English Courses

Subfreshman English (World Literature)

(Subfreshmen)
(1 Unit)

Subfreshman English emphasizes the languages needed for academic success.

Subfreshman English emphasizes the languages needed for academic success.

Subfreshman English deals with the language of writing. The focus moves from paragraph development to expository essays, including the basics of academic research. Students learn to fully support a specific, focused thesis. Creative and personal essays also play a role in the language of writing.

Subfreshman English deals with the language of literature through the study of genre. Students learn the basics of literary analysis with short stories, novels, memoirs, drama (including Shakespeare), poetry, and film from international sources. A unit on classic mythology will provide the students with a frame of reference for much of Western Literature. Thematically the literature will focus on coming-of -age stories from around the world.

Subfreshman English deals with the mechanics of language through the study of grammar. With a goal of improving their own writing, students learn grammar descriptively through analysis of sentences and their own writing. Particular emphasis falls on parts of speech, clauses, basic sentence types and various phrases.

Freshman English (American Literature)

(9th grade)
(1 Unit)

Freshman English focuses on American literature. Students analyze important American short stories, novels, plays essays, and poems, building on the skills established in Subfreshman year. They respond to literature from personal, creative, and critical points of view.

Student writing is essential to the course. Students compose various writings, covering summaries, critiques, essays, journal entries, and creative pieces. Skills honed include preparing unified and coherent essays; paraphrasing, summarizing, and making generalizations; using evidence to support assertions; locating, evaluating, organizing, and synthesizing information from various sources; and editing and revising for word choice, organization, consistent point of view, and coherence.

Freshman English also reinforces listening and speaking skills. Class discussion plays a key part. Students will make various presentations, both formal and informal to the class, some being creative in nature.

Sophomore English (British Literature)

(10th grade)
(1 unit)

The sophomore year in English reinforces the critical reading, essay drafting, and creative writing skills developed in earlier years and introduces students to more advanced tools of essay organization. Students have ample opportunity to develop their skills of public speaking and oral interpretation of texts. The Sophomore English curriculum emphasizes writing as a process, including multiple levels of drafting, peer review, and revision. Major multi-draft papers students write during the sophomore year include a poem explication and a literary comparison essay. Grammar instruction occurs in the context of writing.

The primary focus of the sophomore literature curriculum is British literature. Students study works of literature from ancient to modern, engaging with multiple genres, including the short story, the non-fiction essay, the novel, poetry, film, and drama. Major works include William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark, and Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy. Students in Sophomore English explore works of literature in their larger historical and cultural contexts and are encouraged to make connections between texts. At the same time, they get daily practice examining texts in detail and learning the invaluable skills required for close reading. Every week, the course also gives students opportunity to nurture their passion for literature during days reserved for silent, independent reading.


Junior and Senior Special Topics Courses (Fall and Spring)
(semester-long 1/2 unit per semester, 2 semesters each year)

The Nineteenth-Century British Novel

(One section, Fall)
(1/2 unit)

In nineteenth-century England, the novel was in its heyday; it was a wildly popular genre that reached a large and increasingly literate audience. Nineteenth-century readers became educated about the evolving social realities of their world in part through the fiction they read, which often tackled complex issues of romantic love, marriage and family relationships, shifting class distinctions, and changing gender roles. Our study of the novel’s development throughout the century will be grounded in a basic understanding of the history of the novel and its emergence from a new, artistically uncertain and at times morally suspect form to the preeminent literary genre of the nineteenth century. We will explore how the concepts of realism, romance, sentimentalism, didacticism, and gothic horror inform British novels spanning the century. Throughout the course, we will consider how the novels we study portray historical trends arising from industrialization and the growth of urban centers and consider how each reflects changes in the conventions and perceptions of class and gender as the century proceeds. The reading list will include Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and Charles Dickens, and may also include works by Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, and/or Thomas Hardy.

