the course. In addition to writing, daily preparation and participation in class discussion will factor into the overall grade. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN523 - Hemingway

    The reading in this course will include The Nick Adams Stories, A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Because Hemingway the man is as fascinating as Hemingway the writer, we will pay close attention to selected readings from the various biographies of Hemingway. Writing assignments will be varied and will include the opportunity to write in the style of Hemingway. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN528 - Law As Literature

    This course is designed as a study of law as it appears in a variety of genres. We will study novels like Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Harry Mulisch's The Assault, and Albert Camus' The Fall, as well as dramas like The Andersonville Trial and Bolt's Man For All Seasons. The course also includes non-fiction works like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Wilkerson's An Act of Violence and numbers of court opinions and essays by writers ranging from Rebecca West to Oliver Wendall Holmes. Interviews with prosecutors, policemen, and judges are also planned, and students should expect to spend a day in court. Students write a major paper on each of the main works, usually four, and will also write weekly paragraph length essays on LSAT questions. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN530 - Modern Drama: Anton Chekhov and His Influence

    Aside from Shakespeare’s, very few playwrights’ works grace New York and London stages as much as those of Russian writer Anton Chekhov, whose four major plays, hostile to traditional definitions of comedy and tragedy, exerted a profound influence on twentieth century drama. With memorable country characters who, like many a boarding school senior, firmly believe that “real life” is happening elsewhere (in this case Moscow, not college), Chekhov explores artistic ambition, family dynamics, and the inescapable legacy of history, among other universal topics. After a brief study of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, which inspired him, we will read three of the four major plays, (The Seagull, Uncle Vanya OR Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard) paired with two American classics (Death of a Salesman and The Piano Lesson) that bear traces of Chekhov’s influence. Students should expect three comparative essays -- one on each of the Chekhov pairings -- and a collaborative final assignment that will allow them to perform and analyze a favorite scene. Student-driven discussions will be enriched by excerpts from film and stage adaptations of each work. Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN531 - Interactive Storytelling

    How we tell stories, and our audience’s expectations and experiences of them, is changing as innovations in computing enable more interactive experiences. Readers now participate not only in their imaginations but also as creators of the narrative itself. Gaming is the most obvious example of this change, but the Black Mirror “Bandersnatch” episode, hypertext, and even the Choose Your Own Adventure series are not-so-distant cousins. We will begin the course studying the evolution of reader participation in interactive stories to more deeply understand why and when engagement happens. Then, students will “read” interactive fiction to discover the form’s craft as well as its benefits and drawbacks. Thereafter, and for most of the term, students will collaborate to create a short interactive story using twine2.0. This story will be available for future Lawrentians and visitors to “read” on the interactive screens at the entryway of the GCAD. This course will include “labs” to teach students to use the interactive story-design software, so no prior knowledge is expected. Possible texts: Lisa Zunshine, Why We Read Fiction; the games Skyrim, The Last of Us; R.A. Montgomery, Choose Your Own Adventure series; Michael Joyce, “afternoon, a story”; digital fiction: “Device 6”, “Florence,” “Her Story,” “Life is Strange.” Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN533 - Moby Dick

    This course is devoted to an intensive reading of Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851). Although it made Melville almost no money, selling fewer than 10,000 copies world-wide during the forty years between its publication and Melville's death in 1891, Moby Dick is now thought by many critics to be the most influential, if not the greatest, of American novels. Some of Melville's analogues and sources will be examined, and emphasis will be given to the historical and cultural issues informing the novel. Students will be required to keep a log, or journal, of their experiences and reactions as the Pequod sails round the world in search of the White Whale, and they will write two short essays and a longer final paper. As time permits, we will also consider Melville's writing career after Moby Dick by reading Bartleby the Scrivener and Billy Budd. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN534 - Guilt

