Department Head: Sarah May


  • Peter Ammirati
  • Zack Arrington
  • Diane Downs
  • Lauren Eckstein
  • Robert Eichem
  • Sarah May
  • Shawn Wright


English is required every trimester because it provides the foundation for success in all disciplines. In English courses, students master the ability to think critically and to express their ideas effectively, both orally and in writing.

We teach English, however, because we love literature and writing, and we strive to share this passion with our students. We believe that reading is an effective vehicle through which students can explore and engage in the world around them. For this reason, we expose students to a broad range of authors and genres from American, British, and World Literature. The core curriculum is supplemented by an array of electives inspired by faculty and student interest.

Furthermore, we believe that there is joy and satisfaction in using words efficiently and effectively. We encourage our students to use writing to enhance their thinking and communicate their thoughts. Students write in many genres, including expository writing, free writing, creative writing, journal writing, playwriting and poetry -- and experience the writing process through editing, revision, and proofreading.

If you have any questions about Solebury School’s English Department, please contact department chair Sarah May at smay@solebury.org.


ICC English: Local and Global Voices: The goal of this class is to expose students to the ways in which expressions of identity can be transmitted through the written word, and to develop the skills necessary to both analyze and produce narrative. As part of the ICC program's integrated curriculum, this course will encourage students to explore the connections between literature and cultural identity. Students will learn how to engage in textual analysis in order to better understand and interpret both fictional and non-fictional works. The year is divided by trimester into three thematic units, focusing on the diversity of literature and experiences in our global community: Local Voices, Voices of the Americas, and Global Voices. Throughout the year, students will work on writing and grammar with a variety of self-reflective, creative, and expository writing assignments as well as pointed vocabulary lessons to deepen students' understanding of the course readings. Required. ICC English is intended for 8th graders. 6 credits

English 9: An Introduction to Literary Genres: Students in this course will develop themselves as keen readers of literature through a focus on fiction, poetry, and drama. In addition to reading long-established canonical texts representing each genre, we will also consider contemporary authors working to further those genres today. Despite the vast expanse of time these texts permit us to travel, we will observe a number of persistent themes and questions that have compelled writers to the page for centuries. Where does the individual belong in society? How do our values and beliefs develop out of the tension that question generates? Why do writers employ particular forms and genres in order to engage with those and other questions? What does each genre offer to that engagement? Students will also be asked to hone their own creative and critical writing skills in multiple genres. We will employ a process-based composition model that encourages thoughtfulness and preparation. Recognizing at all times that writing is rewriting, students will work on editing and revising their compositions using a workshop-style model. We will also work on building our fluency with grammatical conventions and vocabulary. This course includes a mandatory summer reading assignment. Required. 6 credits

Honors English 9: An Introduction to Literary Genres: In Honors English 9, students are introduced to the various elements of poetry, drama, and short and long fiction and to the craft of the processed writing. Together we will spend the year reading from a variety of sources, examining the components of poetry, drama, and fiction (short stories and longer works). As we develop close reading skills and master the vocabulary of literary inquiry, we will consider the ways in which individuals, communities, values, and journeys interact, mesh, and conflict. We will also explore the ways in which human beings struggle to create identity, often from a variety of complex factors, and consider how humans develop an internal system of meaning for their lives, influenced by both their own experiences and by the values imposed by society. Classes will consist of discussions, lectures, independent projects, and group work, and a workshop approach to developing formal essays and creative pieces in a variety of modes. Vocabulary development will grow out of work with texts; grammar instruction will be in response to issues that arise in student writing. We will engage in a considerable amount of close reading, with a particular emphasis on examining the author's voice and its role in each text. This course includes a mandatory summer reading assignment. Prerequisite: recommendation of teacher and a B+ or better in 8th grade English class. Honors, 6 credits

