English Department

In Canterbury's English classes, students explore and exchange ideas while developing critical thinking, communication, and writing skills they will need to thrive in college and beyond. Third and Fourth Formers read the seminal works of the literary canon, as well as significant recent and contemporary literature.

As part of the Writing Program, students write personal narratives and responses to literature. Fifth Formers develop their analytical writing skills while considering the major themes of American Literature. Sixth Formers choose from a variety of elective courses including studies of Shakespeare, Romanticism, and Post-Industrial Literature, among others.

The Academic Guide gives full descriptions of elective courses. Third, Fourth, and Fifth Form students participate in the Nelson Hume Speech Contest, and each fall students in all Forms read a Shakespeare play prior to the Canterbury student production of that play. English faculty are available in the Writing Center to assist students as they refine essays or papers for English or other courses.


  • Encounter people around the globe--a Bengali immigrant, a Vietnamese soldier, a Victorian orphan--in every English class.
  • Visit societies of the past--the roaring 1920s, India on the eve of independence, the raucous Elizabethan stage, the Boston Puritan era--in every English class.
  • Discover timeless themes of family and social responsibility while reading Antigone in English IV.


  • Direct the class to a revealing moment in Jane Eyre during a round table discussion in your Female Hero in Literature and Film elective.
  • Engage in a debate on narrator reliability and bias in your AP Literature and Composition class.
  • Forge a connection between the film Breakfast at Tiffany's and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in your American Literature class.


English Language Arts

This class is a combined skills course integrating acquisition of and improving on all four skill areas of English: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students will practice new vocabulary in writing and speaking. This class also focuses on increasing listening and reading skills and strategies with an intensive focus on vocabulary development. Students will develop sentence, paragraph, and essay writing skills.  Focus will be on learning grammatical structures and using this knowledge within the writing context. Furthermore, students will have the opportunity to develop strategies to improve their organizational skills and to expand and practice new vocabulary.


Studying a variety of short stories, plays, novels, and poems, students look at the ways authors use literary tools to tell moving stories. Readings may include The Old Man and the Sea, The Lord of the Flies, The Penelopiad and A Raisin in the Sun. Students learn to write effective sentences and paragraphs and have the opportunity to practice writing the above-mentioned essay modes. The study of grammar includes instruction on avoiding the more common writing problems.

Honors section available.


This course will define the term “American Voice”, as well as explore what it means to write with a unique American voice. We will consider how this definition has evolved since the birth of our nation by tracing its development through literature and non-fiction. Students will explore current issues and high interest topics through the close analysis of literature. The course includes all genres — novel, poetry, non-fiction, drama, short story, and film. The writing curriculum gives students the opportunity to focus on writing organized paragraphs and extended essays while practicing the various essay modes of the English Department writing curriculum. Honors section available.

Honors section available.


This course surveys major trends, writers, and themes of American Literature. Examples of some of the themes include “Utopia and Dystopia in American Literature” and “Self-Creation in American Literature.” As part of their participation in the Writing Program, student writing emphasizes the analytical essay. In the honors section, instruction focuses on the analytical and writing skills needed to succeed on the Advanced Placement Exam in English Language and Composition. Students enrolled in the honors section of this course are required to take the AP Exam in English Language in May. All sections review for the SAT I in May.

Honors section available.


This course cultivates the reading and writing skills that students need for college success and for intellectually responsible civic engagement. Students are guided to become curious, critical, and responsive readers of diverse texts, and become flexible, reflective writers of texts addressed to diverse audiences for diverse purposes. The reading and writing students do in the course should deepen and expand their understanding of how written language functions rhetorically: to communicate writers’ intentions and elicit readers’ responses in particular situations. The course prepares the student to take the AP English Language examination in May.


This course seeks to help students read, write, and think more carefully and deliberately. As readers, they focus on authors’ use of language to elicit responses from their readers. As writers, they strive to write consciously rather than as an afterthought, seeking to communicate ideas more effectively. By improving their reading and writing skills, the students learn to think more clearly and precisely. In addition, they develop their vocabulary by focusing on bases, prefixes, and suffixes and combinations of those particles in words. The course prepares the student to take the AP English Literature and Composition examination in May.



The natural world has been represented, imagined, and “constructed” in numerous literary works since the first written word. Authors, essayists, and poets have portrayed nature to be, among other things, the teacher, victim, antagonist, and testing place of humankind. This course will examine a variety of works and compare some of the portrayals. The main focus of the course will be on the development of close reading and precise writing skills. The reading list, a mix of classic and contemporary writings, will include works by Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods), Ernest Hemingway (In Our Time), and Norman Maclean (A River Runs Through It).


This semester course focuses on the literature of the British Romantic Period, approximately 1810-1840, with special emphasis on the poetry of Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats. Students read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and an extensive collection of poems. The course also traces the logical extension of literary structures and themes into the American Romantic Movement that followed using works by authors such as Poe, Whittier, and Longfellow.


In this honors elective, students will participate in a complex study of race in America by reading selections from the following authors: K.J. Williams, Richards Wright, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Barack Obama. We will round out our study in race in America by viewing two documentaries, ESPN’s The Fab Five and Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke. Students will be expected to write daily and our emphasis will be on the personal narrative and using theory to do close readings of the texts.


Designed for students interested in further development of exposition, this course focuses on three aspects of the writing process: observation, expression, and revision. Students write daily; most classes use a workshop format.


A century ago leisure time was limited, and life on the farm and in the factory was hard. Over time, the labor movement, the industrial revolution, and the technology revolution have allowed more time for sports and pastimes. As more people watched and participated in leisure time activities, a body of literature inspired by these activities emerged. Our games have given us a rich variety of real and fictional characters as well as a window into the hearts and souls of towns, regions, and nations. Students in this course read works including Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger, A Sense Of Where You Are by John McPhee, Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, The Legend Of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield, Cinderella Man by Jeremy Schapp, and Hockey Sur Glace by Peter LaSalle.


This course will explore Shakespeare’s tragedies, comedies, and sonnets. Through reading, writing, and active discussion, students will appreciate the universal themes and wonderful language of his works. Readings will include Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and others.