    On the one hand, guilt is public, a judgment passed by others in response to some kind of crime or an offense against the unwritten laws of social expectation. Whether you accept the verdict of the judge or the jury--or your community--you are guilty. On the other hand, guilt is private and personal, the tormenting sense of having done something wrong--even if no one knows you’ve done it. Even if you only thought about doing it.
    In this course, we will read a variety of literary texts that explore the psychological, moral, and social experience of guilt--of being guilty, of feeling guilty. Questions we will ask include: What are the different ways to be guilty or innocent? Who decides? What are the consequences of guilt--personal and public? And where and how do the guilty find redemption--indeed, is redemption even possible?
    Our readings will depend on the length of the term, but possible texts include Genesis, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Assignments will include creative and critical writing, daily discussion (in class and on Haiku), and a seminar paper. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN536 - Creative Non-Fiction

    When Oprah found out that James Frey's memoir, which she had endorsed with her Book Club stamp of approval, was in fact not all true, the public outcry that followed sounded through television sets around the country. The media mania that followed raised an important question - where do you draw the line between fiction and non-fiction? Is memory a fair primary source document? Is the line between fiction and non-fiction as distinct as we characterize it to be? In this course, we will look at a spectrum of writing, beginning with historical writing and hard journalism and moving to the more nuanced genre that has become the historical novel. Students will produce their own forms of the genre - from fact-based essays, to memoirs, to researched-based creative non-fiction essays. In the final paper, students will be asked to draw their own line between fiction and non-fiction by explaining and defending the choices in their own research and writing. Possible texts include: essays by Lee Gutkind, David McCullough, and Joyce Carol Oates, Geraldine Brook's Caleb's Crossing, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and John Krakauer's Into Thin Air. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN540 - Poetry Seminar

    In conjunction with the James Merrill poetry readings, Poetry Seminar gives students the opportunity to study and to converse with the distinguished poets who come to Lawrenceville each winter. In addition, the course offers students the chance to pursue their own writing in a variety of ways. Students typically write between eight and ten poems of their own over the course of the term, as well as a like number of critical essays on a variety of important poets. In addition, members of the class should anticipate reading their work to the class and also reading and editing the work of their colleagues. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN542 - Southern Literature

    The South is the one part of this country to have suffered unambiguous defeat, and that defeat not only colors its actions and attitudes but also inspires its song and its ironic and spirit-soaked and in some ways (even when comic) rather sad fiction. The victors in a war may assume the right to compose the history of the conflict, but often the losers write the enduring fiction-and thus win that other and unending battle that takes place in the human heart. We'll read works by the likes of Eudora Welty, Ernest J. Gaines, Flannery O'Connor, Richard Wright, Peter Taylor, Carson McCullers and, above all, William Faulkner. We'll read them in part to see the effects of that external war the South lost, but mostly to discover how well the South has reversed that historical judgment or redeemed itself through art. Papers after every major text and some in-class essays are required. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN544 - Shakespeare's Comedies: Masks We Wear

    This elective looks closely at three very different comedies (Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, and Much Ado About Nothing) focusing on the motifs of disguise and deceit in each as well as the question of what constitutes a comedy. All of the plays involve both physical and figurative masks, and each raises questions about the morality of hiding one's true identity behind a false front. Video versions of each of the plays supplement the texts, and if we have an opportunity to see a live show in the area, we will take advantage of that. In addition, a little time at the very start of the term will be dedicated to writing personal essays to give seniors the opportunity to do some work on their college applications. Students will write two personal essays and three analytical essays over the course of the term. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN547 - The Screwball Comedy

