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

  • 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 Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Mohja Kahf; poets Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost. 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
  • EN503 - Fiction Seminar

    Run largely as a series of participant-led workshops, this course offers students an opportunity to craft and continue to refine one short story with an eye to publishing it outside the school community in a journal or magazine. In the initial weeks, we study and learn from contemporary writers' styles, discovering methods to develop, articulate, and represent our individual voices and visions. In workshops, we meet over each story for a full class period and then over a second draft to smooth the rough edges. The final third draft becomes a culmination of persistence and commitment that richly rewards the writer's efforts and that results in a mature piece which the writer will be confident enough and proud to share. Not only for self-identified writers, this class, by virtue of its interest in representing human beings through stories, also gives students a chance to share their experiences of the world and their insights into what makes it - and us people - tick. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN504 - Texts in Conversation

    In a world where it has grown increasingly difficult for people to escape their own bubbles, this course is designed to force us out them by exploring a single theme in two or more texts written by authors from disparate backgrounds. After properly historicizing the texts and undergoing a close reading meant to develop a nuanced understanding of each author’s perspective, we will spend time discussing the ways in the texts and authors engage each other with regards to the theme. Students will write analyses of the texts and culminate with a personal writing in which they engage with the texts, the scholarship, and their own interactions with the theme. Grants: Honors; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN505 - Style And Expression In Creative Writing

    Take this elective to balance the analytical side of your training. Identify your expressive voice and find out what it sounds like and what it looks like on paper. A series of graduated exercises trains you to manipulate increasingly demanding elements of dialogue, monologue, drama, autobiography, dream, poetry, and fiction. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; 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

    This course is designed to examine how the 20th century literature of our National Pastime affects and reflects American society. Through selected poems, essays, short stories, a novel, and an autobiography, we will explore how the mythic influence of baseball has shaped American culture. Ultimately the course will arrive at some conclusions supporting the assertion that baseball has had a unique grip on our national psyche. The vivid and unforgettable literature portrays the game's greatest heroes, how they were shaped by their times, and how their lives and legends reflect the changes in our society over the past hundred years. Writing requirements include several shorter essays and a final longer 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
  • EN513 - Nobel Pulitzer National Booker

    A life of learning, integrity, and high purpose. Seeking the best for all. This course aims to help you pursue these crucial elements of our school mission. Our particular brief? Engaging, through great works of recent literature, difficult issues confronting our society. Our sources? Books that (and authors who) have been selected for major awards and prizes. What do you experience when you hear “Ferguson”? What feelings and thoughts does “Trayvon” trigger? How did we get here? What now? In 2018, the course will take up these questions through the study of four rich, challenging texts: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016 National Book Award, Fiction), our summer reading; Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward (2011 National Book Award, Fiction); Paul Beatty’s  The Sellout(2016 Booker Prize, 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction); and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015 National Book Award, Nonfiction). Course requirements include close reading, active co-leadership of class discussions, three 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
  • 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 class 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. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; 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
  • EN521 - Gothic and Dark Romantic Literature

    Despite our best efforts, as readers we are drawn again and again to the eerie, uncanny, grotesque, and sinister. Why do people return to monsters, human or otherwise, in our writing when reason has offered an alternative? This course will examine Gothic literature from literary, cultural, and historical perspectives, searching for its both its roots and noting its continued influence on writers today. After a brief foray into German philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, and the Sturm und Drang movement, we will consider the European Gothic and horror tradition, reading canonical texts such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca. We will then track and examine the connections between Gothic and Dark Romantic works as Gothic literature was both influenced by and reinterpreted in the Americas, reading selections of Poe and Hawthorne as well as Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Together we will consider the common features of gothic fiction such as the tension between reason and passion, the character of the house, the role of writing and the epistolary tradition, the body and human as monstrous or sublime, and how our identities and anxieties finds their way into our writings and readings of texts. Grants: Honors; 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
  • EN525 - Irish Literature

    Ireland has long been a country of stories. As Charles Haughey stated, " Ireland is a place where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible ". Perhaps more than any other English speaking nation, the Irish have an affinity with and an aptitude for narrative that places story at the core of it's collective consciousness. From ancient journeys and epic quests to ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances, Irish literature is as complex as Ireland's complicated sociopolitical history. This elective will concentrate on Irish literature, history, and politics from the early twentieth century to the present. Through a study of poetry, fiction, and drama, students will be introduced to the themes of the Irish Literary Renaissance, including the notion of " Cultural Nationalism ". The course will be divided primarily into two parts -- the literature generated in and about the capital city of Dublin and the works which reflect the rural and bucolic landscape of the rugged west coast. Some background material on ancient Irish folklore will provide the context to consider the works of Yeats, Heaney, Synge, O'Casey, Friel, and Joyce -- among others. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • EN551 - Signifying Nothing: Experimental Novels