English 10: World Literature: In this course, students read and examine world literature and become familiar with certain schools of literary criticism. Through novels, short stories, poetry and oral tales, this class explores literature often overlooked due to the nationality, ethnicity, race or gender of the author. The following questions are examined: 1) Is it important to read mainly from the canon of “great books” from a particular region or from the canon of “great books” of the world? 2) What are the expectations for reading in an academic setting, and why is this style of reading expected? 3) What is to be gained from comparing various literary styles from around the world? 4) How can we use our exposure to various literatures to develop our own writing? 5) When reading literature, is it important to pay attention to the historical context of each work? 6) Is it important to be able to formally analyze literature – and what does formal analysis entail? The course is designed to improve students' skills in writing style, writing mechanics, analysis of texts, and vocabulary. This course includes a mandatory summer reading assignment. Global, Required, 6 credits

Honors English 10: World Literature: Honors English 10 is a world literature course that takes up the same questions and texts as the standard English 10 course and moves beyond those questions and texts to new material. Students interested in the Honors version of English 10 should want the following: to read at a challenging pace which will allow the class to tackle additional material; to move through both the standard English 10 grammar and writing skills as well as advanced grammar and writing skills; to take on a variety of writing challenges that will push students to hone their skills; to master more vocabulary, both as a group and individually, than that taken on in the standard course; and to learn an advanced vocabulary useful in the analysis of texts. Thus, the Honors English 10 course expects extra effort and a greater time commitment from students. The course is built for students who love reading, writing, analysis, grammar, and vocabulary--and who want to collaborate with other like-minded students. This course includes a mandatory summer reading assignment. Prerequisite: recommendation of teacher and a B+ or better in English 9 or a B or better in honors English 9. Global, Honors. 6 credits

English 11: American Literature: In English 11, we read classic and contemporary works by American writers, including (but not limited to) Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Whitman, Dickinson, and Ginsberg. Moving backward in time From the Beat Poets of the 1960s to the origins of our country; students in English 11 are exposed to a broad swath of American literary styles, genres, and approaches. We read Beat and Modernist poems, Lost Generation short stories, a Jazz Age novel, a Red Scare-era drama, and a Shakespearean play, to name a few examples. In addition to the diverse readings, each trimester students study a minimum of three vocabulary lists drawn from the reading, as well as a minimum of three grammar concepts. Students hone their writing skills by writing journals, papers, and creative assignments. English 11 also involves a variety of other assessments including class discussion, peer-editing, tests, and quizzes. This course includes a mandatory summer reading assignment. Required, 6 credits

Honors English 11: American Literature: In Honors English 11, we read classic and contemporary works by American writers, including (but not limited to) Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Whitman, Dickinson, and Ginsberg. We also push beyond these classic works to read more non-traditional, but historically bound works, like sermons, histories, letters, and journals. Students in English 11 are exposed to a broad swath of American literary styles, genres, and approaches as well as primary source documents. In addition to the diverse readings, students are required to learn relevant and advanced vocabulary and grammar concepts. Students will hone their writing skills by writing journals, papers, and creative assignments. English 11 involves a variety of other assessments including class discussion, peer-editing, tests, and quizzes. This course is designed for students wanting to push themselves further in the English discipline and will require a high level of commitment to reading, writing, and class discussion. This course includes a mandatory summer reading assignment. Prerequisite: recommendation of teacher and a B+ or better in 10th grade English and History. Honors. 6 credits

American Studies (Honors American Literature): This two-period course combines Honors American Literature with Honors US History. By focusing on the economic, social, and political connections between the literature and the history, we seek to integrate the two disciplines. As an in-depth exploration of American history and the development of a distinct American literature, this course attempts to replicate an introductory college experience in terms of pace, volume, and complexity of the material. In the course, we embed the works of the major American writers (Irving, Cooper, Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, and Ginsberg to name a few) in U.S. historical context, drawing connections between literary and historical developments. A variety of historical texts will be employed, including primary sources, statistical compilations, and secondary sources. Enrollment is limited. This course includes a mandatory summer reading assignment. Prerequisite: recommendation of teacher and a B+ or better in 10th grade English and History. Honors. 12 credits

