The four required years of English instruction constitute a cumulative program that immerses students in the diversity of literature in English and encourages them to make connections across the curriculum. All students study Shakespeare and benefit from field trips to the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.
The English program helps students become thoughtful, lifelong readers, hones their analytical abilities, and trains them to write correctly, fluently, and creatively. In all English courses, students learn how to develop logical arguments and use a rich and precise vocabulary. The English Department uses the study of literature to lead each student to a greater sense of self, community, and the world.
3-block course; Open to grade 9
During the first year of required English, students are introduced to fundamental texts from widely different cultures and time periods in order to shape and explore questions essential to the study of literature in English. In order for students to build multidisciplinary literacy, English I also tasks students with learning how the arts and sociohistorical contexts inform their texts. Students learn the process of crafting expository writing, moving from invention strategies to revision. Throughout the year, vocabulary building and grammar work also help lay a foundation for clear, effective writing. Prerequisites: None
Coming of Age (required)- Students will read the powerful coming of age narratives of Maya Angelou in her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Sandra Cisneros in her semi-autobiographical book, The House on Mango Street, among other short stories and essays. In each text, students will understand how both writers use the biographical form in unique ways to communicate rich stories of self-discovery and growth. Throughout, students will build skills in close reading, critical thinking, and analytical and creative writing. Prerequisites: None.
Journey of Understanding (required) - Students will read two classical Greek texts: Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey, and Sophocles's tragedy, Oedipus Rex. Each text's protagonist embarks on a physical and spiritual journey riddled with obstacles to understand more about his surroundings and ultimately about himself. Students will study and analyze how the form and background of each work reveal strategies for their interpretation. Throughout, they will use analytical and creative writing to convey their own journey with these texts. Prerequisites: Coming of Age.
Shakespeare Through Performance I - Students will take a performance-centered approach to study one play of William Shakespeare. They will examine Shakespeare’s use of language, imagery, dramatic structure and Elizabethan dramatic conventions. Students will write analytical and imaginative pieces about each play, shape and challenge their interpretations through performance exercises, and attend at least one production in the Greater Washington area. Prerequisites: Coming of Age.
Storytelling - Students will learn the foundations of narrative form and contemplate the power of storytelling in The Arabian Nights and Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories. They will consider how forms like folktale and legend are used to instruct, entertain, and carry enduring themes forward in contemporary literature. Students will explore these themes in frequent analytical and creative writing assignments, in addition to other multidisciplinary opportunities. Prerequisites: Coming of Age.
Poetry - Students will read a diverse core of poetry and essays by poets. Students will develop habits of writing, revising and workshopping their own poetry, as well as habits of reading and understanding poems through analytical essays. Throughout, students will learn and practice performance techniques to enhance their own poetry. Prerequisites: Coming of Age.
Multicultural Literature- Students will read literature by and about people of diverse backgrounds. They will read authors such as Rudolfo Anaya, Alice Walker, Bharati Mukherjee, among others. Students will compare, contrast, and analyze each text to arrive at a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences uniting our human condition. We will focus on issues of heritage, identity, gender, race, traditions, and community. Throughout, students will practice analytical and creative writing. Prerequisites: Coming of Age.
3-block course; Open to grade 10
British Literature in an English-Speaking World -- During the second year of required English, students explore our literary heritage in English from the Middle Ages to the present post-colonial world. Students learn how to write analytical essays that connect form to meaning. Building knowledge of literary terms and increasing general vocabulary lay a foundation for the practice of clear, effective writing. Prerequisites: English I.
Shakespeare Through Performance II (required) - Students will study one Shakespearean play through reading and writing and through performances presented to the wider school community. Through analytical and imaginative pieces, they will examine Shakespeare’s use of language and dramatic conventions. They will gain a fuller appreciation of Shakespeare's meaning through rehearsing and performing selected scenes and sonnets.
Writing Mechanics and Global Literature (required) - This course pairs intensive grammar instruction with reading and analyzing contemporary short stories and the play “Master Harold”…and the boys. Students will learn to write with greater grammatical correctness so that they can express ideas more precisely in their academic and future professional careers. Reading the short stories and play will provide contemporary cultural topics for the students to write about. These students conduct biographical research on individual authors.
Writing with Style about Global Literature (can substitute for Writing Mechanics and Global Literature - required) - Students who test out of Writing Mechanics cultivate their prose style in this workshop-style course where they read and respond to each other's writing, in addition to receiving feedback from their teacher. Reading short stories and the play "Master Harold" . . . and the boys will provide contemporary cultural topics for students to write about. These students conduct biographical research on individual authors.