    This elective will look closely at the genre that has come to be called "screwball comedy": comedies that see a romance through mischance and difficulty before ending in "felicity," as Jane Austen might say. We’ll start with Shakespeare, looking closely at Much Ado About Nothing and what seems to be its companion tragedy, Othello, before turning our attention to Hollywood’s versions of the genre from the 1930s and 40s, and eventually a contemporary novel (which Eugenides quite explicitly titles The Marriage Plot). In order to give us both a critical eye for detail and social context along the way, we’ll dig into some of the informative criticism that has sprung up in the wake of the genre. (Cavell goes so far as to call this new genre "the comedy of equality" (82).) Our framing questions will include the following: "What defines the genre of screwball/romantic comedy?" "What social and philosophical concerns do these stories reveal?" "Where does comedy begin and end?" "Why does comedy often waver so close to being tragedy?" "What do these comedies suggest about the nature of happiness in romantic relationships?" We’ll train ourselves how to "read" a film scene as a text, and expect frequent co-leadership of class discussions, several papers and a final paper / project / presentation. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN548 - West Of Everything

    This course is designed as a study of the West of the American imagination and includes novels like Ron Hansen's Desperadoes, Cormac McCarthy's All The Pretty Horses and Blood Meridian, and Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid; short stories by Stephen Crane, Richard Ford, and Lee Abbott; and non-fiction like Allen Barra's Inventing Wyatt Earp and Jonathan Raban's Bad Land. We will also see a number of films, ranging from John Wayne's Rio Grande to Tombstone and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. Students should expect to write a major paper on each of the novels, as well as brief essays on the films. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN549 - Linguistics: Dr. Johnson To Dr. Chomsky

    We investigate the astonishing properties of language. Students lead the analysis of subjects that may include lexicography, theories of the origins of language, syntax and semantics, etymology, phonetic transcription, universal grammar, slang and dialect, neurolinguistics, and artificial intelligence. We begin with an examination of Samuel Johnson's production of the 1755 Dictionary of the English Language. We then read selected chapters from a standard linguistics textbook followed by a careful examination of classic essays by language theorists like Ferdinand de Saussure, Charles Sanders Peirce, and Roman Jakobson, then modern investigators such as Noam Chomsky, John Searle, Gerald Edelman, Derek Bickerton, Terrance W. Deacon, Oliver Sacks, and Steven Pinker. Students write three papers and conduct a term-end linguistic research project of their own devising. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN551 - Signifying Nothing: Experiments in Fiction

    The title of this course is an allusion to William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury, the title of which is itself an allusion to Macbeth’s harrowing speech in Act V:
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing. (V. v. 26-30)
    I haven’t taught The Sound and the Fury in this class since the first year it was offered, so the title is no longer as relevant as it once was—I suppose you might say “Signifying Nothing” now signifies nothing. Or not quite nothing: While the reading list of short novels for this course changes from year to year, the primary focus of the class is on how experimental literary texts create meaning—and how literature helps us find or create meaning in our lives. Is it really true, as Macbeth claims, that human life is without purpose, “signifying nothing?”
    As the second part of the course title notes, we will focus on two or three pieces of fiction that experiment with traditional ways of telling a story. And, in fact, the course itself is also somewhat experimental: Each year I choose a slightly different combination of texts—no two years are the same. In previous years, we’ve read novels by William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Maxine Hong Kingston, Nicole Krauss, Italo Calvino, James Joyce, and others. Assessments will include occasional reading quizzes and both critical and creative writing assignments. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN552 - Children's Literature

     Looking at books that range from early childhood picture books to juvenile and young adult literature, this course considers children's psychological and moral development in the context of the art of illustration, the nature of storytelling, and the communication of “grown-up” themes through children’s literature. Using The Child That Books Built as a base text, we read classics such as My Father’s Dragon, The Hundred Dresses, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Pushcart War along with numerous picture books, children’s poetry, and children’s series books. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN556 - Modern English Plays

    It has been said that the world has never seen a greater period of change than the 20th century, and the modern stage has artfully reflected the confusion and excitement of that time. In the first half of the century, England was involved in two World Wars, the sobering effects of which can be clearly seen on the British stage. The snobbery and waste of the upper classes that was once a great source for comedy was now a more appropriate theme for tragedy, and humor found itself rooted in the existentialist idea of absurdity itself. This elective will look closely at this change in the theater through three playwrights: one from the late 1800s, and two from the middle and late 20th century. We will read six plays over the term and write an essay on each of the three authors. The class itself will be text and discussion based, but it will also include films and our own oral interpretations of the plays around the Harkness table. Texts may include: Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest and An Ideal Husband, J.B. Priestly's An Inspector Calls and Time and the Conways, and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and The Real Inspector Hound. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN559 - The Graphic Novel