AP English Literature & Composition: Students enrolled in AP English Literature & Composition will be introduced to the rigors and pleasures of a college-level literature course. In order to prepare students for the breadth of material included in the AP exam, we will consider works of literature from a wide array of periods, movements, cultures, and genres. We will also refine our critical lexicons through an extensive engagement with literary terminology. By developing fluency with that terminology, we will be better prepared to participate in the ongoing conversation of literary study. While the backbone of the course will be thoughtful discussion, students will be asked to complete a number of in-class writing exercises similar to those encountered on the exam. In addition to these in-class writing assignments, students will compose more refined essays and responses out of class, exhibiting the thoughtfulness, structure, and strength of argument necessary for successful writing. Students earning a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP English Literature and Composition examination may be offered college credit and/or advanced placement by the colleges they attend. This course includes a mandatory summer reading and writing assignment. Prerequisite: recommendation of instructor and a B+ or better in American Studies Honors English, Honors English, or an A- or better in English 11. AP, 6 credits

Learning Skills English: For a detailed discussion of Learning Skills, please see the “Special Programs” section.


Baseball: The Story of America: This course will focus on how the sport of baseball has influenced American history and literature. In the end, students will see that the evolution of baseball mirrored the growth of America itself, from the creation of the American identity to race relations and labor management. According to Ken Burns, "The story of baseball is also the story of race in America, of immigration and assimilation; of the struggle between labor and management; of popular culture and advertising; of myth and the nature of heroes, villains, and buffoons." The first part of the course will focus on the history of America's game, from its origins up through the modern era. The second part revolves around the literature (non-fiction and fiction), poetry, and film the sport has inspired, and focuses on two themes: (1) baseball as a means for heroism, and (2) baseball as a source of redemption. 2 credits

Creative Nonfiction: Some of the most powerful, thoughtful, and culturally significant writing is found in the essays of writers like Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, and others who are published under the genre “creative nonfiction.” To engage with this historical, observational, and experimental writing form, students will read and analyze essays, produce original content, and give meaningful feedback to one another. The habits and skills developed in this course are useful for those interested in journalism, cultural studies, and creative writing. This class may also be taken for Social Studies credit. 2 credits

Fighting “Fake News”: The term “fake news” has come to mean everything from deliberately fabricated disinformation to stories that are merely uncomfortable for the subject in question. How did we get here? This elective attempts to answer this question, first by looking at the ways our own biases can color our judgments of the media we consume, and how certain media outlets exploit those biases. We then attempt to determine for ourselves what makes for authentic journalism, and examine how technology and corporate forces have made such journalism (particularly local and print journalism) struggle. With a deeper understanding of psychology and the media ecosystem, those who finish this course will be able spot, and defend against, all manner of media manipulation. This class may also be taken for Social Studies credit. 2 credits

Personal Essay Writing: You carry countless stories. Your memories, your experiences and your thoughts are all inside you waiting to get out. Here’s your chance to unload. In this class, we will learn how to craft succinct, spellbinding, superb personal essays. Using the self as subject, we will learn how to plumb our own experiences to create riveting, readable, narrative prose. Don’t think you have any stories to tell? Think again. From the weighty to the seemingly small, our stories are what we’re made of. Getting lost on that vacation to Prague? The time you rescued a bird from a fence? The way your mom used to leave you notes in your lunchbox? Visiting your grandmother as she slowly forgot who you were? These are all stories that, when well-crafted and well-written, make great essays. They make readers think, feel and connect. That is our goal. In this class, we want to find the stories inside you that evoke universal ideas and emotions: joy, sadness, fear, truth, identity, wonder. Yes, this class will be helpful to those of you aiming to write an epic college admissions essay. Yet it is also a class for storytellers who want to work on the craft of writing. The focus of the class is on making our essays compelling, vivid, structured and meaningful. Overall, we will find out what stories are hiding inside us, and learn to tell them beautifully. 2 credits

Stories of Hurricane Katrina: In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina flattened and flooded land from Florida to Texas. What followed forced America to examine its disaster preparedness, race and class relationships, and fragility of life in the face of nature’s power. Anderson Cooper cried while reporting the news. Kanye West announced, “President Bush doesn’t care about black people.” New Orleans became the focus of the story, even though it wasn’t at the epicenter of the storm. For this class, we are going to study the news stories published during and after the hurricane landed, and the literature the storm has influenced over the past ten years. We will examine news articles, short fiction, graphic novels, and narrative nonfiction to understand the lasting effects of Katrina on American culture. Prerequisite: recommendation of instructor and a B or better in regular English 11, B- or better in Honors English 11 or American Studies. Honors, 2 credits


