English

Humanity is a complicated thing.

At Pomfret, we study literature because stories give shape to the chaos of our lives. By examining words, sentences, characters, and plots, we learn what it means to be human. Incoming third formers must take four years of English, through all three terms of English IV. Seniors must pass all yearlong courses and all courses in the spring term of the senior year in order to be considered for graduation.

Humanities I: English

OFFERED: yearlong

Third-form writers hone their narrative-writing skills and by the end of the year are exploring the fundamentals of essay writing. Working first on sentence and paragraph level writing skills, students end the year by writing a short essay. Throughout the third form year, students explore the question, "How do I disturb the universe?" In tackling this question, students closely examine issues surrounding identity, race, gender, and social class. As they explore others' voices through short stories, essays, poetry, plays, and novels, students strive to acquire fundamental writing, close-reading, and oral skills. The focus of written work is the development of exposition, observation, and description skills. Students discover and develop their respective voices through continuous narrative and expository writing assignments. The concrete elements of writing, from word to phrase to clause to sentence to paragraph to completed work receive constant attention, and students practice with the critical essay, descriptive passages, journal entries, short stories, and poems. Grammar and vocabulary are also staples of the third-form curriculum. Texts may include Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones, William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis as well as a collection of short stories and essays chosen by faculty.


Humanities II: English

OFFERED: yearlong

Fourth-form writers learn how to write different types of paragraphs, from narrative to analysis. By the end of the year, the power of their prose, style, voice, and argumentation skills have grown markedly, permitting longer essays by year's end. Pomfret School’s Humanities II: English course offers a student-centered American studies curriculum that fosters a love of reading through close analysis and critical thinking. Moreover, students will continue developing the skills needed to communicate effectively in various writing forms and in public speaking. Our curriculum seeks to uncover social issues that impact students’ everyday lives. As we move into an increasingly diverse community, our curriculum will balance an education in more contemporary works, particularly as they relate to diverse perspectives, with mainstream texts. Additionally, other literacies will complement texts, including but not limited to film, social media, graphic novels, television shows, podcasts, and works of visual and performing art. Working in tandem with Humanities II: American Studies, students will uncover issues surrounding civil rights and identity in coming of age stories, consider voices from marginalized groups, and understand the role of the media past and present in describing the culture and compass of the United States. Ultimately, Humanities II: English seeks to prepare students to become engaged citizens in an interconnected society.

ENG III: Analyzing Fiction

OFFERED: yearlong

Fifth-form writers build upon skills developed in Humanities I and II. Grammar, structure, and exposition are reviewed, but the focus turns to the critical essay in this mostly literature survey course. Students are required to write and revise several short and long assignments each term. Fifth formers are expected to be well versed in literary terminology and to use it when speaking and writing. Assignments will differ depending on the instructor, but literary analysis, exposition, persuasion, and synthesis will be stressed. Typically, the fall will be spent reading stories as students craft both creative pieces inspired by the texts as well as thesis-driven analytical essays. During the winter, students can expect to read novels and poetry and write additional analytical essays. The spring may feature a non-fiction unit and/or a unit about World Literature.

Adv. ENG III: Reading Fiction and Criticism

OFFERED: yearlong

The challenging curriculum in the Advanced Reading Fiction and Criticism course is intended to simulate the curriculum in a freshmen college English class. As students encounter several literary texts, analytic emphasis is placed on perceiving how style reflects theme in the craft of several pieces of literature. Students also master the art of integrating multiple sources when they write and learn to speak with eloquence and knowledge when they present. Students are also exposed to different literary lenses, and they are required to write lengthy pieces of literary analysis or argument by the end of the school year.

PREREQUISITES

Selection is based on proven aptitude, effort, grades, and teacher recommendation.

