English Department2023-02-10T13:36:28+00:00

English Department

Placement Requirements

The placement process for new students is different from that for returning students. Please review the placement requirements for the appropriate group at the links below.

All placements are subject to review by the head of the department.

Grade 12

English 4 Semester Courses

The semester English course offerings can change from year to year. The registrar will work with rising grade 12 students to request particular semester English courses in May of grade 11.


Available to all grades. Journalism courses do not fulfill the English requirement.

English Course Descriptions

English 1: Introduction to Literary Studies

Available to: grade 9 students, required for those students

As students begin to navigate Stevenson’s Pebble Beach campus, they will investigate the relationship between identity and place through the reading and writing they encounter in English 1. This seminar-style course exposes students to a variety of genres, perspectives and voices that form a foundation for the work they will engage in throughout their time in the English classroom. While written efforts focus on literary analysis, students also explore their narrative and creative voice, acquiring competence in grammar and an enriched vocabulary in the process. Students also learn the skills of engaging in class discussions, as they practice articulating their ideas and listening and responding to their peers. We begin the year with short reading and writing endeavors as we build foundational skills, and we move to longer assignments in the spring semester. Our readings include contemporary essays, short works of fiction, poetry, drama, and either a novel or a memoir.

English 2 / English 2 Honors: Language & Power

Type: Honors available

Available to: grade 10 students, required for those students, for honors see placement requirements link above

Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist and essayist, has voiced his appreciation for the African proverb that states, “Until the lion has its own historian, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” English 2 is a world literature course, with an emphasis on British literature, and the course’s texts help students consider the power of language and storytelling—and how individuals with a voice shape communities and cultures. Students are challenged in both class discussions and in their writing to analyze language at the figurative level, specifically in relation to how words and phrases reveal power or powerlessness. While writing in English 2 begins with a review of the fundamentals of the paragraph, composition progresses to the analytical essay and includes opportunities for personal and creative writing. Students explore a variety of genres, including novels, plays, poetry, short fiction, and graphic novels by authors including Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Mary Shelley, Zora Neale Hurston, Chinua Achebe, Sophocles, and Shakespeare. Students who place into English 2 Honors are equipped with comparatively advanced skills in literary analysis and a clear commitment to their English coursework, such that they can manage heftier assignments at a swifter pace.

English 3 / English 3 Honors: Voices of American Literature

Type: Honors available

Available to: grade 11 students, required for those students, for honors see placement requirements link above

This course explores the chronological sweep of American literature from the Puritans to the present, with a focus on the independent voices who created an imaginative new literary terrain in response to the developing nation. Students trace themes of identity, difference, faith, nature, and the American dream by reading closely, writing frequently, and sharing ideas with one another in our discussion-oriented setting. Readings draw from a diverse range of authors of renown and significance—such as Whitman, Fitzgerald, and Morrison—and course concepts resonate with the junior-year US History curriculum. Students will also study multimedia sources, including cartoons, music, and film. By examining America’s literary past, students will gain a deeper understanding of American culture and society today. Students who place into English 3 Honors are equipped with comparatively advanced skills in literary analysis and a clear commitment to their English coursework, such that they can manage heftier assignments at a swifter pace.

The English 4 course offerings are single semester courses and can change from year to year. The registrar will work with students to request particular semester English courses in May of grade 11. AP English is also an option for qualified Grade 12 students.

English 4: The Art of the Essay

A lasting and relevant art form, the essay endures as a popular and useful genre of writing, executed by students, academics, writers, journalists, and politicians all over the world. Due to many essays’ relative short length and topicality, it may become the type of writing you read—and compose—the most in your adult life. By applying simple concepts of observation, reason and common sense, or intellect, essayists make illuminating discoveries and explore disparate topics, examining them from myriad angles to see what they might uncover and hoping to open readers’ minds to new ways of thinking about themselves and the world. In this course, students will learn about various types of essays—personal, political, and opinion—how to read them well, and how essayists use particular forms of argumentation, as well as rhetorical skills, to effectively persuade. Students will also learn how to compose a well-crafted personal essay for college applications. The course culminates in students writing an opinion essay on a topic of their own choosing, which will be considered for publication in Tusitala, the School’s newspaper. Teacher-selected readings will complement assigned readings from The Seagull Reader: Essays, They Say I Say with Readings, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, and Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness.