Coming of Age: “All children, except one, grow up,” wrote J.M. Barrie to launch the classic story of Peter Pan. Yet how do we all grow up? When does childhood end and adulthood begin? In this class, we will explore the experiences, realizations, tensions and awakenings that are part of the coming of age process. We will look at what it has meant to come of age in literature, and also examine how the digital age has changed the way we grow up now. Do today’s teens grow up faster? Or, like Peter Pan, do they not grow up at all? To answer these questions, we will use myths, fairytales, short stories, essays, paintings, poems and film to understand what it means to navigate the passage between childhood and adulthood. We will also explore the consequences of growing up under the constant scrutiny of the internet. Throughout the course, students will be prompted to reflect on their own coming of age, with writing assignments that include personal essays, memoir vignettes, and poetry. Students will end the course by compiling a Coming of Age Portfolio that collects their best writings from the trimester. Overall, the goal of this English elective is to delve into the coming of age topic in a dynamic way, with a classroom full of students who are living the theme. 2 credits

Journalism: Get the facts. Uncover the truth. Write clearly, concisely and beautifully. These are the goals of this class designed to offer students a crash course in journalism. In this English elective, students will learn how to structure an article, develop reporting skills, find reliable sources, conduct a successful interview, and write stories that are accurate, clear, creative, informative and compelling. In addition to learning how to write news stories, features, profiles and editorials, students will also read Pulitzer Prize-winning articles to study the best examples of journalism today. Along the way, we will also discuss the history of journalism, the evolution of the media, journalistic ethics, photojournalism and what to do about “alternative facts.” Students will be assessed based on weekly writing assignments and class participation. 2 credits

Reading & Writing Poetry: What is poetry? Why read poetry? What does poetry have to do with me? What impact does poetry have on society? These questions and many more related to difficulty and value of understanding poetry are the subject of this course. By studying a variety of poetic terms, styles, and forms students will gain a sophisticated understanding of the complex elements involved in reading and writing poetry. Students will read and analyze a variety of classic and contemporary poems and also try their hand at composing their own poetry. Assessment will be based on quizzes, papers, projects, and original poems. prerequisite: recommendation of instructor and a B or better in regular English 11, B- or better in Honors English 11 or American Studies. Honors, 2 credits The Search for Enlightenment & World Religions: The desire for a spiritual life has been a driving force in human history and a key component of human cultures. In this course (a study of literature, sociology, and history) we survey “major” and lesser known faiths and practices, and we examine texts that feature individuals and characters who search for enlightenment (by authors such as Basho, Hesse, Kerouac, Pagels, Black Elk, Thoreau, Malcolm X, and others.) The hope is that students will examine their own lives and worlds as they examine the materials of the course. Students who are open to self-reflection or who are interested in the history of ideas should find this course particularly stimulating. This class may also be taken for Social Studies credit. Global, 2 credits

South African Stories: In this class we will study real-life dystopian apartheid era in South Africa through short fiction and plays. We will discuss the power of literature as a political tool, and the role of writing for self-actualization. For fifty years, apartheid laws in South Africa imposed racism and segregation on the population. Those who resisted, such as Nelson Mandela, were harshly punished. Writers protested by telling stories, both from within South Africa and from without as exiles. Through their stories, we will explore the complex human experiences in a society divided for many generations by race. This class fulfills a global studies program credit. Prerequisite: recommendation of instructor and a B or better in regular English 11, B- or better in American Studies. Global, Honors. 2 credits

Writing for College: For many students research papers remain mystifying, unnatural (even painful), but the process can be a straightforward one if approached the right way. By acknowledging the presence of research in our own lives, and employing methodical guided practice, this course aims to turn the written research product from something agonizing and alien into a skill that can be confidently utilized at will. If this is a set of tools you want in your kit, and you are willing to commit some time to make that happen, then this course should help make you ripe for the task. This class may also be taken for Social Studies credit. 2 credits


