English 11 focuses solely on American Literature. From the colorful prose of Native American author Louise Erdrich to Twain’s realistic masterpiece Huckleberry Finn to Faulkner’s modernist As I Lay Dying, juniors discuss and analyze texts central to our national literature. The course follows a chronological sequence, which promotes coordinated study of similar time periods in both English and history. This connection between the two disciplines enriches the students’ understanding of the American Experience.
During the year, students explore various types of writing. Through creative writing assignments, they also attempt several genres themselves. For example, juniors embark on an Arts-Across-the-Curriculum project linking American Transcendentalism and the Hudson River School of Painting. The students study the essays and poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. They then take a page from Thoreau’s book and find their own Walden, where they closely observe and record what they see in nature.
In the past, students have chosen to climb a favorite tree in Beebe Woods and observe the forest from amidst the branches or sit by a pond and focus on the minute but frantic workings of pond life. Some students walk out into backyards and immerse themselves in happy memories spent playing in their own corners of Cape Cod. These notes are reworked into an essay in the style of Thoreau. Students then go to the art room to create the landscapes they have written about. After introducing the students to the philosophy and techniques of the Hudson River School, art teacher Lucy Nelson helps students to paint what they have described. In this project, pen and paintbrush are joined in the effort to record natural beauty and explore the connections between the individual, nature, literature, and philosophy.