An independent day school serving grades K-12 | St. Paul, MN

English

In the Upper School English program, students actively engage with literary works, explore both content and form, and acquire sophisticated skills in analysis, writing, and public speaking. In Journeys in Literature (Grade 9) and American Literature (Grade 10), students build strong critical reading, expository and creative writing, and assertive yet generous discussion skills. English electives in Grades 11 and 12 are semester-long courses focusing on the analysis of literature. Students apply critical lenses, develop literary awareness and appreciation, and demonstrate sophisticated expression of ideas in writing and in discussion. Reading lists feature classical and contemporary titles. Electives include Speculative Fiction, Poetry: Connection and Community, Classics in Society, Literature of the Asian Diaspora, Literature of Migration, and Gender in Literature. Robust, award-winning programs in debate, journalism, and theater encourage students to deepen skills in performance and print. All Grade 11 and 12 English electives may be used in preparation for the English Composition AP exam.

English Course Descriptions

Journeys in Literature (Required, Grade 9)

The ninth-grade English course provides a foundation for the study and appreciation of literature. Students read a range of classic works of mythology, fairy tales, poetry, drama, and texts by such authors as Sophocles, Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, and Zora Neale Hurston. They discuss their reading in a seminar format, developing analytical thinking and precise observation skills. They write in a variety of modes, learning the basic principles of both a clear, organized, and effective academic essay and an engaging work of creative non-fiction. And they collaborate on media projects, conducting, for example, an in-depth study of a Shakespeare play, including text analysis, memorization, scenic/costume design and performance, culminating in a student-driven Shakespearean festival. These skills and experiences allow students to explore the relationship between cultures and the stories they tell, striving to become a community of collaborative learners who connect themselves and the texts they read to the larger world.

American Literature (Required, Grade 10)

The sophomore year-long English course has three primary aims: to develop students’ analytical reading, writing, and speaking abilities; to study some of the great masterpieces and diverse forms that constitute American literature; and to foster a lifelong love for language and creative expression. Over the course of the year, students carefully read works of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction, establishing a critical language for each form. Students become adept at making precise observations and describing the effects of style on a work of literature. Writing assignments consist primarily of critical essays; students begin with short close-reading exercises and build toward fully developed argumentative papers. The course also includes creative writing opportunities in fiction, poetry, and playwriting. Students engage in spoken work in a variety of forms: regular seminar discussion, dramatic performance, speeches, and recitation.

Authors studied in previous years include James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavia Butler, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Kate Chopin, Sandra Cisneros, Junot Diaz, Natalie Diaz, Emily Dickinson, Margaret Edson, T.S. Eliot, Louise Erdrich, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Frost, Susan Glaspell, Lorraine Hansberry, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Langston Hughes, Jhumpa Lahiri, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Bao Phi, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe, George Saunders, Edith Wharton, Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson.

Classics in Society

Fall Junior/Senior Course

Literary works stand the test of time for a reason. Our experiences with these texts change over time depending on a reader’s maturity, advances in technology, and through the re-envisioning of these texts by other artists. In this course, students examine canonical text and multiple adaptations of the original and analyze these works using myriad lenses. Students complete a number of collaborative, parody, and original writings and projects designed to develop visual literacy, creativity, and analytic skills. The works studied in this semester-long course have been adapted multiple times, and both original and adapted texts make social commentary. Over time, adaptations maintain a core element of the original text that holds true, even if the commentary made by the new work is different from that of its inspiration. The course provides multiple opportunities for students to engage with adaptation both creatively and critically as they join conversations started (or complicated) by texts written long ago. 

Possible “classics” include Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Three Sisters (inspired by the Bronte sisters) or The Cherry Orchard by Anton Checkov, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum or Fairytales from the Brothers Grimm, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, “The Raven” and “Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe, Stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson, "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

Creative Writing: Playwriting (Craft and Criticism)

Fall Junior/Senior Course

Students in this playwriting course develop a familiarity with the craft of writing for the theater. Through careful study of model plays, in-class writing exercises, and work on three fully developed scripts, students create multi-faceted, complex characters and build tightly structured scenes, acts, and plays. Students examine core texts by established playwrights including Marsha Norman, Henrik Ibsen, Eugene O’Neill, Suzan Lori Parks, and Paula Vogel alongside meaningful interactions and interviews with working, living playwrights through a semester-long partnership with The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. The primary focus of the course is the rigorous refinement of student work, and to this end, regular readings and workshops of student work take center stage. Each student not only be expects to write original plays but additionally writes craft essays in response to published work and sensitive, constructive critique of their peers’ works. Emphasis on process, risk-taking, and finding one’s own voice and vision makes this an ideal site for innovation and exploration of students’ own interests, passions, and obsessions.

