No results found.

Class XI English Electives

HOME AND MEMORY (FALL): Our readings are Zamora’s Unaccompanied and Walcott’s White Egrets. Poets from countries ravaged by colonialism and imperialism often reckon with the exile that empire effects. In this elective, we will examine how both these poets invoke memory, nature and family to write their way back home.

THE MOTHER WOUND AND MIGRATION (SPRING): While immigration to the U.S. is typically viewed through the lens of enhanced opportunities, often overlooked is the possibility of resultant identity anxiety. Among many twentieth-century writers seeking to illuminate this fraught space are Amy Tan and Jamaica Kincaid. Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and Kincaid’s Lucy offer us insights into the traumas that can ensue from identity confusion and prompt us to consider how the narratives by which we live can widen or mend such separation.

“LOVE IS NOT LOVE”—KEATS, BISHOP, RICH AND BROWN (FALL): Poets delight in paradox, and the subject of love lends itself to multiplying paradoxes. In this course, we read four poets from different personal and social contexts—John Keats (1795–1821), Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979), Adrienne Rich (1929–2012) and Jericho Brown (1976)—for their original approaches to the topic of romantic love. There are opportunities for both creative and critical writing.

THREE SHORT-STORY WRITERS: LAHIRI, YAMAMOTO AND MUNRO (SPRING): By examining closely the work of Jhumpa Lahiri (The Interpreter of Maladies), Hisaye Yamamoto (Seventeen Syllables) and Alice Munro (Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage), we discover the uses and the beauties of the short story form in diagnosing the maladies of the modern condition .

ECOPOETRY (FALL):  Ecopoetry generally refers to poetry about ecology, ecosystems, animals, agriculture, climate change, water, food and the like. Now it also includes crises, catastrophe and apocalypse. In this elective we will read a range of ecopoetry—poetry in which metaphors abound, as generators of that which is uneasily perceived, and forms range from the oppressively rigid to the wildly experimental. Class time will be spent in regular, albeit intense, close reading of the poetics, occasional flourishes into abstraction and communal reflection on what can be done. At the very least, we will read poetry by William Wordsworth (1770–1850), John Ashberry (1927–2017) and Louise Erdrich (b. 1954).

DANTE'S INFERNO (SPRING): In this elective, we will read the first third of Dante’s Divine Comedy, an account of the poet’s journey into hell, or inferni—the place of the shadows, shades and partial selves. We will also consider the long and ever-lengthening shadow that the poem has cast on modern thought: from Primo Levi’s descriptions of the horror of Nazi concentration camps to Amiri Baraka’s fragmentary representations of America’s racial systems.

FINDING THE FORM OF OURSELVES: HOW POETRY EVOLVES OVER TIME (FALL): In this course we will study traditional poetic forms, including the sonnet, the ode and rhyming couplets, and trace how they have evolved over time as marginalized writers have adapted and reinvented them to speak to their own identities. Texts will include works such as Maggie Millner’s Couplets: A Love Story and Tyehimba Jess’s Olio. We will also explore newly invented forms by contemporary writers who have sought to carve out a space for themselves and their unique identities on the page, such as Egyptian writer Marwa Helal’s original form “The Arabic.”

DENIAL AND DELUSION: CHARACTERS AND THEIR FANTASY WORLDS (SPRING): In this course, we will read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day and Marguerite Duras’s Moderato Cantabile in order to examine what a delicate, willful act of delusion can reveal about a character’s authentic inner world and the reality of their wider context. As both works invite us to question the nature of self-deception, they also force us to look at the ways in which false narratives hint at deeper truths about others and ourselves. We will also read short stories by John Cheever, Barbara Molinard and Franz Kafka, among others.

THE SELF AND OTHERS: SHARON OLDS, NATASHA TRETHEWEY AND KEVIN YOUNG (FALL): This course will focus on poets who explore how we define ourselves in terms of our relationships with others. For Olds, the end of her thirty-year marriage to her husband provides the landscape in which she moves from feeling lost to accepting her circumstances and herself. In Book of Hours, Kevin Young writes with musicality and lyricism about what it means to anticipate the birth of his son. While experimenting with different poetic forms, Natasha Trethewey seeks to find herself as she elegizes her mother and faces what it means, as a Black and biracial woman, to be defined by the “white mind in the South."

MEMORY AND IDENTITY: MARILYNNE ROBINSON, VIET THAN NGUYEN AND JACQUELINE WOODSON (SPRING): What role does memory play in determining who we are? How does our sense of self as individuals or as part of a collective determine what and how we remember? In this elective, we will examine how three contemporary authors address these and related questions. Readings will include Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, selected stories from Viet Than Nguyen’s The Refugees and Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone.

  • Contact and Directions
  • Academic Calendar
  • Careers
  • Privacy Policy