    What is real? What is true? Whose version of experience do we trust? How reliable is memory as a record of the past and a resource for understanding? How does language represent-distort-create-the world of our experience? In this course we will look at three novels (William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Nicole Krauss' recent novel, The History of Love (2005)) that attempt to make sense of people and events that apparently defy logic or understanding. While all three novels tell compelling, gripping stories-of a family in the American South, of the Holocaust, of a murder in a small South American village-they also force us to think about the nature of time and history and the vagaries of human memory. Students can expect to do two or three critical papers, a presentation, and a final project/paper. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN552 - Children's Literature

    As children we live in a world of exciting unfamiliarity, stepping day after day on the path of curious possibility. Each moment is a new, redefining experience that can reveal the rich beauty or crushing disappointment of being. No matter what the capricious moment provides, children have a peculiar and charming magical power, the power of escape. To retreat into the private space of the imagination, a space unbound by the limits of the rational world. Sometime, alas, later on in life, we grow up. And, as George Bernard Shaw notes in his play Major Barbara, "You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something." Have we lost the magic of what was? Can it never be again? This course will examine seminal texts written for children and attempt to see the ever-present wonder that exists through this unique perceptual frame. We will ask what are the archetypical themes that speak so deeply to the foundational experience of the age. In order to complement our study, we will pair each text with a more mature work of art and consider how the archetypes still resonate but undergo a transformation for adult eyes. Why is the hungry caterpillar so hungry and what does it have to do with Kafka’s human yearning? Where are those wild things and where are they now? What do the immortal 5 Chinese Brothers (and their questionable morality) have to do with Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray? To conclude your senior year with a creative flourish, we will write and construct our own children’s book. Sign up if you dare: "Let the wild rumpus start!" Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • EN554 - 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 subject struggling against self-contradictory social forces. The various pilgrims give us chances to examine issues of gender and class in conjunction with themes of 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 NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN555 - Boarding School Literature

    Boarding schools and their surrounding settings and situations have become a familiar literary genre from Salinger's classic Catcher in the Rye to Tana French’s The Secret Place. This course would survey various types of boarding school literature with the goal of examining the culture of boarding schools, the ways in which the culture is portrayed or distorted in various works, and the particular conventions of this genre of literature. The class will read fiction as well as some non-fiction and may include Tobias Wolff's Old School, John Knowles' A Separate Peace, Prep, Canin's The Palace Thief, and Shamus Khan’s The Making of an Adolescent Elite and Causalities of Privilege. Writing assignments will include reader responses, personal narratives, and literary analysis. 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
  • EN557 - Electric Century: Literature Under Victoria

    From computer code to photography, Marxism to quantum mechanics, cinema to evolutionary theory: the Victorian era (1837-1901) played host to some of the most important intellectual discoveries in human history. Yet we so often think of it as just a stuffy interlude between the Romantic and Modernist movements. Victorian novelists, poets, and playwrights will show us otherwise; their art depicted the most progressive and eccentric aspects of 19th-century life. Whether in a poem that envisions subatomic particles as a link with a dead lover, a novel that uses evolution as a model for new societal structures, or a play that uses logical paradoxes to toy with questions of identity and sexuality—we will explore how Victorian authors experimented with avant-garde literary forms, even as they pushed the traditional boundaries between art, philosophy, and science. Readings may include Lewis Carroll, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, George Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Karl Marx, Dante and Christina Rossetti, Alfred Tennyson, and Oscar Wilde. We will also look at Victorian paintings and some very early films. Grants: Honors; Terms: T1; 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
  • EN561 - Storytelling in Literature and Film

    Think of this course as one that aims to dissect the anatomy of stories both written and filmed: What can a story accomplish? How do stories work? In this course, we will look at the narrative form as it has evolved in world literature and film, attending to genre and to how knowing "what kind of story we are in" informs our expectations as readers/viewers. As we move from the old familiar form of the folk tale to mystery stories (Conan Doyle), surrealist mystery stories (Borges), a post-modern novel (either Calvino or Nabokov), and several films (including Hitchcock), we will track how these narratives work on us, how they draw on historical narrative traditions, and (in some cases) how they subvert our concept of traditional storytelling. Expect to learn to "read" a film scene as text, write several papers, co-lead several discussions, and ask essential questions about how stories work on us as readers, listeners, and watchers...and why we need them. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; 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
  • EN564 - Mystery of Language: Detective Fiction

    In this course, we will examine the tradition, the dynamic nature, and the attraction of Detective Novels. In addition to reading the first mystery writers, students will read short stories and novels covering the tradition and genre. We will explore the question of what distinguishes detective fiction from other works of fiction, the development of the detective as an archetypal hero, and what makes this genre so popular. Possible readings include: Edgar Allan Poe, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Robert B. Parker. In addition to viewing some of the following films: The Maltese Falcon, Chinatown, The Postman Always Rings Twice, A Thief of Time, and Blade Runner. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN565 - War Stories