    The graphic novel is an aesthetically innovative genre in which meaning is created through the interplay of image and text. How do we read a novel in which two narrative channels - one verbal, the other visual - interact? What can this multi-modal genre do that other literary genres cannot? And how might it challenge readers to expand the set of interpretive techniques that make up "close reading"? This course will investigate the renaissance of graphic narrative that has taken place in the last 25 years.
    Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN562 - American Landscapes

    What does it mean to be an American? In literature, explorations of American identity are closely tied to representations of the natural environment. In this course we will be reading novels that describe a variety of American landscapes, which, in turn, articulate different authors’ visions of what it means to be American. Texts may include Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, and Don DeLillo’s White Noise. Essays will be assigned after every major reading, and the culminating project will be based on a "field trip" to Whole Foods.
    Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN563 - American Literature and the Free Market

    In the recent decade, the human cost of the free market has been more often in the news, from the "99%ers" marching on public squares across America to the rise and fall and rise and fall of the stock market. In this course, we will take a look at the way literature offers a human view of the American marketplace. From a how-to-succeed story in Sister Carrie by Dreiser, to Saul Bellow's tale of the day-in-the-life of a man who loses everything in stocks, this course will look at how the American free-market economy shapes the lives of characters in literature. Critical essays after every major text and some in-class essays are required. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN565 - War Stories

    Like marriage, war is not something to be “entered into unadvisedly or lightly,” either for a soldier or for a society; hence the importance of gaining critical perspective through literature. Recent course texts: Pat Barker’s Regeneration (Booker Prize finalist, 1991), which carries one into the trenches of World War I and then into a hospital treating soldiers for “shell shock”; Kevin Powers’s The Yellow Birds (National Book Award finalist, 2011), which carries one into Iraq in 2004-2005, then back to the US with an Army vet wrestling with lingering combat trauma; Phil Klay’s Redeployment (National Book Award, 2014), whose stories explore not only combat and its repercussions but what it’s like to be a young service vet now enrolled at a NESCAC college, what it’s like to try to participate in civilian relationships after a combat deployment, etc. Course requirements include close reading, active co-leadership of class discussions, three major essays, and a final paper. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN573 - Grit Lit: Readings of Perseverance and Hope

    What are the ties that bind? How does disaster strain family bonds? Students will examine themes of perseverance, grit, happiness and family in the two epic American novels, The Good Earth and The Grapes of Wrath. Students will study the historical context of the novels as well as the American dream and its effect on the families in the novels. In the final weeks of the course, students will read short stories about families and marriages that overcome great odds. Students will have the opportunity to write analytically about the novels and to examine their own values around relationships, family, and success. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • EN578 - Dystopian Literature and Social Protest

    Even though we expect social institutions to bring cohesion and structure to our communities, who really has access to the power amassed by those institutions, and who gets silenced or excluded? In this course, we will examine fictional and historical accounts of seemingly progressive societies that repress narratives of internal social oppression. Can the voices of the marginalized play a vital role within a functioning society? Texts may include, Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Assignments will include reader responses, an analytical essay, and a final project. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN579 - Literature, Trauma and Resistance

    This course explores expressions of resistance in characters who experience trauma based on a number of factors that include culture, gender, and religion. You will compare and contrast how characters find ways to live, to speak, to act as human beings in the face of inhumanity. Since theoretical context is essential to understanding who and/or what influences authors’ decisions to write, you will read and analyze historical documents and poems; listen to audio recordings; and watch short videos. Writings for this course (personal reflections, analytical prose, and creative responses) will focus on the human element - the will to make sense of the world, the will to resist, the will to survive. Texts for the coming school year are: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue; There, There by Tommy Orange; Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • IN503 - Chaucer: Text and Context

