We want to cultivate an appetite for reading, and to make the discovery — of genres, writers, themes, and characters — a source of inspiration and excitement.

The principal goals of the English Department are to teach reading and writing in the various forms in which they appear, and to foster interest in and appreciation for the written word. We encourage students to participate in class discussion and to arrive at ideas independently, to evaluate them thoughtfully, and to share them with their peers with confidence. Classes favor a student-centered approach in which speaking and listening skills can be developed. In teaching reading we supply the tools and require their use, but believe that a student should approach a text on his or her own terms, for comprehension, analysis, and synthesis. Mostly we want to cultivate an appetite for reading, and to make the discovery – of genres, writers, themes, and characters – a source of inspiration and excitement. In choosing texts we recognize our pluralistic society and increasingly international environment.

In teaching writing we encourage students to write for real audiences, about real subjects, and to develop, recognize, and nurture their own voices. Students learn to write through practice – drafting, revising, and proofreading – and by talking about their work with teachers and sharing it with peers. Grammar and usage as well as vocabulary are taught functionally, in context, with occasional formal instruction. Students have an opportunity for additional challenges in Advanced Placement English or in independent projects.

English Courses

English I

The goal of English I is to develop the fundamental skills necessary to read accurately and write clearly. Drawing on the foundational works of western literature, students study the human journey as depicted in canonical and contemporary texts. Students learn the techniques of reading and analyzing texts, focusing on conflict, character development and theme, while introducing grammar as necessary. As readers they analyze the questions raised by the texts; as writers they express how those ideas may influence their sense of self. Throughout the year students collect their best essays into a portfolio, which they take with them into the fourth form. Texts are chosen from the following: "The Kite Runner," "The Odyssey," "Beowulf," "Grendel," "Macbeth," "Frankenstein," "The Color Purple."

English II

"We read to live other lives, to experience that which we can't experience at Brooks, so that we can better understand cultural differences, how we can become part of another community and yet remain ourselves." This course exposes students to canonical and contemporary writers of non-western cultures, emphasizing the universality of the human experience. Organized thematically, the course utilizes novels, short stories, poetry and drama; students develop critical skills that allow them to explore new cultures with sensitivity. By encountering the unfamiliar through literature, students not only become better readers and writers, they begin to develop the skills required of a global citizen.

English III

This course offers an exploration through literature of three deeply rooted themes in American culture. In the first semester, we examine all sides of the American Dream and what it means for the many diverse segments of the American population, from the Dream’s gleaming potential to its dark underbelly. In addition to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s "The Great Gatsby," we read works from authors such as T.C. Bambara, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Andre Dubus, Amy Tan, Denis Lehane, Rudolfo Anaya, Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller and Sherman Alexie. In the second semester, we study Americans’ fascination with exploring this vast continent, starting with Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, then diving into works from authors like William Least Heat-Moon, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Annie Proulx, John Steinbeck, Gloria Naylor and John Howard Griffin. We conclude the year by looking forward, as a culture with such a short collective history is wont to do. Works from writers such as Thomas More, Jennifer Egan, Gary Shteyngart, Edward Bellamy, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, Ayn Rand, Tocqueville, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut and others present a variety of views about America’s possible utopian or dystopian futures. Throughout the year, students engage with multiple genres – fiction, poetry, non-fiction and drama – as well as the different movements in American literature, and with a diverse and multicultural panorama of authors. English III is committed to student writing in many forms, from journaling to poetry, from memoir and fiction to current digital forms. But building on the English II emphasis on paragraph structure, English III focuses on the organization of the essay and the ability to gather multiple ideas and opinions into a coherent piece, using textual evidence to support an argument.

African-American Literature

A survey of writing by African-Americans from the 18th to 20th centuries, covering early texts, poetry and speeches, narratives of slavery and escape, abolition, the Reconstruction era, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts movement and contemporary black writers. This is a look at how authors have chosen to tell their stories – in order to approach the why of how the African American identity has evolved in history and in literature. We focus on slavery and freedom in the first part of the course and then move on to “coming of age” stories, examining the challenges faced by memorable characters in works by Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin and Alice Walker, Charles Chestnutt and Nella Larsen. Through reading, writing, and student–centered discussion, we explore and redefine concepts of freedom, citizenship, class, color, and gender within the black community.

British Literature

This discussion-based class explores British Literature as interpreted visually, through film and the television series. Though frequently our emphasis will be on versions of the work of classical English writers such as Jane Austin, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Ford Maddox Ford, and E. M. Forster, we also look at more contemporary dramatists like Tom Stoppard, Andrew Davies, and Irvine Welsh. We'll take into account how both high and low art figure into British sensibilities. Through frequent writing assignments and creative projects, students gain a greater appreciation for British culture and its literary traditions, but we'll also learn the language of film (mis-en-scene, editing camera angle, lighting) while taking into account the traditional tropes of theater (method acting, blocking).

Comedy and Satire

This course will examine the nature of comedy and satire in literature. Students will read and discuss a wide range of techniques and genres, including comedy, parody, irony, farce, and satire. How these techniques function within the work, and how the author explores societal, political, and cultural elements through the literature will be a central charge. Students will also build their literary vocabulary and use appropriate terminology to explain how writers achieve the satirical effects. The reading list may include Joseph Heller’s "Catch-22," Margret Atwood’s "The Handmaid’s Tale," Shakespeare’s "Much Ado About Nothing," and George Orwell’s "Animal Farm."

