English 12 completes the students’ preparation for college-level reading and writing. 1 Throughout the year, students continue to cultivate an intense awareness of language, to regard writing as a familiar and joyful activity, and read and observe closely, sharing and discussing their insights in class. Making connections remains a central technique for the understanding of literature. The course begins with an in-depth study of All the King’s Men. Seniors analyze the characters, voices, and themes through daily class discussion and several analytical and creative papers, culminating in a major essay. The novel also offers opportunities to connect to topics beyond the book, including politics, philosophy, and poetry. During the fall, seniors create a peer reference as well. Through an extensive rewriting process, students strive for crisp, lively language in these pieces that accompany their classmates’ college applications. Later in the year, they pare down these references to short paragraphs that they present at commencement. Seniors go on to work closely with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As they discuss and perform various scenes, students naturally make connections between passages within the text, but also between the play and Penn Warren’s work, as well as other short stories, novels, and plays they have read in previous courses.
After studying Shakespeare, students embark on an in-class reading of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, a play that further celebrates the overlapping of literature, science, math, history, and art. At this time, seniors begin work on a self-portrait project in conjunction with the art department. Each student creates an abstract reflection of him or herself, accompanied by a personal essay. These pieces are installed in the art gallery for graduation. Senior English encourages students to examine their authentic voices as writers and speakers, friends and family members. Through close analysis of various genres, and through practice with different styles of writing, they learn to recognize and shape their voices, and to have confidence in those voices as they connect to the world beyond the classroom.