    Focusing on the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, this course explores both a rich and extraordinary text and the culture of the late medieval world. Using chapters from Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror to understand the contradictions of what she calls the “calamitous 14th Century,” we will see how Chaucer's Canterbury Tales often depict an individual struggling against self-contradictory social forces. The various pilgrims give us chances to examine issues of gender and class in conjunction with ideas about justice and exclusion. Though many of the readings in this course are in Middle English, no previous experience with the dialect is required. We will read slowly at the beginning of the course, paying close attention to the language as our translation skills develop. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • IN504 - Legal Practice And Procedures

    This course is intended as the main conduit to the Lawrenceville Mock Trial Team and, as such, has as its practical goal the preparation of students to participate in those competitions. On a more broad front the course seeks to educate students on both the principles of the American legal system and the ways those principles are expressed during the course of an actual litigation. The course will take up differences between civil and criminal litigation; the rules of direct vs. cross-examination; and the definitions of various rules of evidence like hearsay. What, for instance, is its definition, and what might be considered exceptions to that rule? Students should expect to read extensively and closely the details of an individual case and to write a number of openings, closings, and witness statements. They will also be expected to master the rules of courtroom procedure and to engage in extensive role-playing. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA** 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T1; Forms: V; Prereqs: EN401 **IMPORTANT: This is NCAA approved as a Social Science and can not be counted towards the English requirement for NCAA
  • IN507 - Spies... Like Us: Cold War Literature

    The Cold War was a political as well as a cultural and philosophical war between the Soviet Union and the West, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on writers and artists to be political spokespeople fighting for the hearts and minds of everyday people in support of their respective ways of life. Writers composed novels, poems, and films rich in social and philosophical complexity, but always with underlying political commentary and agendas. In doing so, they re-examined the foundations of western values, such as individual rights, social commitments, duty, freedom, power, sense, spirituality, and sanity. The questions they raised will be the same ones we raise and answer using literary texts. Is there something essentially "human," such as a human spirit, and what is its constitution? What is the purpose of poetry when tanks are in the streets? To what degree does an individual owe allegiance to her moral ideals? Does language serve to reveal or to mask reality? Is sanity socially or transcendentally defined? We will read novels, poems, essays, and films by writers from both sides of the Iron Curtain, possibly including Schneider, Koestler, Milosz, Havel, Kundera, Le Carré, Greene, Kubrick, Wajda, von Dannersmarck, Jean-Luc Godard, Brodsky, Barthes, Derrida, Nabokov, Tarkovsky, Sontag, Cavell. Experiential Component: Spring Break Trip to Berlin, Gdansk, Warsaw, and Prague Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA; 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • IN508 - Science and Literature: Being Human

    “Are you doing STEM in college? Or are you an English/History person?” Although our culture tends to these unfortunately popular binaries are all too seductive, leading us to believe that we have to reduce our life-paths to these facile categories because they accurately organize our world. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the sciences and the humanities have long influenced each other. Some scientists say the universe acts poetically; some poets say poetry is a form of knowledge about the universe. We will read poets, playwrights, and novelists engaged with, inspired by, and in critical conversation with science, and we will read scientists writing poetry, fiction, and philosophy. Given the explosion of writing in recent years about the intersection between these two fields, this course has been expanded to two terms. The Fall Term will focus on the Science and Philosophy of Consciousness, Cognition, Artificial Intelligence, Memory, Ecology, and Physics as represented in Literature. Authors will include Albert Einstein, Philip K. Dick, William Wordsworth, Michael Frayn, Wallace Stevens, Forrest Gander, and Susan Blackmore.
    Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • IN509 - Science and Literature: The Good Life