Literature of Migration

Fall Junior/Senior Course

In Literature of Migration, students examine literary works that engage with migration, considering what it means to leave one’s home, cross real and imagined borders, and live in exile or diaspora. This course pays special attention to literary form, the many ways that one renders theirs or another’s displacement. How do form and genre impact storytelling? How does language clarify or frustrate lived experience? Students read novels and short stories by authors such as Hamid Mohsin, Viet Than Nguyen, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Taiye Selasi, and Julia Alvarez; poetry by poets such as Li-Young Lee, Eduardo Corral, Richard Blanco, Sandra Lim, Ocean Vuong, Sun Yung Shin, and Ray Gonzalez; literary nonfiction by authors such as Francisco Cantú, Valeria Luiselli, Edwidge Danticat, Teju Cole, Kao Kalia Yang, and Vladimir Nabokov; and context and reporting by Hannah Arendt, Ben Mauk, and Susan Sontag. 

Through short and long assignments in literary analysis, creative nonfiction that synthesizes multiple texts and perspectives, and a multi-genre final project, students discuss what it means to cross and live with borders and what kinds of stories people can and should tell about migrant and refugee experience.

Poetry: Connection and Community

Fall Junior/Senior Course

Poetry, as distinct from other literary modes, asks for a direct communion between writer and reader, creating a simultaneously individual and shared experience. “I celebrate myself, and sing myself / And what I assume you shall assume / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” invites Whitman in the opening lines to “Song of Myself.” This course explores how poets, from the 19th-century to the present, strive to find connection across differences of time, place, and identity. The course also considers the role poetry can play in building stronger and more understanding communities. Students explore the role poetry can play in the SPA community, the Twin Cities community, and the American community. Along the way, students learn fundamental tools for understanding, enjoying, and analyzing poetic form. Students then imagine and implement new possibilities for poetry to enrichen the communities to which they belong.

Speculative Fiction

Fall Junior/Senior Course

Speculative Fiction investigates the ideas, themes, and stakes of literary genres such as science-fiction, fantasy, utopian, and dystopian literature. Students read and view a range of speculative texts from the past one hundred and fifty years, to include novels, novellas, comics, short stories, radio plays, graphic novels, and films. This course asks questions such as “What value do science-fiction and fantasy texts bring to the larger literary world?” “Why and how do different writers envision the future?” “How can science fiction and fantasy be used to comment upon contemporary society?” and “What does it mean to be a human in a world that is becoming increasingly technologized?” Students do a variety of writing, both analytical and creative. They connect ideas between texts and draw conclusions about these observations. They also begin to envision their own futures, literary and otherwise, and leave the course with a more developed sense of the writer (themselves included) as a critic, dreamer, inventor, and visionary.

Writing Seminar: Critical Contexts

Fall Junior/Senior Course

Writing Seminar: Critical Contexts invites students to respond to the "text" (literary work or otherwise) using a variety of modes of critical thought, such as new criticism, reader response, deconstruction, historical criticism, and feminism. These perspectives are presented simply, as a series of framing assumptions and questions writers make and ask while reading, so that, in writing five substantial formal papers, each in a different analytical mode, writing students can focus on using the techniques to both improve and expand their expository talents. 

Text: Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory by Steven Lynn

Creative Writing: Poetry and Poetics

Spring Junior/Senior Course

The goal of this intensive creative-writing course is twofold: 1) to introduce students to the fundamentals of poetry—image, rhythm, sound, diction, form, and figurative language, and 2) to immerse them in the work of several contemporary authors in order to gain an understanding of voice. Students read a wide variety of poets from a wide variety of time periods in order to understand what makes for successful writing. Students also read craft essays in order to develop a genre-specific vocabulary that allows them to thoughtfully analyze and understand their work, their peers’ work, and the work of the published authors they be encounter. Students develop their ability to critically engage with the work of their peers--and eventually with their own work--by participation in a rigorous workshop process. Students generously and precisely margin-note the work of their peers, provide a printed critique letter of about a single-spaced page, and critically engage the work in discussion. Ultimately, this class fosters student understanding and appreciation of poetry, as well as their growth as a creative writer.

