Academics
Departments and Curriculum

English


In all English courses at Holderness, the school’s Core Values of Community, Character, and Curiosity become habits students practice as they grow into more effective critical and creative readers, writers, speakers, listeners, viewers, and thinkers. At every level, we aim to develop in students an increased self-awareness, a lifelong love of spoken and written language, and a commitment to engaging the world in its complexity and diversity. To find out more about our four-year English curriculum—including our Humanities course, our AP courses, and our senior elective offerings—please read our English curriculum progression.

Outside the classroom, students are encouraged to submit their work to Mosaic, Holderness School’s journal of arts and letters, and to The Picador, Holderness School’s newspaper. Holderness writers are also encouraged to submit their work to national writing contests open to high school students. Students also participate annually in the national poetry recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud


Our Virtual Bookshelf

Every summer a book is chosen that the whole community—students, faculty, and staff—read. Check out our past All-School Summer Read Winners, an eclectic list that annually sparks conversations about books and the societies that inspire them.



Click here for more student work photos



English Course Descriptions

In their 9th grade year, students take the year-long "English 9: Humanities" course, which introduces students to literary study through interdisciplinary lenses. The focus is on developing essential and multisensory reading, writing, collaboration, critical thinking, and habits of mind. Students draw connections between their English study and their service learning during their March Experience, Project Outreach.

In their 10th grade year, students take the year-long "English 10: Global Literatures" course, which presents literary study through global social and cultural contexts. Students think deeply and write frequently about questions concerning their own identities in relation to social identifiers such as race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual identity, religious belief, class, and privilege. Writing and other assignments link literary study with artistic expression, connecting the course with their March Artward Bound Experience.

In their 11th and 12th grade years, students have the option of one of our AP offerings (per approval by the department) and semester-long English seminars. English Seminars are semester-long courses that expose students to focused topics in literary and cultural studies. These courses allow for deep dives into specific, advanced topics. AP Literature emphasizes critical reading, writing, and thinking and delves into questions concerning race, class, gender, and sexuality in a variety of complex literary texts. Key texts include Ellison’s Invisible Man, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Morrison’s Beloved. To be considered, students must write in response to an AP Lit question of the Department’s choosingAP Language and Composition students use mainly non-fiction works as a springboard for honing their skills as readers, writers, and speakers, learning—in a more pointed way—to recognize and use rhetorical strategies that help shape audience response and understanding. To be considered by the Department for this course, students must submit a letter of interest, a recommendation from their English 10 teacher, and take an AP Comp pre-test.
  • English 9: Humanities

    1. This year-long course introduces students to literary study through interdisciplinary lenses.
    2. Focus is on developing essential and multisensory reading, writing, collaboration, critical thinking, and habits of mind.
    3. Students draw connections between their English study and their service learning during their March Experience, Project Outreach.


    Order Your Textbook(s)
    *Note: there will be another text (The Odyssey) but we are still deciding on the exact edition.
    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • English 10: Global Literatures

    1. This course presents literary study through global social and cultural contexts.
    2. Students think deeply and write frequently about questions concerning their own identities in relation to social identifiers such as race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual identity, religious belief, class, and privilege.
    3. Writing and other assignments link literary study with artistic expression, connecting the course with their March Artward Bound Experience.

    Order Your Textbook(s)
    If you are in Ms. Barton's section, please purchase the following texts:


    If you are in Ms. Dahl's section, please purchase the following texts:


    If you are in Mr Kendall's section, please purchase the following texts:

    During the school year, students in Mr. Kendall's section will then choose an additional book. The following are possible options. Please do not purchase any of these at this time.

    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • AP Language & Composition

    The course aims to further student understanding and appreciation of the English language, particularly language used to argue and persuade. The class will study the logic of English usage, learn new words, and read writing that exemplifies precision and rhetorical force. In the first semester, content and assignments in the course will center on understanding and clarifying personal values, and weighing these against accepted societal values. The second semester will explore specific means of persuasion employed in American society. Articulate, deliberate, precise language will be encouraged and reinforced in writing assignments, oral reports, and class discussions.