    The guiding question, the subtitle of this course, has been a philosophical or theological project for millenia. Happiness, love, well-being, joy were states of mind ascribed to both moral and pragmatic choices, the consequences of a life well-lived. The independence of mind and body (or what is called Cartesian dualism) seemed to have been cemented by Descartes, and Cartesian dualism continues to be the way most people continue to understand themselves. Recently, however, science seems to offer other insights into the state and health of our inner lives, emotional and psychological states, our relationships, even our thoughts, desires, and hopes. Feeling depressed because of a loss? We have pills for that. Want to know why you feel so great after winning? Neurotransmitters. But… does that seem right?  Starting with the positive psychology movement, this section of Science and Literature will use novels, poems and essays to examine the intersection between science and the philosophical projects of building a good life. In addition, this course will ask students to apply the theories throughout the term. The Winter Term will include literature representing the science and philosophy of Health, Medicine, Physiology, Psychology, Well-Being, and Happiness. Authors will include Hippocrates, Oliver Sacks, Aristotle, Atul Gawande, Miroslav Holub, Aldous Huxley, Lewis Thomas, Albert Camus and Susan Blackmore. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • IN512 - Heuristics

    Each week is a separate unit organized around a concept which becomes our heuristic -- our path to discovery. The concept might be Freud's theory of the unconscious mind, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar, Natural Law as envisioned by Thomas Aquinas, Coleridge's notion of the "willing suspension of disbelief," Jack Kerouac's vision of a global felahim, degeneration as understood in immunology, or homeostasis as defined by Claude Bernard. All of these constitute powerful gears of thought within their own discipline or context. But can they be usefully applied to problems beyond their native boundaries? We select and define a new heuristics at the start of each week, explore its uses and implications mid-week, and close the week by attempting individually to discover, and write up, a novel application for the concept beyond the confines of its home court. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • IN514 - 1619 Matters: Slavery and African American Literature

    Out of slavery - and the anti-black racism it required - grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, its diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education, its astonishing penchant for violence, its income inequality, the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality, its slang, its legal system and the endemic racial fears and hatreds that continue to plague it to this day. The seeds of all that were planted long before our official birth date, in 1776, when the men known as our founders formally declared independence from Britain. (The New York Times 1619 Project) This course examines literary and supporting historical works written between 1619 and the present. Beginning with enslaved African Americans, the course provides a survey of writings, images, art, and video that are representative of The Middle Passage, Slavery/bondage, oral traditions, The Civil War & Reconstruction, The Great Migration, the rise of the “New Negro,” black realism, modernism, and post-modernism. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary; 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • IN524 - Immigration Stories/Theories

    “There is a limit to our powers of assimilation, and when it is exceeded, the country suffers from something very much like indigestion,” bemoaned a The New York Times editorial in 1880, in response to the greatest wave of immigration our country had ever seen. Since then, the United States has become the refuge, the workplace and the home to millions more immigrants, legal and not, from countries near and far. What explains this massive influx of people? And what are its implications - both for the immigrants who leave home, family and history behind to reinvent themselves in America - and for America itself? Can this nation of immigrants continue to absorb, economically and socially, wave upon wave of newcomers? Can we afford not to? And how will a new administration’s immigration policies affect our nation, our national identity, and our position in the world? In this two-term interdisciplinary course, students will explore these questions through the lenses of history, economics, memoir and literature. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA 2IN/1HI/1EN Cr.; Terms: T1 and T2; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: HI423 or HI513
  • EN599 - Ind. Study: English

    Students with special interests they wish to explore outside the regular program of courses may apply to drop one course for one term and use the time for independent study. This may involve research or creative work; normally it will culminate in a paper, exhibit, or performance of some kind. Work in such projects is treated exactly like work in regular courses: a final grade is given; students must meet regularly (at least once a week) with their advisor; they must have tangible progress to report at each meeting. Grants: Honors; Terms: T1 or T2 or T3; Forms: V; Prereqs: Department Approval