The Twentieth-Century Novel

(Two sections, Fall)
(1/2 unit)

The novel emerged as the dominant literary form of the twentieth century—a century marked by remarkable social and scientific progress as well as genocide, war, postcolonial tensions, and ecological devastation. Literary fiction in this century tended to be experimental in nature, as writers tried to account for what it means to be a human individual amid an increasingly dehumanizing world. This course will focus on some of the most notable and innovative fictional experiments that emerged in the aftermath of the first and second World Wars and during the Cold War. The reading list will include Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf; The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway; The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka; The Stranger, by Albert Camus; Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys; and Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison.

History as Fiction

(Two sections, Spring)
(1/2 unit)

This course will explore some of the ways that postmodern American fiction has made history its subject—not only incorporating characters and plotlines and settings from historical events, but interrogating and drawing attention to the constructed nature of historical narrative itself. Narrative fiction based upon historical events is nothing new, but in the latter half of the twentieth century, novelists began to blur the boundaries between imaginative fiction and factual history in increasingly playful ways. In the postmodern era, fiction and history intersect to an unprecedented degree, and this course will engage students in some of the challenging questions this intersection raises: What are the consequences of acknowledging the degree to which the traditional methods of writing history overlap with those of imaginative fiction? How might an imaginative novel compel its readers to reexamine our understanding or interpretation of a historical era or event? In what ways might such fiction generate more active interest in history as an interpretive, critical discipline? And in what ways does the use of history enhance the fiction’s illusion of reality, the sense that “this really happened”?
The reading will include the following novels: Ragtime, by E. L. Doctorow (1975); Mumbo Jumbo, by Ishmael Reed (1972); Libra, by Don Delillo (1992); Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1968); and Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler (1979).

Non-Fiction Writing

(Fall and Spring)
(1/2 unit)

In Nonfiction Writing, we will write, a lot. That is arguably the best way to become a clearer, more engaging, and more powerful writer. Write and write and write, get feedback, revise, and write some more. We’ll also read nonfiction writing, and discuss the nonfiction writing we read in terms of its strengths and weaknesses as writing. We will learn about the various tools, strategies, and habits, big and small, by which you can develop your power as a writer. We’ll focus on writing on the level of argument, paragraph, and sentence, and spend time in class tinkering with our writing on all of these levels. This class will also be a collaborative investigation. We will work together to define exactly what an essay is, how it works, and what various permutations it can embody. Blogging, writing nonfiction essays, and planning and executing multimedia project, we will use our powers of observation and evaluation to investigate the vast, messy, and exciting art of writing and a explore ways that writing represents the foundation of digital and multimedia literacies. The exact content of the course will vary depending upon both the teacher and the students.

Poetry: British and American

(Two sections, Spring)
(1/2 unit)

The main goal of this course is to help students find the poetry they love and to help students enjoy what is playful, life affirming, strange, funny, and powerful about poetry. We begin by exploring a sample of contemporary poets and considering the current state of poetry, and proceed by considering the importance of poetry to cultures throughout human history and exploring the role of poetry in the modern English-speaking world. The semester will include a brief survey of British poetry from Shakespeare to the Romantics and a look at the increasing importance of American and Irish voices in English poetry as the twentieth century progresses. As we read, we will explore the central role poetry once played in American life – poetry being published in newspapers and popular magazines, people of all ages learning poetry by heart as a matter of course both in and beyond school – and question why poetry has become less central. To this end, we look closely at recent projects that aim to increase poetry’s visibility and vitality in contemporary American life (specifically Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project and Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 project), and analyze their respective levels of success. Students end the semester by creating their own multimedia project aimed a publicizing and promoting poetry in their community (either the Uni community or the entire C-U community).

The Short Story

(Fall and Spring)
(1/2 unit)

This course will look at the short story as a genre, exploring a diverse range of styles and approaches from its emergence in the nineteenth century to recent developments in the twenty-first. We will read individual stories from a range of authors from various backgrounds, and we will also look at published collections of stories by a single author, to explore how stories grouped together can take on a distinctive identity as a book, with thematic and stylistic coherence. In addition to a photocopied packet of individual stories, required texts may include James Joyce’s Dubliners, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help, James Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, George Saunders’s The Tenth of December, and the recent collection of short fiction written by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Fire and Forget. The course will be discussion-based, with a strong emphasis on participation, and written assignments will include both literary-critical analysis and creative writing.

