English in the Upper School

English LiteratureEnglish 9

Ninth grade English introduces students to the elements of analysis and critical writing that form the foundation for the study of literature in the Upper School. Through reading and discussion of a broad variety of works and in frequent writing assignments, students explore the many ways that writers have portrayed the human experience.

As they encounter diverse literary genres — novels, short stories, plays, epic poetry and graphic novels — students examine several recurring themes, including the importance of perspective, the tension between individual identity and the need for belonging, and social alienation and conflict. Students’ composition skills are developed through in-class essays, more formal analytical papers, and occasional creative writing assignments. The study of literature and composition that comprises the core of the curriculum is supplemented by the regular study of grammar and vocabulary. All students are required to complete a summer reading assignment before beginning the course.

English 10

Sophomore English builds upon the skills developed in ninth grade by engaging students in the close reading and discussion of a varied range of literary texts, and urging them towards more polished, sophisticated, analytical writing. The tenth grade English course also serves as an introduction to British literature in anticipation of the study of American literature that takes place junior year, and includes a unit on analyzing poetry.

By studying works ranging from Old and Middle English poems in translation to two classic 20th century dystopian novels, George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, students explore the development of British literature and the richly imaginative forms and styles it has produced. In addition, regular vocabulary exercises and the continued refinement of grammar and writing mechanics help students prepare for the college entrance examinations they will undertake in junior year. All students are required to complete a summer reading assignment before beginning the course.

American Literature / American Literature Honors

The ideals of creating community and upholding individual freedom have persisted in the American consciousness throughout our nation’s history. The courses in American Literature examine how these two impulses intersect and often conflict in our national writing, from literature set in Puritan times to contemporary works. As students consider this overarching theme, they also focus on particular strains in the American ‘story,’ including humans’ relationship to nature, the experience of war, and how issues of race, ethnicity, and social class shape individual experience.

Students who have demonstrated exceptionally strong performance in English throughout ninth and tenth grades may be selected for an honors course in American Literature. In American Literature Honors, students pay particular attention to the notion of American identity and the various strands that comprise it, including racial, ethnic, and regional identity.

As juniors, students are expected to continue to improve the sophistication of their writing and of the literary arguments they develop from their reading. Students write frequent analytical essays, both in and outside of class, and continue to work on writing mechanics and vocabulary skills. Both American Literature and American Literature Honors require summer work, but students in American Literature Honors have a longer summer reading assignment to complete before beginning the course.

English: Senior Courses

Contemporary Fiction

This course will immerse you in some of the most striking, dynamic, and emotionally complex writing since 2010. Through these texts, we will examine how authors capture and respond to modern life. We will travel from New York City to Rome, with stops along the way in the Florida Everglades. The course will expose you to some of the most acclaimed fiction writers working today. It will have a special focus on the craft of collected short stories. All students are required to complete a summer reading assignment before beginning the course.

Dramatic Literature 1: Foundations

Dramatic Literature 1 and 2 is a comprehensive study of the dramatic arts, divided into a two-part sequence that extends over the year. Students may elect to take the fall or spring course, or the full sequence. Foundations traces the evolution of dramatic literature and performance from its origins in ancient Greece to the rise of realism and anti-realist genres (expressionism, absurdism) in the early to mid-20th century. The class is largely academic, but there is also a performance element as students are required to learn and practice the various theories and approaches to performing a dramatic work. All students are required to complete a summer reading assignment before beginning the course.

Dramatic Literature 2: Modern Drama

This course picks up where the previous course (Dramatic Literature 1: Foundations) left off, though the first semester is not required to take the second. Students explore the evolution of dramatic literature and performance in the 20th century and into the early part of the 21st, with particular focus on how modern drama addresses modern issues of social justice.

Great Novellas

In an essay for The New Yorker, writer Ian McEwan notes that he “[believes] the novella is the perfect form of prose fiction… long enough for a reader to inhabit a world or a consciousness and be kept there, short enough to be read in a sitting or two and for the whole structure to be held in mind at first encounter—the architecture of the novella is one of its immediate pleasures.” Yet, novellas are one of the most overlooked and least frequently published literary forms. They are not quite long enough to delve into multiple subplots and develop the complexity characteristic of novels, but they are also too long to simply focus on a single, compact theme like short stories do. In this course, we will read a variety of the great novellas that have been published since the end of the 19th century. We will seek to determine exactly what makes a work great and why the novella form is consistently capable of capturing literary perfection. All students are required to complete a summer reading assignment before beginning the course.