Gender in Literature

Spring Junior/Senior Course

In this course students explore the various ways gender is defined by self, community, and society. Through novels and supplemental texts, students examine the internal and external forces that shape gender identity and focus on the construction of gender. In addition to analytical papers, personal reflections, creative pieces, and class presentations, students are responsible for at least two media projects that address construction of gender within popular culture and advertising. 

Possible texts include Black Boy by Richard Wright, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Trumpet by Jackie Kay.

Literature of Love and Marriage

Spring Junior Senior Course

Writers and readers never tire of thinking about the nature of romantic love and its supposed progression toward marriage. What does it feel like to fall in love? To fall out of love? Or, even worse, to be afraid of love? What role does the institution of marriage have in enhancing or inhibiting feelings of love? How do writers, even writers from the 19th century, explore themes around love and marriage in ways that resonate with readers today? How has writing about love and marriage changed over time--and what has remained constant? In addition to these thematic questions, students in this course investigate the crucial structural role marriage plays in the history of the novel and consider the traditional marriage plot--boy and girl meet, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl encounter obstacles, boy and girl overcome said obstacles, boy and girl get married and live happily ever after--as well as its many deviations from the 19th to the 21st century.

Literature of the Asian Diaspora

Spring Junior/Senior Course

This course begins with an overview of Asian literature to establish differences and similarities between “Eastern” and “Western” voices. Students read the Tao te Ching, The Art of War, sections of the Dhammapada, and more. Then they get closer to home, reading literature documenting the many Asians who came to the United States to build this country’s transportation, agricultural, and industrial systems, and examine how they were treated as “new” Americans. Finally, students look in our own backyard, at the Hmong diaspora, as they read from many local Hmong authors. Students write analytical papers and engage with "Eastern" voices through creative writing, discussion, and in-class activities.

Topics in Literary Analysis: Visual Narrative

Spring Junior/Senior Course

This course focuses on "reading" film as literature, exploring and interpreting the rhetoric of images in the American film experience. Students identify the different creative forces behind the visual narrative in film, note the technological, historical, and cultural milestones of the medium, explore the conventions of film's narrative modes, immerse themselves in the theory of literature-to-film adaptation and its narrative consequences, write about all of this in analytical papers, and finally practice what they've learned by adapting a short story and filming a short movie. 

Possible texts include Looking at Movies: An Introduction to Film by Richard Barsam and Dave Monohan.

Writing Seminar: Public Discourse

Spring Junior/Senior Course

In Writing Seminar: Public Discourse, students deeply explore pressing issues of the day (e.g., school choice, income disparity, gun control, and more) and then develop their own nuanced written work that incorporates and responds to a variety of diverse opinions on their topics. Rather than attempting merely to “win” an argument, students pragmatically, diplomatically, and empathetically focus on changing minds and marshaling resources to solve problems. They reflect on the sources of their own most deeply held beliefs and in so doing develop their capacity to identify and empathize with the sources of others’ beliefs as well. Students investigate issues they care about through multiple lenses, including personal reflection, research, discussion, and interview/immersion with disparate viewpoints. Students are expected to seek out and engage opposite points of view.

Journalism Course Descriptions

Writing for Publication (I/II)

Students work as staff writers for The Rubicon and Ibid page designers while learning journalism fundamentals and basic reporting (story development, interviewing, information gathering). In Writing for Publication I, students master news and feature writing and learn how to incorporate alternative copy and photography into their reporting. In Writing for Publication II, students focus on sports, arts and entertainment, and opinion writing, and develop skills for editorial cartooning and illustration. Each day begins with a current events discussion, connecting to present issues in the larger world and developing an understanding of professional media reporting.

Journalism: Print

This publications class produces The Rubicon, the state and national award winning student newspaper of SPA. Students collaborate on a monthly print cycle to brainstorm and assign stories, provide Maestro edits, design pages, publish, and distribute The Rubicon to our readership. As reporters in the school community, each staff member covers a beat, or central area of the school. They utilize the SPC Code of Journalism Ethics and shape The Rubicon policies to engage in professional work that informs the student body, celebrates the diversity of our community, and addresses issues important to faculty and students. Staff members produce work utilizing Adobe Creative Suite, digital SLR cameras, social media and WordPress and engage readers using multiple social media platforms. The print and online staffs collaborate on Aureus feature publication, an honors experience that focuses on long form journalism techniques and magazine design. On this publication, students will work in teams to produce in-depth reporting and design using Adobe Creative Suite.