Dystopian Literature

While not an entirely new genre, we have recently witnessed an explosion in dystopian literature. What is it about contemporary society that has given rise to such books as "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent?" Why is much of this popularity focused in YA literature? In this course, we will explore this fascinating phenomenon by reading authors such as Tom Perotta ("The Leftovers"), Justin Cronin’s "The Passage," Anthony Burgess’s "A Clockwork Orange," Margaret Atwood’s "Oryx and Crake," Cormac McCarthy’s "The Road" and Octavia Butler’s "The Parable of the Sower," among others.

The Hero in Literature

The focus of this course is literary heroes and their journeys and transformations. Though each hero exists in a unique time and place, students discover the one archetypal hero in them all. Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" provides the foundation for this course. Other works may include Charles Frazier’s "Cold Mountain," Cormac McCarthy’s "All The Pretty Horses," Joseph Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness," and James Dickey’s "Deliverance." (Not offered in 2018-2019)

Immigrant Voices

Though America’s identity and literature have evolved significantly since its founding, at some level we remain a nation of immigrants, and their voices lend important perspective on the American experience. From stories of immigration (simply making it here; living day-to-day as someone viewed as “different;” carving out a new identity) to new Americans’ views of their adoptive land (How can one nation honor both diversity and assimilation?), students of immigrant literature stand to gain significantly in their understanding of our ever-evolving nation through reading, research, class discussion and writing. Students also spend time crafting their own family’s immigrant story, where applicable. Works studied may include "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" (Alvarez), "The Woman Warrior" (Hong Kingston), "The Joy Luck Club" (Tan) and "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" (Diaz).

Memoir Writing

Writing about yourself…what could be easier? But doing it well so that you really benefit from the process of telling the stories of your life requires honesty. It can be challenging, even painful, to write about formative moments in your life transparently, but doing so helps you derive meaning from them, and is thus incredibly valuable. This course will use a combination of journaling, prompted autobiographical writing, reflective free-writes and other exercises to develop the technical skill of effective memoir writing. Students will also sharpen their ability to learn from their own (and their classmates’) experiences and delve into the emotions elicited by and through writing, with the hope that they leave the class with a clearer understanding of themselves and their place in the world.


When people are asked what they fear most, one of the most common replies is public speaking. This course uses texts and videos of famous speeches, as well as intense personal instruction, to teach students to organize their thoughts, write them down, get up on their feet, and deliver their speeches (and themselves) with purpose and confidence. Whether it is in the classroom, in the interview, or in front of a crowd, students benefit from mastering the invaluable skill of public speaking.


In this seminar-styled course, the class examines three tragedies in depth: "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet" and "King Lear." The class also studies a number of Shakespeare’s sonnets using a wide range of references on reserve in the Luce Library and the OED online. In addition the class reads Tillyard’s "Elizabethan World Picture" and Anthony Burgess’ "Nothing Like The Sun."

Existentialism and Literature

Shakespeare began "Hamlet" with the words "Who's There?" This seminar encourages each student to answer that question through a focused examination of meaning in modern text. Through reading, viewing, writing, and video production, students develop the skills of analysis, thinking, and communication while considering the question of humankind's search for a reason to exist, and our own quotidian answers.

Fiction Writing

In this class students present and perfect their own original fiction (short stories or novel excerpts) in a workshop setting. Students should expect an intensive writing experience as well as the preparation of a series of portfolios for presentation throughout the semester.


Students will learn all aspects of publishing a newspaper (the "Brooksian"). Skills they will master include graphic design, photography, interview techniques, news writing, and editing. There will also be an opportunity to lead the decision-making process for what gets included in the "Brooksian" and what doesn't, as well as time spent shooting and editing video to complement the news stories. 

Nature Writing

This course focuses on our connection with nature as expressed through literature. Students learn to blend observation with reflection and to build metaphors so that observations carry meaning beyond themselves. Drafting, revising and editing are emphasized. We examine fiction, nonfiction, memoir and poetry. Sample texts include works by Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, MacLean, Abbey and Williams. A component of the course is an introduction to Native American literature by writers such as Momaday, Welch and Silko, in order to understand the strong connection Native peoples have to the land. Students write in a nature journal, compose descriptive essays and respond in writing to the texts covered. A final project addresses each student's sense of belonging.

Poetry Seminar

Students in this course study examples, write original works and compile a final portfolio. Students use as a text "Visions and Voices," a poetry anthology by Mark J. Shovan based on James Moffet's "Theory of Discourse." Literary terminology, elements of prosody and a variety of poetic forms are examined and employed.

Women in Literature

This course introduces images of women in literature. Students look at women in literature from the 18th century through contemporary representations, focusing on the portrayal of women as daughters, sisters, friends, wives, mothers, and alone in society through a variety of genres. Course texts may include "Antigone," "A Doll’s House," "Daisy Miller," "The Awakening," "Great Short Stories by American Women," "The Handmaid’s Tale," "Beloved" and "House of Spirits." Essays and in-class reports focus more particularly on specific writers and themes and stress the skills of close reading, annotation, research, and uses of multimedia.

AP English

This course in literary analysis prepares students for the Advanced Placement Examination in English Literature. Authors read vary, but usually include Shakespeare and Faulkner.

Independent Study

This course is ordinarily open only to sixth formers and then by permission of the department, after approving a formal proposal submitted by the student. Meeting times are arranged in consultation between student and instructor.

English Faculty

Timothy Benson

English Teacher

Rebecca Binder

Director of Publications, English Teacher

Dean Charpentier

Chair of English Department, English Teacher

Susannah Donoho

English Teacher

Mel Graham

English Teacher

John Haile

English Teacher

John McVeigh

Dean of Faculty, English Teacher

Kristin Moody

Associate Director of College Counseling, English Teacher

Leigh Perkins

English Teacher