English 4: The California Dream

The natural, social and political landscape of California has served as the muse for some of America’s greatest writers, working against a backdrop of striking beauty and under threat of earthquake and fire. Joan Didion’s Sacramento is a tense, frontier experiment: “things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.” Angie Chau’s immigrant San Francisco is a fantasized place of new beginnings and disappointing realities. Jack Keroac’s Bakersfield is “the land of lonely and exiled and eccentric lovers come to forgather like birds… where everybody somehow looked like broken-down, handsome, decadent movie actors.” Through a diverse collection of readings, frequent class discussions and analytical and creative writing, this course will explore the literature of California and the role that the California dream plays in the American consciousness. Course materials may draw from the work of Joan Didion, Angie Chau, John Steinbeck, Paul Beatty, Toshio Mori, Walter Mosley, Jennifer Egan, Gish Jen and others.

English 4: The Family Drama on Stage

From Greek tragedy to contemporary drama, we will consider 2000 years of dramatic representations of love and betrayal, family secrets, sibling rivalry, and the pursuit of power within the microcosm of the family unit. We will view the family dynamic at its best and worst and consider the relationship between the past and the present, collective and individual memory, and the depth of what it means to belong. We will also consider the effect of social and historical contexts on the creation and reception of the genre by studying various texts and schools, including realism, tragedy, absurdism, and verse drama. We will spend time performing scenes in class, writing one-act plays, and engaging in analytical responses, including a comparative essay. Our texts may include Euripides’ Medea, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, August Wilson’s Fences, Quiara, Alegria Hudes’ Water by the Spoonful, and Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive

English 4: The Gothic Imagination

Gothic literature delights readers through its tantalizing combination of suspense, secrecy, the supernatural, and—sometimes—romance. In this course we will trace the development of gothic fiction from its origins in eighteenth-century England to present-day expressions of the macabre on the large and small screens. Students will explore the ways in which frightful stories often reveal the underlying fears and anxieties of an era, from the concerns about reverse colonization in Victorian England to the ways in which slavery and Native American removal haunt the literature of the United States. Readings will include Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stoker’s Dracula, and short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Angela Carter, and Carmen Maria Machado. The course culminates in an examination of the many strains of a more contemporary gothic style in Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Peele’s Get Out, and Childish Gambino’s “This is America.”

English 4: Iconic Novellas: Less is More

The British author Ian McEwan wrote that “the novella is the perfect form of prose fiction…long enough for a reader to inhabit a world or a consciousness and be kept there, short enough to be read in a sitting or two and for the whole structure to be held in mind at first encounter…” He also noted that “to sit with a novella is analogous to watching a play or a longish movie.” In this class, we will read iconic novellas from the 20th and 21st centuries and examine their adaptation to the screen. We will focus specifically on how authors structure and execute this particular form, create plot and subplot, develop character and convey theme(s) in a relatively short amount of space. Additionally, we will examine the transition of the novella to screenplay and eventually to film, seeing how the screenwriters and directors construct their adaptations. In-class and evening screenings of the films will occur. Readings have included Stephen King’s The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Steve Martin’s Shopgirl, Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, and Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

English 4: The Postmodern Storyteller

Artists and writers of the late 20th century had witnessed the horrors of the First and Second World Wars, the Holocaust, the Cold, Korean and Vietnam Wars, the torturous progress of the civil rights movement and the upheavals and inequalities of late-capitalist society. They were confronted with a world fragmented and transformed by technology and conflict, seemingly devoid of the meaning that had grounded the grand narratives of Western culture. This course will explore the innovations in language and form that postmodernists used to construct this altered reality while deconstructing identity, reason and even truth itself. In class discussions and analytical and creative writing assignments, students will consider the use of metafiction, paradox, intertextuality, subjectivity, black humor, time distortion and other tools of postmodernist writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, Joseph Heller, Kathy Acker, Thomas Pynchon, Italo Calvino, Heinrich Boll and George Saunders.