Journalism: Multimedia

This publications class produces RubicOnline, the state and national award winning news site for SPA, and Aureus, a new quarterly magazine. On RubicOnline, students collaborate on a weekly news cycle to brainstorm and assign stories that provide daily updates for our readership. Students produce timely, relevant, and interactive reporting for the school community, as well as working as section editors, who manage content flow for beat and staff reporters, freelance writers, and multimedia journalism in collaboration with The Rubicon staff. Students utilize WordPress, beginning coding, hyperlinks, YouTube, digital SLR photography, video cameras, and social media to provide convergence media for readers. The print and online staffs collaborate on Aureus feature publication, an honors experience that focuses on long form journalism techniques and magazine design. On this publication, students will work in teams to produce in-depth reporting and design using Adobe Creative Suite.

Editorial Leadership: Print

This class, which meets in tandem with the Journalism class, is for members of The Rubicon/RubicOnline who have been on staff for at least one year. Students who progress to this level have demonstrated a commitment to the student newspaper and exhibited leadership on staff and in the school community. This is a year of specialized study, where students often focus on specific collaboration, design, or leadership goals in addition to improving their writing and production skills. The print and online staffs collaborate on Aureus feature publication, an honors experience that focuses on long form journalism techniques and magazine design. On this publication, students will work in teams to produce in-depth reporting and design using Adobe Creative Suite.

Editorial Leadership: Multimedia

This class, which meets in tandem with the Journalism class, is for members of The Rubicon/RubicOnline who have been on staff for at least one year. Students who progress to this level have demonstrated a commitment to the student newspaper and exhibited leadership on staff and in the school community. This is a year of specialized study, where students often focus on specific collaboration, design, or leadership goals in addition to improving their writing and production skills. The print and online staffs collaborate on Aureus feature publication, an honors experience that focuses on long form journalism techniques and magazine design. On this publication, students will work in teams to produce in-depth reporting and design using Adobe Creative Suite.

Yearbook (Semester I)

Students in this course learn and practice journalism fundamentals during the fall semester on the Ibid staff, including press law and ethics, theme development, layout and design, photography, interviewing and writing. They work on production of the yearbook, including advertising, community outreach and section deadlines, by collaborating as a team. The staff will be trained to use digital SLR cameras, iMac computers, and Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. The yearbook is a historic record of the year, capturing what makes the people and events of a year distinctive. The 2020 yearbook will include anniversary coverage (it is our 50th Ibid yearbook). As a staff member in this course, students tell the stories that will matter this year and for decades to come.

Yearbook (Semester II)

Students in this course learn both yearbook and magazine production, working to complete Ibid and produce Iris: Art and Literature. They work on meeting final page deadlines by photographing, interviewing, writing and designing page spreads. In Qtr. 4, students compile juried creative works and determine how to best showcase those in the magazine through theme, layout, and design. In this semester, the staff plans distribution for the yearbook and magazine as a collaborative team. The staff is trained to use digital SLR cameras, iMac computers, and Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. The 2020 yearbook will include anniversary coverage (it is our 50th Ibid yearbook). Much of the semester focuses on community engagement and celebrating the accomplishments of the student body.

Editorial Leadership: Yearbook

This year-long class, which meets in tandem with the Yearbook classes, provides an opportunity for veteran staff to mentor peers and set the direction of publications during the second and successive years working with Ibid and Iris: Art and Literature. The 2020 yearbook will include anniversary coverage (it is our 50th Ibid yearbook). Editors who progress to this level have demonstrated a commitment to journalism and provide editorial leadership and school outreach during their tenure. Students who rise to this level strive to extend their own writing, photography, and design skills while exploring innovative ways to produce and showcase publication content.

Debate Course Descriptions

Beginning Debate

Students learn and practice the basics of debate from the beginning of the school year through the semester. Classes practice argumentation, research, writing, reasoning, evidence, persuasion, and public speaking. Because debate is an interscholastic activity, we expect students in this course to participate in at least one tournament per marking period.

Advanced Debate

The goal of this class is to strengthen the skills learned in Beginning Debate with an emphasis on interscholastic competition. Students in this course will be members of St. Paul Academy and Summit School's competitive debate squad and should be willing to devote time to evening and weekend tournaments. This course may be repeated as many semesters as will fit a student's academic goals.