The Formative Novel

How do you know when you’re officially an adult? When you turn 18? When you move out of your family’s house? Is it even possible to label one defining moment as the transition between childhood and adulthood? Novels that capture the transformation from childhood to adulthood in all its various forms are collectively referred to as formative novels, and they are known for capturing audiences because the experiences portrayed are universal. This course will look at a variety of works and explore what it means to “come of age” through discussion, analytic, and creative writing.

Literature of the Road

The highway is central to American consciousness. The automobile and our expanding road systems provide us with different ways to experience places both near and far. This course will examine how access to the open road provokes questions about what freedom means: we will discover how it can be both liberating and challenging. We will demonstrate how the search for another place is also a search for the self.

AP English Literature

The AP course in English Literature is a challenging, college-level course that engages students in the close reading and analysis of some of the world’s greatest imaginative writing. Spanning time and geography, the course includes works of British literature ranging from Shakespeare’s England to turn-of-the-21st-century London, along with diverse selections from the American literary canon. In addition to offering a wide range of topics for discussion, many of the works share thematic elements that ‘speak’ to each other in interesting and often surprising ways.

Frequent writing is integral to this course and will range from short reading responses and in-class essays to formal critical papers and creative assignments. At the conclusion of the course, all students are prepared (and required) to take the Advanced Placement exam in English Literature and Composition, which carries an additional fee (see the Honors & AP Courses section of this document for more details). This course requires a larger summer reading assignment than other senior English classes.

Creative Writing

This course is for seniors who wish to explore different modes of written expression and develop their creative abilities. A year-long course in prose fiction, it entails critiquing and revising drafts in a workshop setting. Students in Creative Writing must be willing to share their work with others and offer constructive criticism to their peers. This course has a required summer reading assignment.

Caribbean Literature

In this course we will explore some of the vibrant, complex literature that has come out of the Caribbean during the past forty years. We will complement our reading with an investigation of the region’s history in order to arrive at a fuller understanding of the political and cultural contexts that inform these texts. We will pay close attention to the ways in which the Caribbean and the U.S. intersect in terms of history and culture, as well as to elements of patois and hybridity that influence language, music, and even food in the Caribbean. There is a required summer reading assignment for this course.

Myths Revisited and Revised

A musician loses his beloved in an instant of doubt; a love-struck girl becomes a murderous mother; a son defies his father and dies a violent death: Ovid tells these and other tales in his Metamorphoses, stories of transformation. The stories themselves have transformed over the years, as Ovid’s work has inspired artists, authors, and musicians throughout the 2,000 years since the poet lived and wrote. We will read the Metamorphoses in translation, gaining a broad familiarity with the myths that influence so much of Western literary tradition. We will also examine modern re-workings of those myths to see what relevance Ovid’s themes have in our current times.

Examples of Minor Courses


Students in Journalism work on MFS’s newspaper and blog, WordsWorth. New students to the course will spend the first quarter learning the fundamentals of print and online journalism, covering all aspects of the trade from writing to photography and layout. After spending one year in the course, students are eligible to apply to be editors for WordsWorth for the following year.


The Creative Writing Poetry Workshop will provide an opportunity for students to write, read and discuss their original work. In a close, collaborative environment, students will examine a variety of poetic styles, developing and refining their skills and interests. The course will provide exposure to current movements in poetry through an evaluation of print and online magazines. Topics will also include the practical methods of editing, submitting and publishing work.


This course, part one of a two part sequence, will allow students the opportunity to write and develop a script for production. The course will cover basic and intermediate writing theory and the scripts written will be used by the Film Production class (taught by Hezekiah Lewis) in the spring where they will be made into short films. Students are strongly encouraged to sign up for both courses in this sequence.

Writing Workshop

Writing Workshop offers students a quiet place to write and the availability of a teacher and/or peer tutors to help in all phases of the writing process. We will begin class most days with a writing prompt aimed at loosening up your writing muscles. You can use this time to develop ideas for school writing assignments or to work on personal writing projects.