Literary Masterpieces: Jane Eyre - Students will study Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. Close reading of the text, vocabulary building, and learning about the social history of Britain will enhance students’ understanding of this work. Students will demonstrate their understanding primarily through analytical essays. Prerequisite: Writing Mechanics and Global Literature.
Literary Masterpieces: Satire in Chaucer and Austen - Students will study the social satire of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Close reading of the texts, vocabulary building, and learning about the social history of Britain will enhance students’ understanding of these two works. Students will demonstrate their understanding primarily through analytical essays. Prerequisite: Writing Mechanics and Global Literature.
Literary Masterpieces: Poetry - This course will expand students’ appreciation of poetic forms and of the history of poetry in English from the medieval Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to the famous Renaissance and Romantic periods, and finally to the present. Students will learn strategies for discovering meaning in poems through close attention to literary devices and through an awareness of common themes in various time periods or in a particular poet’s oeuvre. Students will demonstrate their understanding through expressive recitation and analytical essays. Prerequisite: Writing Mechanics and Global Literature.
3-block course; Open to grade 11, seniors may take 1 block as an English IV choice
American Literature -- English III offers a thematic approach to American Literature, introducing students to a variety of texts from major literary movements and historical periods such as Colonial America, Slavery to Civil Rights, Transcendentalism, Modernism, American Drama, and Contemporary Multicultural Literature. In both their writing and in class discussions, the students practice close textual analysis that involves increased skill in the interpretation of literary techniques and rhetorical strategies.Students conduct research on American authors and poets to synthesize literary criticism with their own original arguments. Some students may choose to take the AP English Language and Composition exam in May of their junior year. Prerequisites: English I & English II.
From Slavery to Civil Rights (required) - Students will read and analyze Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon, Frederick Douglas' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, and selections of poetry. Along with the close study of language and narrative techniques in the texts themselves, students will learn their historical contexts. Students will explore the conversations these novels have engendered through analytical and creative writing, in addition to other multidisciplinary opportunities.
American Gothic - Familiar elements provide the edge to all Gothic literature: secrets long buried, hauntings, guilt, and fear. Students will explore how American writers in the nineteenth century expressed living along this edge. Through a study of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, selected short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” students will learn how the American Gothic tradition arose as a way to navigate and challenge such strictures as Puritanism and domesticity. Prerequisite: From Slavery to Civil Rights.
American Modernism - Students will confront writers questioning or outright denying assurances provided by religion, politics, and/or society. Some writers will even see the world as horrific, chaotic, and ultimately futile. Others will share an ambitious, aspirational belief in the role of the artist in contemporary life. While America processes World War I (and arguably realizes the onset of World War II), art becomes a way to provide coherence, guidance, and insight into the human condition. Texts will include Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and the poetry of Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, among others. Prerequisite: From Slavery to Civil Rights.
Native and Asian American Voices - Students will read such texts as Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, Fey Myenne Ng’s Bone, Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street and Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, in addition to selected poetry. Students will study the immigrant experience and the Native American experience, learning to write analytically and creatively about identity formation from a multicultural perspective. Prerequisite: From Slavery to Civil Rights.
3-block course; Open to grade 12
During the fourth year of required English, all students choose three modules drawn from a broad range of offerings, including AP English Literature and Composition. Building upon the close, scholarly relationships with their peers and teachers during prior study, students flex and advance their skills in critical thinking and analytical and creative writing. Prerequisites: English I, English II, and English III. (Students may take one English III module to satisfy this requirement—excluding From Slavery to Civil Rights.)
America in Turmoil - In John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, dust storms and the Great Depression come together to force a Midwestern family, the Joads, off their land and on a journey for new means of survival. Steinbeck’s writing brings us into the heart of this family as they suffer poverty, prejudice, and cruelty while they attempt to stay together and remain hopeful for their future. Steinbeck also interweaves the experiences of side characters to give a larger picture of human experience in a difficult time. This course will study The Grapes of Wrath as both great literature and as a view into the experiences of many in the United States in the 1930s. As we analyze the text, we will also study supplemental material such as short fictional and non-fictional accounts of the time period and view Ken Burns’ documentary, The Dust Bowl.
Black Women Writers - In this class we will focus on black women writers who challenge traditional depictions of womanhood, creating a collective herstory. They construct an alternative to their male-authored literary presence. Black women writers change the landscape of black literature and offer a unique perspective that revises the hyper-masculine black literary canon. Alice Walker gives birth to a term that accurately helps shape the intention behind their efforts. She offers a "womanist aesthetic" which encourages "black women, especially those most marginalized by race, caste, and class to have their voices heard and their histories read." We will spend the semester reading: Kindred, The Women of Brewster Place and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.