Fairy Tales as Literature: While the fairy tales that we read as children often appear simple, they are actually the result of a rich history of storytelling from around the world. In this course, we will study popular fairy tales in various forms, from the most traditional forms to well-known Disney films, in an effort to understand the role that fairy tales play in our modern culture. Classroom discussions will include the role of the hero, gender in fairy tales, and the ways in which modern interpretations have changed the stories in specific ways. Students will have the opportunity to write several short papers and one long paper on a fairy tale of their choice, examining that story’s history as well as its cultural implications. Honors, 2 credits

Into the Wild: Nature in Writing and Life: To be in the woods is a basic human desire that many great writers have used as their subject. There is healing there, as is captured in Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild. There is adventure, as is tragically recounted in John Krakauer's nonfiction book, Into the Wild. And there is enlightenment, reflected upon in the essays of Emerson and Thoreau. This class will use literature as its starting point, focusing on the writings mentioned above and more as well as film, and then will move beyond the classroom and into the subject itself, nature, with occasional outdoor excursions and journaling. This class may also be taken for Social Studies credit. 2 credits

Public Speaking: The purpose of this class is to allow students to acquire the techniques and methods of formal speaking and presentations and to develop the ability to speak extemporaneously. The students experience a variety of practical applications and at least five different kinds of speeches including speaking to inspire, to inform, to persuade, to demonstrate and to entertain. Students are evaluated: on each of their formal prepared speeches; on their performance in improvisational speaking; and on their final speech in front of the whole school. This class may also be taken for Social Studies credit. 2 credits

Science Fiction in Film and Literature: Putting the “Sci” in Sci-fi: This course will take students on a deep dive into the film and literature genre known as science fiction. From Isaac Asimov to Jules Verne, students will read novels and short stories, watch popular and lesser-known films, and may even examine stories and concepts from sci-fi video games. The ultimate goal of the course is to give students a deeper understanding of the sci-fi genre, as well as investigate the truth/fiction behind the scientific concepts introduced in many of the world’s great works of science fiction. Each work of fiction will be thoroughly investigated and vetted through a scientific lens. Students will complete several projects and labs as individuals and as part of a group during this course, and the course will culminate with each student producing a piece of original science fiction using scientific concepts learned during the trimester. The math used for this course will require an understanding of geometry and algebra. This class may also be taken for Science credit. Prerequisites: Physics, Chemistry, and American Literature. 2 credits

Shakespeare’s “Other” Worlds: Shakespeare may seem as British as tea, Harry Potter, and The Beatles, but many of his plays were set in lands outside of the UK. Though he himself never left England, he wrote about people and places far beyond his home, both in time and space. Through reading plays and watching films, we will be able to ask, why did he choose the settings he did? How do we deal today with the racism, sexism, and xenophobia in some of his language? Why are his plays now universally loved and translated into nearly every language on the planet? This is going to be Shakespeare unbound! Prerequisite: recommendation of instructor and a B or better in regular English 11, B- or better in American Studies. Global, Honors. 2 credits

Short Story Writing: Do you like to pretend? Do stories and plotlines scroll through your head, begging to be written down? Do unusual characters populate your subconscious, pleading to be heard? Or, perhaps after years of writing academic papers, do you want to just cut loose and try something different? This is a class for those who believe or want to believe that writing can be fun. In this class, we will tackle the classic art of short story writing by reading short stories and writing our own. Students can expect to be met with a random writing prompt every day, designed to stretch our creative writing muscles and generate story ideas. Throughout the course, students will fill their figurative writer’s toolbox, as we discuss various writing techniques including developing plot, building characters, creating tone, developing narrative voice, writing dialogue, and using artful language. The goal of the class is to figure out what makes good stories so compelling, gripping, entertaining and effective, and then attempt to write our own stories that are compelling, gripping, entertaining and effective. So, come share your stories. Let your imagination run wild. Get your pretend on paper. 2 credits