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.

Third Form students read the seminal works of the literary canon, as well as significant recent and contemporary literature in our Elements of Literature and Composition course. Fourth Form students focus on the Voices of America through a thoughtful year long  journey of what it means to be an American.

Fifth and Sixth Form Students have more choice in their English curriculum and have the opportunity to take year long Advanced Placement or Honors Courses or they can select two semester elective courses. Electives include: Post-Industrial Literature, Shakespeare, Honors Race Theory, Novel of the Psyche, Myths, Legends and Fantasy, Creative Writing, Romanticism, Introduction to College Writing, The Coming of Age Novel, Literature of the Vietnam Conflict and much more.

The Academic Guide gives full descriptions of all courses offered through the English Department.

As part of the Writing Program, students write personal narratives and responses to literature. All students develop their analytical writing skills while considering the major themes they encounter throughout their literary journeys.  Student also have the opportunity to explore their creative talents through our Creative Writing Elective and hone their journalistic skills while contributing to our student newspaper, The Tabard.

Each spring all Third, Fourth, and Fifth Form students participate in the Nelson Hume Speech Contest. An annual event, the Nelson Hume Speech contest gives students the opportunity to compete for the top  prize in not just their respected forms, but for the grand prize as the top Orator in the school. The Nelson Hume Speech awards are presented at the Underform Award Ceremony in May.

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.


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 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.

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.



“Bildungsroman” means “novel of education,” and in this course, we will investigate both formal and informal modes of education in a variety of novels and texts spanning over two hundred years. What does it mean to come of age? Why has the coming of age story fascinated readers since the nineteenth century? Do we ever become fully formed adults? We will examine how these texts stand the test of time and how they engage with other issues surrounding the bridge between adolescence and adulthood.


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 who had to deal with the aftermath of the fighting. The writing continues to this day as many still try 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 with foundational information on the origin myths, proverbs, and legends spanning all cultures and study their similarities and differences. In addition to being able 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 collection of their original work that would be publishable.


What makes a film critically acclaimed? How do we assess what we see on the big screen? What are the intricacies of film production? In this course, we will explore a wide variety of film spanning a little over a century—from 1915 to 2019—in order to grasp the development of filmmaking and shifts or experimentation in narrative and storytelling. We will learn to write critically and analytically about film using film terminology.


“The Empire Writes Back”: It is often said that history is written by 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 write quickly and well on a college level.

For Sixth Formers only.