English 4: Reading Disney

Most of us encounter the stories and characters of the Disney empire as children. But where does Disney get those stories, and what do the “Disney versions” teach us? In this course, we will investigate Disney’s powerful role in shaping the many worlds—physical, social, emotional, commercial—that we inhabit daily. To chart this ever-expanding cultural geography, we will draw from a variety of readings: literary sources (including Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, the sixth- century Ballad of Mulan, and versions of “Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast” from all over the world), Disney’s feature-length films, essays in literary criticism, media literacy, and critical theory, and discussions of the architecture and design of the theme parks. Frameworks from cultural studies and film studies will challenge us as we advance our own critical perspectives on Disney’s representations of nature, race, gender, love, violence, progress, individualism, family, and nation. By the end of the semester, students will have developed a sophisticated understanding of the multiple, often surprising ways in which Disney is “part of your world.”

English 4: Short Story and the Craft of Writing

This course allows students to get curious about how stories get written— and about how to engage their own experience and imagination to create original fiction. By examining a range of short stories—from Kate Chopin and Ernest Hemingway to Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie and Ted Chiang—we study and apply salient lessons of craft to our own writing. Much of the course focuses on analysis of our assigned readings and discussions about the author’s craft. We delineate what it means to read as a critic and writer. Students write craft essays on style, conflict, subtext, point of view, abstract and concrete language, and character interiority. In the final weeks, students experience a classic writing workshop in which they write their own short stories and serve as editors of their peers’ writing; they are also encouraged to submit to the School’s literary journal, Vailima. Teacher-selected readings will complement assigned readings from The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop, and They Say I Say

AP English Literature and Composition

Type: Honors

Available to: grade 12 students, see placement requirements link above

AP English provides an introductory college-level course to students ready for advanced literary analysis. The syllabus both acquaints students with some of the major texts in the Western tradition and exposes them to a rich sampling of literary genres. The course promotes critical thinking and lucid, persuasive, and forceful writing. This course emphasizes the analytical essay based on the concept of the “close reading.” A high degree of responsibility for class participation and independent learning is fostered by requiring students to lead discussions, to make presentations, and to complete a reading journal in a thoughtful and thorough manner. Students are prepared for the Advanced Placement Examination in May and for successfully meeting the writing and thinking expectations of the most rigorous colleges. Last year’s syllabus included Song of Solomon, The UnAmericans, Gilead, Heart of Darkness, Seize the Day, Dubliners, Equus, Winesburg, Ohio, No Exit, Twelfth Night, and a rich sampling of poetry.

Journalism: Yearbook

Available to: Available to: all students

Special Notes: This course does not count towards the diploma requirement for the English department.

Spyglass, the school yearbook, is produced once a year and documents Stevenson’s many activities and sports that take place throughout the school year. Yearbook students learn to write copy, design layouts, and take photographs, thus taking an active role in recording the Stevenson student experience for that year. The yearbook, a full color, hardbound book, is traditionally released at the end of the school year.

Journalism: Newspaper

Available to: all students

Special Notes: This course does not count towards the diploma requirement for the English department.

This course explores the craft of journalism in a practical, hands-on setting by publishing the school newspaper every three to four weeks while also working on a variety of exercises in journalistic practice. Students incorporate lessons on the practice of print and photographic storytelling as they conceive and create stories that reflect the student experience. Students create the entire paper; they brainstorm to assemble a story list, assign stories, plan interviews, arrange for photos and graphics, write and edit news and feature articles, and design and lay out each issue. Students gain professional-level experience in reporting as well as employing the tools used to produce modern print and online journalism. Students particularly interested in video reporting or photography can work to flesh out our social media presence.

Go to Top