Junior English

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Junior English offers an opportunity to study some of the key texts of American literature from the colonial to the contemporary period, with a focus on the periods of the American Renaissance, the late nineteenth century, and Modernism. Working in close collaboration with the United States History course, the class centers around the always contested definition of America, and what it means to be an American, with special emphasis on the ways in which matters of gender, race, and social class have inflected these definitions. Readings include selections from Phyllis Wheatley, Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Jacobs, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, and Toni Morrison. The course continues development of students’ analytical abilities by drawing on and extending the interpretive skills developed in English 9 and 10, and also seeks to increase students’ reading speed in anticipation of the demands of college humanities courses. Writing assignments continue the development of narrative and analytical skills, and include a personal narrative designed to serve as a first draft for the college application essay. Over the course of the year, students continue to develop their presentational abilities; by the end of the year, they are responsible for planning and teaching the majority of class sessions.


Unit Essential Questions Content Skills and Processes Assessment Resources Multicultural Dimension Integrated Learning
Junior English
  • What does it mean to be an American? What definitions of America's promise and possibility have been proffered by the country's literature?
  • How have questions of gender, race, and social class inflected definitions of America and Americaness?
  • What major historical developments have shaped the course of American literature?


  •  American narrative, poetic, and dramatic texts from pre-colonial Native American texts through the twenty first century
  • Recitation texts: the "preamble" to "The Declaration of Independence," the thirteenth chapter of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (the School Chapter), lyric poems of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson
  • Refinement of the techniques of active reading, class note-taking, and test-taking; special emphasis on increasing reading speed
  • Continued development of critical thinking skills
  • Continued use of literary terms to analyze prose narrative, lyric poetry, and drama
  • Introduction to major American literary movements and relevant terminology 
  • Composition of a critical essays: exegetical poetry analyses and analyses of prose narrative
  • Composition of personal narratives and texts emulating the style and content of American authors
  • Introduction to literary research skills, including adjudication of sources and proper citation format
  • Refinement of peer editing and metacritical skills
  • Further development of dramatic recitation skills
  • Continued acquisition of formal vocabulary
  • Development of presentational skills leading to ability to teach full-length classes
  • Narrative and analytical essays assessed for both content and style in individual conferences followed by an additional metacritical step conducted via e-mail
  • Tests on literature gauge understanding of both specific textual detail and larger cultural and historical patterns
  • Peer reviews and metacritical writing provide opportunities for discussions of critical analysis and persuasive writing
  • Recitations assessed in collaboration between students and instructor for dramatic interpretation and textual fidelity
  • Class presentations debriefed immediately following session; emphasis on coherence of class plan and ability to solicit substantive class participation


  • Dedicated course Moodle site provides access to all course documents and facilitates exchange of stages of student writing.
  • The Little, Brown Handbook
  • English Department documents, including the Catlin Gabel vocabulary units, Style is How You Say What You Say, How to Study English at Catlin Gabel, Avoiding Plagiarism, Introduction to MLA Manuscript Format, Peer Reviewing Narrative and Persuasive Drafts, guidelines for leading Junior English classes, and documents outlining literary research procedures.
  • Consistent consideration of questions of gender, race, class and power in the context of American literature and culture
  • Collaboration with instructors of United States History course