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 - Students will read the powerful coming of age narratives of Maya Angelou in her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Salman Rushdie in his novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, in addition to short stories from writers like Sandra Cisneros and Rudolfo Anaya. In each text, students will explore 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.
Journey of Understanding - 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 theatrical conventions. Students will write analytical and imaginative pieces about the play, shape and challenge their interpretations through performance exercises, and mount a production of a select scene. Prerequisites: Coming of Age.
3-block course; Open to grade 10
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 of Shakespeare's plays 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 student writing. 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 researching 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
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, Modernism, 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 and Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Along with the close study of language and narrative techniques in the texts themselves, students will learn their historical contexts by studying related literature and art. Students will explore the conversations these works have engendered through analysis, synthesis, and argumentative 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, Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge, and other selected short stories, students will learn how the American Gothic tradition arose as a way to navigate and challenge social limitations. Students will also learn how to integrate literary criticism into their writing. 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, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to their analytical writing, students will learn how to create an annotated bibliography as part of a larger research paper that incorporates literary criticism. Prerequisite: From Slavery to Civil Rights.
Native and Asian American Voices - Students will read Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, in addition to selected poetry. Students will study the Chinese American 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 take 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.)
A Woman’s Voice - Female writers, like male writers, do not all write alike. Every writer has her own voice, and the women we will study are no different. We will read a variety of modern female authors, including Virginia Woolf, Edwidge Danticat, Marjane Satrapi, and Amy Tan, to explore notions of family and community, cultural and economic norms, and the role of authority. Students will also examine narrative structure, as all of the texts use unique methods to weave stories together and express the messages at their heart.
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 The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, 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 Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, 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.
Poetry Writing Workshop - This course is structured as a workshop and focuses on poetry created by the class. Students will write a variety of poems—from formal sonnets and villanelles to pantoums and free verse poems—and participate in regular discussion of each other’s work. Based on feedback from the class and teacher, and their own expanding expertise, they will then revise their work and compile it in a final portfolio. Students will also read and analyze a diverse selection of poems to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the vast array of poetic voices that exist throughout the world and across time. As a culmination of the course, students will have the opportunity to share their poetry with the Madeira community.
2-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. For the third block of senior English, AP students will be enrolled in an English IV elective. Prerequisite: Department approval
3-block course; Open to grades 9 and 10
This class is required for all first-year students in the International Student English Program. The course helps students acclimate to The Madeira School and to academic standards and practices in the United States. Students develop their familiarity with the tools available to them for their studies in English: dictionaries (bound and online), library reference and research databases, grammar resources, and course-management, word-processing, and presentation software. Throughout the course, students build their vocabularies and increase their oral communication skills through public speaking practice, interviews, group presentations, and frequent discussion of readings.
The course also offers intensive instruction in writing, with a special focus on learning the process of composing the expository essay. Students practice prewriting, thesis construction, paragraph development, drafting, and revision. Additionally, students are taught to apply U.S. conventions of language and grammar outside the expository essay, in e-mail, letters, resumes, creative writing, and presentations. Prerequisite: None. Corequisite: ISE1 I: Introduction to Madeira Scholarship must be completed prior to taking English I courses.
ISE1 I: Introduction to Madeira Scholarship
ISE1 II: Working with Literature
ISE1 III: Working with Research
3-block course; Open to grades 10 and 11
This class is required for all second-year ISE students. Year Two allows students more time and instructor attention to develop grade-appropriate English reading and writing skills across the Madeira curriculum. The course emphasizes the development of composition skills through writing exercises that hone the use of correct grammar and punctuation. Additionally, students explore ways to craft more substantive thesis statements and build cohesive arguments as they use examples from their texts, employ correct citations, and frame conclusions that are more discovery than mere summary. They work closely with the instructor in drafting, editing, and rewriting assignments. Throughout the year, students further improve their reading comprehension by practicing annotation techniques and identifying significant passages in their texts for discussion. In the third block, rigorous attention is paid to the development of public speaking skills. Each module has a different content focus, though reading, writing, speaking and listening skills are developed and honed in each module.
ISE2 I: Madeira’s School Values
ISE2 II: Literary Analysis: A Masterwork in English
ISE2 III: Public Speaking
Four years (3 blocks per year) of English
Dr. Arizmendi worked at Madeira from 2003 to 2006. She returned in 2008 and is a Master Teacher in the English Department. Dr. Arizmendi holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Loyola College and a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Cornell University. Prior to teaching at Madeira, she taught interdisciplinary courses as a Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University from 1999 to 2002. Currently, her favorite authors to teach are Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Aldous Huxley, and John Keats. She also enjoys exploring modernism in literature and the arts in her interdisciplinary course "Expatriates in Paris." Dr. Arizmendi is the recipient of the Deborah Loeb Brice Endowed Chair.
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.
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.
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.
Sarah Yarborough earned her B.A. in English Literature and Theatre from Smith College (Northampton, MA) and is a Madeira School alumna, Class of 2009. Previously, Sarah worked in residential life at boarding schools in Maryland, Michigan, and Jeju-do, South Korea. After three summers working for Madeira's Girls First! program, she joined the Dean of Students Office in 2017 as the Assistant Dean of Students for Campus Life.
Sheila McGrory joined the English Department in 2017. 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.