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)

    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 Ms. Sparkman's section, please purchase the following texts:

    During the school year, students in Ms. Sparkman'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.

    Order Your Textbook(s)
    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: 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.

    Order Your Textbook(s)

    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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    No textbook required.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Elements of Tragedy

    What is dramatic tragedy? Through several literary pieces, the class will examine Aristotle's definition of tragedy in marriage, family, and self.  Focusing on traditions of dramatic tragedy, we will begin with Sophocles, do staged readings, and conclude with a class performance on stage. We will watch each play or novel performed on screen and attend a live performance. Class readings will include: Oedipus Rex, The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman & Fences.

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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: 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:  Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, A Clockwork Orange,  Fences, Life of Pi, and The Girl on the Train. 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.

    Order Your Textbook(s)

    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: 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. Works to be read will stem from the following list:
     
    The Grapes of Wrath
    The Red Pony
    Tortilla Flat
    In Dubious Battle
    Of Mice and Men
    Cannery Row
    The Pearl
    East of Eden
    Sweet Thursday
    The Winter of Our Discontent
    Travels with Charley: In Search of America
    “The Chrysanthemums”


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    Coming soon.
  • Advanced English Seminar: Prep School Literature

    What makes boarding schools unique? Are the stereotypes about boarding and the students who attend them true? If you could do it all over again, would you attend a boarding school? Through literature, film, New England Prep School brochures, and visits to area boarding schools, we will explore the history and the characteristics of these private schools and the students who attend them. Guiding questions will frame the class and students will read Old SchoolThe World A Prayer for Owen MeanyA Separate PeaceCatcher in the Rye and Black Ice. Along with the literature, students will watch Dead Poet’s SocietyThe Emperor’s ClubSchool TiesIgby Goes DownScent of a Woman, and Outside Providence. Weekly student-led discussions, reaction papers, and a final project will be requirements for the course.

    Order Your Textbook(s)
    Coming soon.
  • 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.

    Order Your Textbook(s)

    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

    Order Your Textbook(s)
    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: 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. Works to be read will stem from the following list:
     
    Utopia by Sir Thomas More
    Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
    We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    Erewhon by Samuel Butler
    Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
    Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
    Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
    Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    Walden Two by B.F. Skinner
    Ecotopia Ernest Callenbach

    Order Your Textbook(s)

    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

  • Marilee Lin

    English Department Chair & International Student Coordinator
    (603) 779-5379
    Middlebury College (VT) - MA
    Harvard University (MA) - BA
    Needham High School
    Bio
  • 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
  • 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
  • Peter Durnan

    English Faculty & Dean of Academics
    (603) 779-5305
    U of California at Santa Barbara - MA
    Dartmouth College (NH) - BA
    Bio
  • Riley Lacasse

    English Faculty
    (603) 779-5354
    Bio
  • John Lin

    English Faculty & Dean of Students
    (603) 779-5320
    Middlebury College (VT) - MA
    Carleton College (MN) - BA
    Oxford University (England) - M. Phil.
    Bio
  • Bruce Paro

    English Faculty
    (603) 779-5390
    Kimball Union Academy
    University of New Hampshire - BA
    University of New Hampshire - MAT
    Bio
  • Jini Rae Sparkman

    English Faculty & Director of Equity and Inclusion
    (603) 779-5399
    Plymouth State University - MEd
    Plymouth State University - BA
    Bio
  • Katherine Weymouth

    English Faculty
    (603) 779-5315
    George Washington University (DC) - MA
    U of New Hampshire - BA
    Forman School
    Bio
Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness NH, 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257