Our Faculty

  • Photo of Miranda Christoffersen P'14 '18
    Miranda Christoffersen P'14 '18
    Chair of the English Department
    Brown University - M.A.T.
    Bryn Mawr College - B.A.
  • Photo of Champ Atlee'62 H'74 '75 '79 '80 '83 '84 '87 '89 '06 P'92
    Champ Atlee'62 H'74 '75 '79 '80 '83 '84 '87 '89 '06 P'92
    English Teacher
    Millersville State University - M.A.
    Franklin and Marshall College - B.A.
  • Photo of Elizabeth Buckles
    Elizabeth Buckles
    English Teacher
    Wesleyan University - M.A.
    Kenyon College - B.A.
  • Photo of Katie Chaput
    Katie Chaput
    English Teacher
    St. Bonaventure University - M.A.
    Syracuse University - B.A.
  • Photo of Chris Cunningham, Ph.D. P'14 '18
    Chris Cunningham, Ph.D. P'14 '18
    Assistant Head of School; Dean of Faculty, English Teacher
    Duke University - Ph.D.
    Stanford University - B.A.
  • Photo of Rebecca Findlay
    Rebecca Findlay
    English Teacher
    Bryn Mawr College - A.B.
    The Bread Loaf School of English (Middlebury College) - MA
  • Photo of Franklin Hedberg H'03 P'96 '00
    Franklin Hedberg H'03 P'96 '00
    English Teacher
    Columbia Journalism School - M.S.J.
    Columbia University - B.A.
    Columbia University - M.A.
    Columbia University - M.Phil.
  • Photo of Enithie Hunter
    Enithie Hunter
    English Teacher
    Montclair State University - A.B.D.
    Jacksonville State University - M.S.
    Jacksonville State University - B.A.
    Jacksonville State University - Ed.S.
  • Photo of Christopher Hyson P'14 '16 '21
    Christopher Hyson P'14 '16 '21
    English Teacher
    Hamilton College - B.A.
    Rhode Island College - M.A.T.
  • Photo of Ronald Kane '83 P'20
    Ronald Kane '83 P'20
    English Teacher
    Drew University - M.A.
    Franklin and Marshall College - B.A.
  • Photo of Anna Kim
    Anna Kim
    English Teaching Fellow
    Williams College - B.A.
  • Photo of Pieter Kooistra H'14 P'20
    Pieter Kooistra H'14 P'20
    English Teacher
    Dartmouth College - A.B.
  • Photo of Stephen LaRochelle
    Stephen LaRochelle
    English Teacher
    Hamilton College - B.A.
  • Photo of Jessica Magnuson
    Jessica Magnuson
    English Teacher
    St. Olaf College - B.A.
    The Bread Loaf School of English (Middlebury College) - MA
  • Photo of Nicholas Martin
    Nicholas Martin
    English Teaching Fellow
    Colby College - B.A.
  • Photo of Marta Napiorkowska, Ph.D.
    Marta Napiorkowska, Ph.D.
    English Teacher
    University of Chicago - Ph.D.
    University of California, Berkeley - B.A.
  • Photo of Katherine O'Malley H'07
    Katherine O'Malley H'07
    English Teacher
    Columbia University - M.A.
    St. John's College - B.A.
  • Photo of Margaret Ray
    Margaret Ray
    English Teacher
    Bread Loaf School of English - M.A.
    Harvard University - M.Ed.
    Middlebury College - B.A.
  • Photo of Sujin Seo
    Sujin Seo
    English Teacher
    University of Virginia - M.A.
    Swarthmore College - B.A.
  • Photo of Bernadette Teeley
    Bernadette Teeley
    English Teacher; Executive Director of Lawrenceville Summer Scholars
    University of Dayton - B.A.
    University of Michigan - M.A.
  • Photo of Wilburn Williams, Ph.D. H'02 '06
    Wilburn Williams, Ph.D. H'02 '06
    English Teacher; Faculty Interviewer
    Amherst College - B.A.
    Yale University - Ph.D.
Through House and Harkness, Lawrenceville challenges a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose.  Our mission is to inspire the best in each to seek the best for all.