    Our curriculum is designed with two factors in mind. First, it is intended to further the language development fostered in earlier grades of our school’s English curriculum and prepare students (those juniors enrolled in the class) for their final year of secondary school. Second, it capitalizes on the specific goals of the Advanced Placement curriculum. The demands of the AP program divergent from our school’s traditional curriculum—among them the focus of specific rhetorical techniques and language and the development of image analysis skills—require our enrolled students to be especially dedicated and diligent.

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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • AP Literature

    AP Literature and Composition focuses on the study of language used for artistic purposes. Students develop their analytical skills by reading poetry, novels, short stories, and plays. In addition to teaching students to appreciate the skillful use of rich, complex, evocative language, the class aims at developing students’ writing skills. Most of the writing in AP literature is analytic in nature, although some time is devoted to the college essay in September. The course is open to 12th graders and culminates in the taking of the Advanced Placement examination in May.

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    If you are in Mr. Durnan's class, please purchase the following texts:


    If you are in Mr. Lin's class, please purchase the following texts:

    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Choose Your Own Adventure

    What would happen if you got to read what you want? This course focuses on literary structure and components while also allowing students to choose their own texts. Students will be given guidelines and asked to read one fictional text, one non-fiction text, one graphic text, and to study one school of poetry. Not only do they get to choose their own literary journey they also discover the power of linguistics and semiotics in their own lives. Each student will write literary analysis and demonstrate an understanding of literary devices. 

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    Coming soon.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Contemporary Asian and Asian-American Lit

    In this course, we will read a variety of novels, essays and poems written by contemporary Asian and Asian-American authors. We will choose texts (some translated, some written in English) from an array of East Asian cultures --Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese, among others, and explore the following questions: Are there defining characteristics of “Asian literature” apart from the author’s ethnicity or place of birth? What are the myths, values, or beliefs that inform or undergird these texts? What role does Asian literature play in the current literary landscape? How do Asian-American writers and/or Asians who write for a Western audience reconcile the collision or convergence of culture and language? And then, more generally, what makes a work “excellent,” worth studying, or “important,” regardless of culture of origin? Given the breadth of genres and viewpoints, much of our work will be exploratory as we seek to address these questions and others, inviting class members to suggest favorite writers and works to consider for our collective study and enjoyment.
     
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    Assorted poetry, stories, and essays by Ocean Vuong, Li-Young Lee, Amy Tan, Eric Liu, Haruki Murakami, Min Jin Lee, and Ruth Ozeki, among others (to be ordered or made available during semester)
    American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (no need to purchase; teacher will provide copies)
    *Note: Additional texts may be assigned but can be ordered as needed.

    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Creative Non-Fiction

    In this class students will practice many forms of creative nonfiction from personal narratives to fact based persuasive essays. Each class starts with a writing exercise designed to tap creativity, prompt further writing, and create a culture of free expression. Students will learn literary techniques and develop their own writing process. In addition to writing, students will also read creative non-fiction about the writing process.

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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Creative Writing

    Creative Writing is for students interested in writing poetry and short fiction. Each class starts with a writing exercise designed to tap creativity, prompt further writing, and create a culture of free expression. Students will learn literary techniques, elements of poetry and fiction, and more about their own writing process. While the bulk of the class is writing based, students will also read poetry and fiction, as well as a book and articles about the writing process. Students must be willing to take risks and be a member of a supportive community of writers. The class culminates in a writing portfolio of work and reflections done throughout the semester.

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    Textbooks will be assigned in class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Fiction to Film

    We will read and watch several plays and novels and consider how they are adapted to film. How does the screenwriter transform the word, the culture, and the characters onto the screen? Texts and Films include:  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, and a novel to be named later. A final project will be a student selected book or short story transformed into a screenplay and film scenes.