Expatriates in Paris - Paris in the early twentieth century was a center of literary and artistic innovation, drawing many Americans and other foreigners who delighted in the beautiful surroundings and the creative environment. This course focuses on writers, painters, dancers, and musicians, many of whom we now call "modernist." We begin with Hollywood's dreamy version of this world depicted in the 1951 film An American in Paris. We then compare the romanticized versions of expatriate writers' work to the reality by reading Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, Gertrude Stein's memoir Paris France, and other short selections. Through documentary films, art images, and music recordings, we explore the works of Picasso, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Josephine Baker, and Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. We conclude by studying the influence of the Parisian avant-garde on Thornton Wilder's classic American play, Our Town.
Future Fiction - Students will examine ethical issues facing modern society by reading fiction of the future. We will debate the moral dilemmas found in science fiction such as self-enhancements, the alien other, censorship, and the role of government. This module asks readers to explore the benefits and dangers of science and to reconcile them with civic responsibilities and human rights. Texts include George Orwell’s 1984, Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, along with excerpts from the greats (such as Asimov and Bradbury).
Getting Medieval - The Middle Ages are distant and close, strange and familiar. The epithet “medieval” may call to mind knights, castles, dungeons and torture, and religious conflict—generally, a weird and murky past. How have we come to know about that past? Or, how do we think we know about it? In this course we will range across the rich tradition of medieval literature—with a special focus on romance and the heroic—and other art, medieval and modern, in which the limits of knowledge and imagination are stretched to reveal the diversity of the medieval vision. Texts include Beowulf, The Quest of the Holy Grail, selections from Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe and Christine de Pisan, and The Song of Roland.
Mother, May I? - People have always told stories in order to explain or make sense of the world around them. Science, in some way, has often sought to prove or disprove those same stories. In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the collision between the stories we tell ourselves about the mystery of life and the science behind its creation is both sublime and terrifying. This course will approach one of the most famous horror stories of all time from a literary, psychological, and scientific perspective. Students will also consider the influence of Shelley's cadre of literary friends and family on her own work. Throughout, students will hone their research, analytical, and creative writing skills. Texts include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and selections from Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Students will also explore the work of William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and George Gordon, Lord Byron.
3-block course; Open to grade 12
This course offers students an introductory college-level curriculum and requires them to take the AP English Literature exam in May. Students develop their skills in critical thinking, analytical writing, and close reading through daily discussion, diverse writing assignments, and AP exam practice. Texts will be drawn from a range of genres, including poetry, fiction and drama, and will represent major artistic statements of the periods ranging from the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century.
Dr. Arizmendi worked at Madeira from 2003 to 2006. She returned in 2008 and is a Master Teacher in the English Department. Dr. Arizmendi earned a bachelor's degree from Loyola College. She went on to study Comparative Literature (English and French), earning a doctorate from Cornell University.
Ms. Mahoney began teaching at Madeira in 1993 and is a Master Teacher in the English Department. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from Goucher College and a master's degree in English from George Mason University. In her role as Dean of Faculty and Academic, Ms. Mahoney has the privilege of working with Madeira faculty, students, and parents.
Ms. McGroarty began teaching at Madeira in 2005. She earned a bachelor's degree in Language and Linguistics from Queen's University and a master's degree in French as Second Language from Universite d'Aix-en-Provence. She also has an educational specialist degree from George Washington University and a post graduate certificate (PGCE) in Secondary Education from the University of Cambridge.
Dr. Ward began teaching at Madeira in 2003 and is a Master Teacher in the English Department. He earned a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of California-Irvine, a master's degree in English from The Ohio State University, and a PhD in English Literature from The George Washington University.
Mrs. Zahradnik began teaching at Madeira in 2010. She earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Boston University and in English Language/Literature from the University of Maryland, and a master's degree in Secondary Education in English from the University of Maryland.
Ms. Amy Heishman joined the English Department in 2014, bringing with her a love of American literature and history. Ms. Heishman earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Belmont Abbey College and a master’s in American literature from North Carolina State University. While at NC State University, she was nominated twice by the English department faculty to represent excellence in research at the annual Graduate Research Symposium. Upon graduating, she taught at Duke University and Durham Technical Community College. Most recently, Ms. Heishman spent the last year working with a non-profit organization, developing material for the National Endowment for Humanities, and this summer marked her fourth year with Duke’s Talent Identification Program as an instructor. While she spent the summer helping students stage an original Shakespeare adaptation, she is most excited to share her passion of American history and literature with Madeira girls.
Sheila McGrory joins the English Department this year. Previously she taught at Phillips Andover, the University of Vermont, Middlebury College, and Rice Memorial High School. She has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the nonprofit world, and she’s excited to bring her passion for writing to the Madeira classroom. She holds a BA in English from Wake Forest University and an MA in English from the College of William and Mary.