English

The English curriculum begins with survey courses in British and American literature for ninth and tenth grade students, providing them with foundational skills in composition and literary analysis. Juniors and seniors may choose from a range of more advanced courses, which include both Advanced Placement courses and topic-based courses. As students move through the curriculum, they become increasingly sophisticated in their mastery of the critical skills of close reading, purposeful and clear writing, engaged listening, expressive speaking, and critical and analytical thinking.

Four years of English are required for graduation. In eleventh and twelfth grade, students may take more than one English class per year. (Note: If a student takes two English courses junior year, they must still take an English course senior year and vice versa.)


Upper School English Faculty


Ninth and Tenth Grade Courses

English 9: Foundations of British Literature

Year – 6 credits

This broad survey introduces students to some of the classics that have shaped not only British literature but also Western civilization. The course opens with a study of The Odyssey, a definitive hero’s journey tale that sets the standards for narrative storytelling in Western culture. It then selects from among representative works and authors of the major literary periods: Beowulf from the Middle Ages, Shakespeare from the Renaissance, the Romantics and Victorian novels from the nineteenth century, and modernist poetry and/or a post-colonial novel from the twentieth. These rich texts grapple with the fundamental questions of human existence: What is the nature of good and evil? What makes life worth living? How much power do individuals have over their fate? Through their encounters with these seminal works, students will enrich their knowledge of literary history and of the genres and techniques through which literature constructs meaning. Students will graduate prepared to study more specialized literary topics in the upper grades.

English 10: American Literature

Year – 6 credits

Beginning in the pre-colonial era and extending into contemporary literature, English 10 surveys American literature from a range of genres, including novels, poetry, and drama. As students read the writings of American gothic writers Hawthorne and Poe, the Transcendentalist thought of Emerson and his cohorts, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the dramatic work of August Wilson, and more, students will practice critical reading and deep literary analysis. The course will address the following essential questions: What does it mean to be American? To what extent do all Americans share a common identity? What is the individual’s relationship to both society and nature? How do American authors respond to the influences of government, race, and gender in their writing? How have American writers transformed what is possible with literature through innovation and experimentation with form and focus? Part cultural study, part philosophy, part historical survey, this course will bring us face to face with our national ills and treasures through the dynamic medium of language.

The following are year-long college-prepartory courses in English. Each one is open to both eleventh and twelfth grade students. Both AP courses will run every year if there is sufficient interest, while our topic-based courses will run on alternate years. “A” courses will run during the 2019-2020 school year, while “B” courses will run during the 2020-2021 school year.

Advanced Placement Courses

Advanced Placement English Language and Composition

Year – 6 credits

Where does the power of language lie? Can facts alone make an argument? This writing-intensive course, the equivalent of a first-year college English course, attempts to answer these questions by giving students a solid background in academic composition and an appreciation of several genres of literature, especially nonfiction prose. This course culminates in the students sitting for the Advanced Placement examination, which measures their ability to analyze the rhetoric of prose passages and to compose essays of critical argument and analysis.

Through an exploration of a variety of texts by pre and post 20th century authors, including letters, autobiographies, persuasive and argumentative essays, critical reviews, and political discourse, students will develop critical thinking skills. In-class discussions and formal and informal writing assignments will pay close attention to the function of specific rhetorical devices and structures that shape a text’s overall meaning. Ultimately, students will develop the skills necessary to analyze and critique the impact and effectiveness of a work.

Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition

Year – 6 credits

What makes the great works of literature great? Why do they endure? This writing-intensive course, the equivalent of a college-level introductory literature course, attempts to answer these questions by engaging students in close, critical readings of imaginative literature. This course culminates in students sitting for the Advanced Placement examination. The AP Literature and Composition test seeks to measure a student’s ability to analyze and write about complex and sophisticated works of recognized literary merit. Through in-class discussions and both formal and informal writing assignments, students will explore the structure and substance of various types of creative writing. Close attention is paid to a work’s macro-level features, such as structure, style, and theme, and the micro-level features, the various rhetorical and poetic devices. Additionally, students will consider the social and historical context of the literary works studied.

Throughout the year, students will have the opportunity to write for various purposes and to achieve different rhetorical ends. From impromptu responsorial writings to multi-draft analytical essays, students will use writing to explore the many facets of literary interpretation and critical thought. Class discussions and presentations will balance the solitary work of reading and writing.

Topic-Based Courses

Environmental Literature (A)

Year – 6 credits

What is the human relationship to the natural world? In Environmental Literature, students will explore the complex and intrinsic connection between humankind and the environment. How do authors portray nature and environment? What is humankind’s responsibility to our environment? How do we find the balance between dominance and coexistence? In this class, the definition of “environment” will include both our understanding of our relationship with (and place in) the natural world and our relationship to our home, neighborhood, and community.