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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Finding Lost and Losing Found: Paths to Self-Discovery

    Who am I and why am I here? The answers to these questions are at the core of our existence. Often, though, they effortlessly escape us and delay our self-knowledge. This course offers students the opportunity to look for, if not actually find, themselves. Students will consider a variety of texts that look at young people who are transformed from “lost” to “found,” and vice versa. Students will also explore their own paths to self-discovery through exercises that build off course texts. These might include such traditional assessments as essays that consider the impact an individual, object, or belief has had on them, but it might also include constructing an e-portfolio as a way to collect journal entries, interviews, photos, and other elements that would help students construct their own auto-biographies. Possible texts may include: Hole in My Life, Life of Pi, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, and selections from Interpreter of Maladies.

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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Fly Fishing and Literature

    We will spend the fall semester with several goals in mind. First, we will explore a bit of the vast world of fly-fishing literature. As you will discover, not all of our texts are primarily about fly fishing, which may be a disappointment to some, but each does have fly fishing as a central metaphor. I think that you will find them to be a varied and interesting selection. Secondly, since this is an English course, we will do some writing, both fiction and non-fiction. I would like us to have a collection of pieces that can be gathered into a small book of some sort that we will publish for ourselves at the end of the term. Thirdly, I expect you to learn or develop your fly-fishing skills of casting, knot-tying, fly selection, reading water, and a number of other technical topics we will uncover as we go. Lastly, I would love for each of you to catch a fish on a fly, and to this end, I will offer day trips to local waters, which will most likely take place on Sundays throughout the fall while the season is open. There may even be an overnight trip to northern NH to fish the famed Connecticut River in Pittsburg.
     
    Writing
    Our writing this term will be either of the creative sort (short stories, poems), journal entries (reflections on readings, fishing, and life), or research reports on trout, insects, and flies.
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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Humanity's Monsters

    Throughout history, stories have been told about monsters. These creatures have been saviors, outcasts, and at times, fed on the flesh of the living. We have called them insane, Messiah, god, demon, and murderer. They terrorize the living and sometimes walk among us. What is a monster? Are we our own greatest enemy? Monsters have come to represent not only society’s fears, but our desires as well. They are humanity’s mirror—holding our every weakness before us for critique by their very existence. There is a rich history of conceptions of man as the monster. What is it about fear that fascinates us? How do we respond to fear and desire? How does our culture create monsters to battle oppression and repression? We will explore how these images have changed over time in response to cultural and personal crisis. How are stories told? We will consider how tales are created and what that means in the past and the present. The course would culminate in an argument relating the human experience to concepts of monsters.

    Possible texts:
    • World War Z
    • Warm Bodies
    • Monster
    • X-Men
    • Frankenstein
    • The Yellow Wallpaper
    • Brave New World

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    Coming soon.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Introduction to Graphic Novels

    Contemporary society requires constant engagement with and interpretation of visual texts whether in media, online, or written formats. Visual storytelling is part of our human origin story, which has become even more pertinent because of technological developments. From prehistoric cave drawings to computer-generated avatars to Bitmojis and filters on Snapchat, representation has been a pluralistic act. And as an “act,” the reading, analysis, and creation of graphic compositions require the development of specific literacy skills. Graphic novels and comics are texts where we can observe the hybridization of ethnic, gender, and racial ideas; the study of them provides new perspectives against a backdrop of other traditional forms. Through careful evaluation of graphic novels, we can attempt to define notions of identity, character interaction, intertextuality, comic art, caricature through historical referential themes and literary analysis. And, like other English courses, this course is reading- and writing- intensive. Each student will complete their own graphic novel in addition to writing critical analysis. And we will ask the important questions: “What is considered literary? And what is not?”

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    Coming soon.
  • Advanced English Seminar: John Steinbeck

    John Steinbeck, world-renowned novelist, playwright, essayist and short-story writer was born in Salinas, California in 1902. Growing up in a rural town, he spent his summers working on local ranches, which exposed him to the harsh lives of migrant workers. Known for his stories about the struggles of low-income Americans, Steinbeck was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath in 1939, and he was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. This seminar will explore the literature of Steinbeck, especially focusing on his characters and their quest for the American Dream.