    Like marriage, war is not something to be “entered into unadvisedly or lightly,” for either a soldier or a society; hence the importance of gaining critical perspective through literature.  Two summers ago you studied The Things They Carried, about young Americans embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. Last summer you read When the Emperor Was Divine, connecting you to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II by their own government. This course would ship you to Iraq, through Kevin Powers’s The Yellow Birds, then into the trenches of World War I, through Pat Barker’s Regeneration. Other texts for Winter 2018 may include Phil Klay’s Redeployment (2014 National Book Award) and Hassan Blasim’s The Corpse Exhibition, which portrays the Iraq war from an Iraqi perspective.  Course requirements include close reading, active co-leadership of class discussions, three essays and a final paper. Grants: Honors NCAA;   Terms: T2;   Forms: V
  • EN569 - Gender and the Body in Literature

    Literature has the power to subvert and challenge our identities, or reflect and reinforce them in turn. But what if the literature itself goes against our expectations of what stories and characters ought to do? In this course we study fictional presentations and critical theories of gender, sexuality, and other identities in an attempt to understand how gender has been and is constructed and commodified in the past, right now, and every day. How do these constructs intersect with other identities such as race, social class, or nationality, and help us understand the relationship between literary and material culture? This course will examine historical and cultural contexts to better analyze the rise of female anonymous and pseudonymous writers in the 19th century, and both the reinforcement of and challenge to Western gender roles in the 20th century by the increasingly visible subcultures and vocal subaltern. Core readings include Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure or Twelfth Night, Kushner's Angels in America, and Rossetti, Rich, and Tennyson's poetry, along with numerous critical texts. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • EN571 - Ovidian Tradition in Western Literature

    In this course we explore intersections between Greek and Roman texts and more recent fiction and poetry, including genre fiction. Both the rawness of Modernist imagery and diction and the openness of science fiction and fantasy are directly linked to the mythologies constructed by ancient authors, particularly those of Publius Ovidius Naso. We will focus on his Metamorphoses the text which made him the most influential Western fiction writer for over a millennium, and selections from Ex Ponto, as we consider and discuss his vilification and dismissal by various cultures and time periods. We track both the origins and descendants of his versions of Pygmalion, Orpheus, Medea, Philomela and Procne, Daphne, Ariadne, and more in order to explore the role of translation in modern literature, the preservation and proliferation of ancient texts in art and music, and the importance of archetypes. Assessments are divided evenly between creative writing and analytical essays. Texts may include the Metamorphoses, Shakespeare's The Tempest, "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot, Euripides' Medea, and selections from authors and poets such as Philip K. Dick, H.D., Borges, Le Guin, Atwood, Gluck, Sappho, and Pound. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T3; 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; 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. Text for the coming school year are:
    Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
    Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
    Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
    Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
    Ung Loung, First They Killed My Father
    Grants: Honors; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • 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
  • 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, The Catcher in the Rye, 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
  • 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
  • IN506 - Forms We Live By

    Biologists distinguish between an organism’s form and its function. Architects weigh a building’s form against its use. Painters differentiate a picture’s form from its object. Philosophers separate reality’s form and its substance. Indeed, almost all facets of human life have some concept of form. (We even have one here at Lawrenceville.) But what good is form? Why talk about it? How does it work? What, after all, is it? This course will look at definitions of form put forward by multiple disciplines - from statistics to sculpture, literature to linguistics. By tracking form across myriad disciplines, we will hope to learn more about why it has become so crucial to the ways that humans conceive and order their world. And, by analyzing humanity’s formal achievements (Bach’s Fugues, Leibniz’s calculus, Frost’s poetry), we will begin to develop our own thoughts about why form matters, how we value it, and what its purpose is in our everyday lives.
    Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary; Terms: T3; Forms: V
  • 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
  • IN509 - Science and Literature

    “Are you doing STEM in college? Or are you an English/History kind of person?” “Science knows, but poetry feels.” 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 and writers engaged with, inspired by, or in critical conversation with science, and we will read scientists writing poetry. The class will focus on Human Physiology, Psychology, Consciousness, Ecology, and Physics. Representative texts will include poems, novels, essays, and plays. Authors may include: Einstein, Wordsworth, Bohr, Frayn, Stevens, Holub, Rogers, Gander, Lem. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T1; Forms: V
  • IN510 - 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 Interdisciplinary NCAA; 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T2; Forms: V
  • IN511 - Modern Thought And Literature

    In Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to discover that he’s not the person he thought he was—that everything he thought he knew about the world was somehow wrong. At the heart of this interdisciplinary course is a sustained exploration of and confrontation with the radical uncertainty that characterizes modernity. The technological, cultural, and social changes of the past two centuries have undermined and called into question our most basic values and foundational assumptions about how the world works, challenging us to wrestle with some fundamental questions: How do we know what we know? What is right and good and beautiful—and how can we be certain? What does it mean to live a meaningful life? What does it mean to be human? Through readings in literature and philosophy, we’ll consider the ways a number of 19th- and 20th-century writers explored and tried to answer these imperative if perhaps unanswerable questions. Readings for the course will include Marx’s Communist Manifesto, Baudelaire’s poetry, Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot; at the end of the term, we will visit The Met in New York city. Major assignments will include creative and critical papers and a final project. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA; 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T1; 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
  • 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
  • IN570 - 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 Interdisciplinary NCAA; 1IN/1EN Cr.; Terms: T1; Forms: V

Our Faculty

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.