Shakespeare

(Fall)
(1/2 unit)

The Shakespeare course builds on the foundation established in the Subfreshman, Freshman, and Sophomore years. The course focuses on selected tragedies, comedies, histories, tragi-comedies and sonnets. The students will connect the plays to Shakespeare’s historical context as well as examine a variety of critical approaches, both historical and contemporary. The wide range of Shakespeare on film also allows training in reading and interpreting film as text. Expectations for students include a research project, various essays, active discussion and class presentations.

Other English Electives

Creative Writing I

(Fall)
(10th - 12th grade)
(1/2 - 1 unit; may be repeated for credit)

Creative Writing is an elective course, which focuses on the analysis and composition of various literary genres. By offering some class time to engage in directed writing or free writing each day, this course encourages students to develop a daily writing practice. Creative writing also provides opportunities to read works by contemporary and classic authors and to discuss these texts as writing. Throughout the semester, students have the chance to experiment with narrative, poetic, dramatic, and mixed-genre forms in their writing. A workshop approach with regular sessions of peer and instructor review gives students the benefit of multiple perspectives on their writing and allows students to develop their critical capacities by reading other students’ writing. The first semester focuses on prose and poetry. Students have the opportunity to participate in National Novel Writing Month in November during fall semesters when the class as a whole elects to do so.

Creative Writing II

(Spring)
(10th - 12th grade)
(1/2 - 1 unit; may be repeated for credit)

The second semester continues work on prose and poetry, and adds an additional focus on drama and other performance-oriented writing.

Students may enroll in either semester or for the full year of Creative Writing.

Journalism

(Fall and/or Spring)
(9th - 12th grade)
(1/2 unit, may be repeated for credit)

The journalism class is a hands-on, writing-intensive class where students participate in every aspect of producing Uni High's school newspaper, the Gargoyle. Students learn to tell compelling stories in traditional and multimedia formats, to edit their own and others' work, to conduct research and interviews and to take photos. In addition to the hands-on work, there is a classroom component that involves reading both good and bad journalism, discussing current issues in the media and exploring the First Amendment and media law. Students can also choose to compete at the IHSA Journalism sectional and state championships. This class may be taken fall semester, spring semester, or both semesters.

Advanced Journalism: Editors

(Fall and/or Spring)
(11th - 12th grade)
(1/2 unit, may be repeated for credit)

After two semesters, students may sign up for advanced journalism and apply to be an editor. Editors will continue to work on their writing skills while exploring more complex journalism topics such a narrative journalism, broadcast and other areas according to students’ interests. They may also serve as Gargoyle editors, where they will be responsible for the content of the Gargoyle, Facebook and Twitter, and will learn advanced editing skills. Students can also choose to compete at the IHSA Journalism sectional and state championships. This class may be taken fall semester, spring semester, or both semesters.

Gender Studies

(Fall)
(10-12th grade)
(1/2 unit)

This semester-long elective for Sophomores through Seniors will provide an introduction to Gender Studies as an academic subject, offering an overview of the history of feminism, delving into biological versus cultural aspects of sex and gender, and considering the ways that an issue of gender affects education, family life, and popular culture in the US. Assignments will include weekly reading and vigorous participation in discussions, a written gender analysis of a historical, literary, or cultural text, a gender fieldwork project, and a presentation of a creative project relating to gender.

Current Topics in Social Justice

(Spring)
(10th-12th grade)
(1/2 unit)

Current Topics in Social Justice I is a semester elective open to seniors, juniors and sophomores. Students enrolled in Current Topics in Social Justice do weekly volunteer work in community social service agencies. Students must be interested in and committed to the volunteer component. Various readings, lectures, guest speakers, and special assignments add to the students' experiences. Group discussion and journal writing play a key role.

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