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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Natural History Writing

    This non-fiction reading and writing course will introduce you to the many ways writers have put their encounters with nature into words. Nature writing takes many forms from essays to poems to stories. Though mostly non-fiction, nature writing encompasses all genres and has at its core memorable encounters with nature, which ultimately shed light on our humanity. We will read collections of essays and poems and use them as models for our own essay and poetry writing. Among the writers we will read will  be Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, Peter Matthiessen, Gary Snyder, Edward O. Wilson, John McPhee, Edward Hoagland, Wendell Berry, Jim Harrison, Bruce Chatwin, Rick Bass, Annie Dillard, Rachel Carson,  Barry Lopez, David Rains Wallace, Gretel Ehrlich, Diane Ackerman, David Quammen, Gary Paul Nabhan, Louise Erdrich, Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, Janisse Ray, Barbara Kingsolver, Doug Peacock, Michael Pollan. Look up any of these writers to get a sense of what you’re in for. We will complement our daily writing with frequent trips outside to gather material for our own writing. One product of the course will be a significant writing portfolio or book, filled with your reflections, observations, drawings, found objects, stories, and poems about your own experiences in the natural world. For juniors, this course will put you in the mood for OB!

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    Textbooks will be assigned in class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Shakespeare Page to Stage

    In this team taught class, students will work toward an understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare’s plays through performance, their own and others’. Students will learn the basics of film study and analyze the various ways actors and directors have approached Shakespeare. Students will also enhance their understanding of language, character and story through their own performance. Students do not need to have a strong understanding of Shakespeare to enjoy the class; they should, however, be willing to take creative risks and be a member of a supportive community.

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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: The Bible as Literature

    Do you have a Bible on your shelf somewhere but you’ve never really read it? Did you know the Bible is more of a library than a book? Are the readings in chapel a total mystery to you? Have you ever encountered a biblical reference in another book and wished you knew more? Are you or a loved one named after a figure in the Bible but know little about the namesake? Do you ever wonder how and why the Bible animates historical and contemporary political speech and action? Do you ever wonder what are some of the biblical sources that undergird Western theories of law and justice? Do you appreciate great writing? Do you wish someday to be able to call yourself well-read?
     
    The Bible as Literature is an upper-level semester course which provides an additional choice for students seeking to satisfy the graduation requirement in Theology & Religious Studies.  Cross-listed with the English dept, the course is listed as ENG on the transcript.

    METHOD:
    The course provides an introduction to the study of the Judeo-Christian canon of biblical texts as works of sacred literature and rhetoric.  Students will explore the range of biblical genres through a survey of its historical, prophetic, poetic, sophistic, liturgical, gospel, and apocalyptic literatures.  With an eye to historical, source, form, and redaction critical insights of scholarship and contemporary traditions, they will learn to decipher and defend their own interpretive and rhetorical choices.
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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: The Literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy

    A Fantasy and Science Fiction Topics Course: Despite a long history of the fantastic as allusions to and influential on the human experience, fantasy and science fiction are often disregarded in discussions of cannonical texts. How might explorations of space and imagined lands represent discussions about society's own struggles and desires? This course will explore the ways in which writing and imagination influence culture and speak in areas when silence has oppressed. The culmination of the course would be a creative writing piece that reflects a current societal fear or desire. (Focus on Afrofuturism) Possible texts: The Parable of the Sower, Avatar, The Name of the Wind, The Lord of the Rings, The Shannara Chronicles, Ready Player One

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    Required texts:

    During the semester, students will then choose one additional book to read in their own time. They may also read this over the summer if they would like. They may choose from the following:

    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Unplugged Narratives—Stories of Substance in the Age of Snapchat

    In this course, we will study a variety of approaches to creative non-fiction writing with a focus on storytelling and the personal essay, the role of the storyteller in society, and the different ways in which stories reflect and make meaning of individual and collective experience. We’ll seek ways of addressing the following questions, among others: How do stories both convey and challenge cultural norms? What is the relationship between storytelling and truth? What kinds of voices do we listen to? What is the role of the listener? What is my story and how do I tell it?
     
