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. A Canterbury graduate will enter the world with a thoughtful and worldly perspective gained from reading a diverse group of texts and engaging in thoughtful conversations about real world issues. 

English courses are listed below; please download the Academic Guide for a complete list of our course offerings.


Fifth and Sixth Formers, except students in Honors Race Theory, AP Language and AP Literature, select two semester-long English electives.


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.


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. For Fifth Formers.


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 of 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. For Sixth Formers.


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. For Sixth Formers.




Consumers of works of horror willfully frighten themselves to experience a psychological thrill that comes with fear. The course will discuss why consumers of the genre chase this thrill and how the producers of the genre prompt this response. Students will discuss common characteristics of this genre and what makes each work unique. Readings will include assorted poems, short stories, and novels by Hawthorne, King, Lovecraft, O’Connor, and Poe.


Of all the American wars and conflicts throughout history, none has inspired a greater volume of literature than The Vietnam Conflict. The emotional trauma and confusion of that war has led to countless novels, non-fiction narratives, memoirs, song lyrics, and poems often written by those who had fought there, but also by those coping with the aftermath of the fighting. The writing continues to this day as many continue to make sense of what once happened in a small southeast asian country over forty years ago. In this semester course we will examine the voice of an American soldier, the voice of a daughter who lost a father to the conflict before she could even meet him, and a voice from the enemy side. This course is offered in honor of Charles L. Bergevin ‘62, David M. Burke ‘65, and Paul M. McGrath ‘62, Canterbury Alumni who lost their lives in the conflict.


The foundation of myths, legends, fantastical ideas, and the world beyond reality will be examined in this course. We will start by exploring the origin of myths, proverbs, and legends spanning all cultures and studying their similarities and differences. In addition to learning how to recognize mythological metaphors, allusions, analogies, and symbols, students will also analyze the significance of man's use of the myth/legend.


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.


This course in creative writing combines theory and practice. As students study the techniques of past and present poets, novelists, and playwrights, they practice applying those models and methods to their own work. The goal of this course is for students to produce a publishable collection of original work.


“The Empire Writes Back”: It is often said that history is written by the victors; however, literature is written by everyone. The texts of the course are written by authors from former colonies. The course will explore and discuss the challenges and conflicts faced by the colonized and how, even though the authors are from a variety of geographical regions, the concerns of these authors share commonalities (identity, history, cultural heritage, nationhood, freedom, etc.).


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. 


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.


This course prepares students for college composition, including essays, studies, and narratives. Students analyze models of the various genres to recognize their components and techniques, which they then apply to their own writing. The course includes methods of research and documentation. The class is collaborative and participatory, with presentations and peer-editing. Since revision is critical to writing, the course directs students to better, more efficient and effective expression. The purpose of the course is for students to develop the skills necessary to write quickly and well on a college level. For Sixth Formers only.