EnglishMr. Gary M. Nied, Head of Department
Underlying the sequence of courses in the English Department are three principles. First, reading is an active process which must be taught, a process that, by posing questions and parsing out the actual meaning of the words on the page, will be of lifelong benefit to the student. Second, the ability to express a thought clearly and coherently in a sentence, paragraph, essay, or poem is an essential element both in exercising one’s role as a citizen and in discovering one’s own voice. Third, the careful reading of a select number of significant texts in our literary heritage will both broaden the horizons of these 21st century students as well as deepen their understanding of what William Faulkner called “the old verities of the heart, the old universal truths.”
Furthermore, a central goal of the English Department is to nourish the moral imagination in our students. A steady diet of epic literature, as well as the works of Shakespeare, C. S. Lewis, Hawthorne, Sophocles, and Flannery O’Connor, to name but a few, help integrate our emphasis on the close reading of complete texts with our desire to nurture in our students the ability to write about significant things, whether that be an essay in response to the characters and themes of a piece of literature, a paragraph of personal opinion about a topic raised in class, a research paper merging information taken from both English class and history or theology , or a short story derived from personal experience.
Literature in the Middle School begins with The Chronicles of Narnia, and continues throughout Forms II and III with tales of adventure (Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Tales of King Arthur), mythology (Greek, African and Asian) and a broad selection of lyric and narrative poetry. Form IV takes up the coming-of-age theme with The Chosen, The Red Badge of Courage, Great Expectations, To Kill a Mockingbird as well as a study of poetic meter and rhyme. In the Upper School, the study of literature becomes more chronological, mirroring the curriculum in the history department. Form V looks again at Greek mythology as well as the Odyssey, Oedipus Rex, Antigone and MacBeth. Form VI reads British literature, including Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Hamlet, and Cry the Beloved Country as well as a broad spectrum of lyric and narrative poetry. Form VII studies American literature, including The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby as well as a wide range of 19th and 20th century American poetry. Form VIII takes up world literature, beginning with Dante’s Inferno and continuing with Dr. Faustus and The Tempest as well as works by Sartre, Ibsen, Solzhenitsyn, Arthur Miller, and Flannery O’Connor.
Summer Reading 2016
Required reading for each Form includes an assignment to be completed by the first full day of classes in August 2016. Also, a Recommended Reading list has been assembled by the Cistercian faculty. It is meant to suggest some excellent books that, according to their personal reading experience and best judgment, would be great for your son to read on his own. Both the required assignments, as well as recommended reading lists, can be found at Summer Reading.