Students will explore texts from authors as divergent as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Rachel Carson to modern day writers such as Helen Macdonald, Barbara Kingsolver, Mary Oliver, and Wallace Stegner. This City as our Campus-based course will bring dynamic environmental speakers in while providing off-campus outings to places such as Frick Park, Carrie Furnace, Beechwood Farms, and Phipps Conservatory. Writing is central to this course with an emphasis on exploring a variety of genres from creative non-fiction work to blogging to poetry.

Lit City (A)

Year – 6 credits

What does it mean to come from a place? How does a city inspire and mark its writers and artists? How does Pittsburgh mark us? And what meaning can we make of where we’re from? These are the questions we’ll explore, in this unique City as Our Campus program, where literature leaps off the printed page and out of the confines of the classroom. We’ll read widely from the diverse literature made in and about Pittsburgh over the past century, visiting the neighborhoods and sites in our city that have served as inspirations, settings, and often characters themselves for some of America’s most important writers, such as Willa Cather, Thomas Bell, John Edgar Wideman, and August Wilson. We’ll also explore Pittsburgh’s vibrant literary arts scene, attending performances by local theater companies, screenings of works by local and visiting filmmakers, exhibits at area museums, and readings and talks by writers, thinkers, and innovators. Throughout, we will attempt to map the physical and emotional landscape of our own neighborhoods, in various artistic and critical projects.

Song, Stage, and Screen (A)

Year – 6 credits

The human spirit seeks to express itself by any means possible. It strives to be heard in language, image, movement, rhythm, and performance. And what does the human spirit express through these means? Rage, love, defiance--the experience of a single moment or of an entire lifetime. This course will explore the expressive forms of poetry, drama, and film and will trace the ways that these forms all work together to narrate the human experience. We will ask ourselves whether any of these forms adequately captures the nuances of a life lived. We will inquire into the powerful relationship between the form and content of language, both through observation of the text and through practice in our own writing.

Through a variety of reading and writing assignments, this course will engage both the artistic and the analytical sides of the student. Students will learn to evaluate and appreciate the aesthetic qualities of a work, even as they analyze grammar and style--including literary, poetic, and visual devices. This course will ask students to wrestle with questions of authentic expression, communication, and empathy in artistic creation and to respond on a personal and an academic level.

World Literature (B)

Year – 6 credits

Today we are part of a global community that offers us tantalizing opportunities to glimpse the lives of diverse people from other cultures, to understand their lives better, and to learn more about ourselves in the process. As we study world literature, we will both educate ourselves about our differences but also explore our similar human experiences and quests. To this end, the course will ask us to explore some deeper questions: Do our choices inform or form our identity? How do we relate to the other, either outside or within ourselves? What parts of the human experience are common to all people? What is the value of our cultural differences?

Through reading contemporary novels, short stories, non-fiction, and poetry, and through our own discoveries while we write analytically and creatively, we will broaden our perspectives about the rich world of human experience. Possible texts might include: Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo, Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and Toi Derricotte’s The Black Notebooks. Through City as our Campus partnerships, we will add to our understanding of cultural traditions through music, lecture, dance, and film.

Banned Books (B)

Year – 6 credits

What causes a work of literature to be viewed by some as a literary classic worthy of attention and respect and by others as a moral outrage unfit to be published or studied? Who holds the power to censor or circulate a text, and what are the consequences for silencing an author’s voice? When might it be justified to limit the freedom of speech? In this course, students will engage these questions as they study important literary works, both national and international, that have been publically challenged due to their content and messages. For each work studied, students will learn about the historical debates that have erupted around the text in question and will develop their own standards for judging the value of such texts.

This writing intensive course will offer students the opportunity to develop a wider range of analytical and argumentative skills through the composition of essays and participation in a number of creative projects. Students will also play a central role in the school’s observation of the American Library Association’s “Banned Books Week.”

Literature from the Margins (B)

Year – 6 credits

Are we living in a post-racial, post-sexist, post-prejudice world? What voices continue to be pushed to the margins? Why do they write about their experiences and who is the intended primary audience for these texts? What role do these books play for writers from traditionally silenced groups? How do these authors present their situations of marginalization to the greater public? What can we learn from these marginalized texts and authors?

Students will engage these questions by reading and discussing a collection of novels, poetry, and plays. Authors may include Kevin Young, Octavia Butler, Tony Kushner, Stephen Kuusisto, Chang Rae Lee, Linda Hogan, and more. This writing intensive course will include a variety of projects and formal papers. In addition, through our City as Our Campus program, we will partner with a multitude of individuals and institutions within the city of Pittsburgh to deepen our understanding of these texts and the contexts in which they are written.

Speech: The Art of Public Speaking

Trimester - 2 credits

Open to tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders, this course is designed to train students to speak confidently and competently in a public forum. It offers both theory and practice in all areas of oral expression. General areas of study are speech delivery, speech composition, persuasion, effective listening, group discussion, and debate. Required for graduation.

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City Campus
555 Morewood Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
P: 412-578-7500
F: 412-578-7504

North Campus
4225 Middle Road
Allison Park, PA 15101
P: 412-486-8341
F: 412-578-7504