    At a time when putting personal “stories” out there is part of daily (or hourly) life, whether in the form of Instagram photos, tweets, or Snapchat stories, we will strive to discover what it means to shape a narrative the “old-fashioned way” -- through deliberate composition, sustained focus, and careful revision. At the same time, we will consider how our new modes of storytelling -- through social media and blogs -- co-exist and “converse” with the traditional long-form memoir, personal essay, poem, or play. In addition to writing our own stories, we will read work from writers known for the grace of their individual voices and the power of their stories.
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    Other reading: Assorted essays by Amy Tan, E.B. White, Annie Dillard, N. Scott Momaday, Wendell Berry, Eudora Welty, and Scott Russell Sanders, among others (Teacher will provide)

    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Utopian Literature

    Utopia or dystopia? This seminar will debate that question. Especially in today’s world that struggles with the haves and have-nots, nuclear weaponry and choices between safety and freedom, the literature of the following authors is as important and relevant today as it was in the times they were published. Be prepared to read, write about what you read and engage in debate if you choose this seminar. 

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    Click on the book(s) above for direct purchasing options. Please note: if you would like to find the books through another vendor, be sure to take note of the exact ISBN numbers so you/your child has the correct book for class.

View Our Curriculum

Faculty

  • Photo of Marilee Lin
    Marilee Lin
    English Department Chair & International Student Coordinator
    (603) 779-5379
    Middlebury College (VT) - MA
    Harvard University (MA) - BA
    Needham High School
    Bio
  • Photo of Sarah Barton
    Sarah Barton
    English Faculty & Director of Senior Thesis
    (603) 779-5302
    Middlebury College (VT) - MA
    Trinity College (CT) - BA
    Plymouth State University (NH) - MA
    Bio
  • Photo of Janice Dahl
    Janice Dahl
    English Faculty
    (603) 779-5275
    Mohawk Trail Regional High
    University of New Hampshire - BA/English
    Upper Valley Teaching Institute
    Mohawk Trail Regional High School
    University of New Hampshire
    Plymouth State University - Master of Education
    Plymouth State University
    Upper Valley Teaching Institute
    Upper Valley Teaching Institute
    U of New Hampshire - BA
    U of New Hampshire - BA
    Bio
  • Photo of Peter Durnan
    Peter Durnan
    English Faculty & Dean of Academics
    (603) 779-5305
    U of California at Santa Barbara - MA
    Dartmouth College (NH) - BA
    Bio
  • Photo of Joseph Kennedy
    Joseph Kennedy
    English Faculty
    (603) 779-5287
  • Photo of John Lin
    John Lin
    English Faculty & Dean of Students
    (603) 779-5320
    Middlebury College (VT) - MA
    Carleton College (MN) - BA
    Oxford University (England) - M. Phil.
    Bio
  • Photo of Patrick Livingstone
    Patrick Livingstone
    English Faculty
    (603) 779-5286
    Columbia University--Teachers College - MA
    Bates College - BA
    Bio
  • Photo of Jennifer Martinez
    Jennifer Martinez
    History & English Faculty & Senior Thesis Advisor
    (603) 779-5363
    Bio
  • Photo of Bruce Paro
    Bruce Paro
    English Faculty
    (603) 779-5390
    Kimball Union Academy
    University of New Hampshire - BA
    University of New Hampshire - MAT
    Bio
  • Photo of Jini Rae Sparkman
    Jini Rae Sparkman
    English Faculty & Director of Equity and Inclusion
    (603) 779-5399
    Plymouth State University - MEd
    Plymouth State University - BA
    Bio
Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness, NH 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257