ENG IV: American Voice: The short stories of O’Connor, Carver, and Lahiri

Offered: Fall Term

Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, and Jhumpa Lahiri are three of the most widely-acknowledged (and different) geniuses of the short story form. In this course, we will spend one unit on each of these authors, looking for the connections among them. What can we learn about storytelling from the way it evolved in the 20th Century? What can we learn about America? Because this is a senior elective, students will be asked to take a significant amount of responsibility when it comes to preparing for discussions and in crafting theses for our major papers.

ENG IV: Are You Afraid of the Dark? American Horror

Offered: Fall Term

This course examines ideas surrounding the gothic and horror genre across American literature and film. What makes us terrified of the dark? What stylistic techniques do writers and directors use to convey our fears? And what are their intentions? Possible materials include Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw, the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and the films The Others, Halloween (1978), and Alien.

ENG IV: Caribbean Literature: A Journey through the Caribbean

Offered: Spring Term

The history, culture, and geography of the Caribbean have made it a distinctive and complex world area: the experiences of colonialism, slavery, and indentured servitude; the region’s multiplicity of races, cultures, and languages; the insular and maritime condition of its geography; and its proximity to the United States have all shaped the region’s literary, cultural, and artistic production. Interdisciplinary in nature, Caribbean literature embodies empire, decolonization, storytelling and the oral tradition, diaspora, exile, the constructions of race, class, gender and sexuality, among many other topics. This course teaches us to acknowledge the intersectionality across multiple platforms, mediums and perspectives while exploring Caribbean prose, poetry and drama. Texts may include Prince’s History of Mary Prince, Kincaid’s A Small Place, and Miller’s The Last Warner Woman.

ENG IV: Great Works in Translation

Offered: Spring Term

When we can’t travel to a different country, or interact with a foreign culture, or time-travel back to a different era entirely, we can learn about a different time and place through its literature.  In this course, we will read selected great works of literature that are united by a common theme, or through their origins in a specific time and place in history.  The focus of the course may be the bildungsroman (coming of age novel) in different cultures, literature of revolution, surrealist literature, and cross-cultural depictions of gender relations, with works originally written in (but not limited to) Russian, French, Norwegian, German, Japanese, Spanish, and other languages. 

ENG IV: “Into the Mystic”: Literature of the Sea

Offered: Spring Term

“Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea, and feel the sky, let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic.” — Van Morrison 

The sea has always captured the hearts and minds of artists; from authorial greats like Hemingway (Old Man and the Sea) and Melville (Moby Dick), to  musical masters like The Beatles (Octopus’ Garden) and The Beach Boys (Sail on Sailor); we are all in some way fascinated by the great deep blue.  Throughout this course, we will explore a variety of compositions in which the sea acts as the setting, a challenge, a symbol, and a reason to reflect on the human relationship to nature. We will analyze how others have examined the sea while also reflecting on our own relationship with the mystical waters."

ENG IV: Literature of War: “They Shall Not Grow Old As We Who Are Left Grow Old”

Offered: Winter Term

From the beginning of time, writers have tried to understand war. While war today is no less troubling than those fought throughout history, they are viewed and read about in a much different way. This course explores the ways in which early wars were glorified, if not romanticized, in post WWII literature, which was a dramatic shift from a style that previously reflected the horrors of conflict. Together, we will read, discuss and write about poetry and prose that surfaced from a diverse range of people and places. We will also ponder questions pertaining to perspective, the role of women in war literature, and whether it is possible to truly understand war without first hand experience. Texts include Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Klay’s Redeployment, and poetry from WWI and WWII.

ENG IV: Nuestras Historias: Latin American Literature and Film

Offered: Winter Term

This course will offer a survey of contemporary Latin American literature and film. The selection of works introduces students to pertinent issues addressed across cultures in Latin America such as coming of age, migration, Magical Realism, immigration, gender roles, and racial conflicts. Possible materials include stories from Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and Junot Díaz’s Drown, Laura Esquivel’s novel Like Water for Chocolate, poetry by Pablo Neruda, and the films Maria Full of Grace and Coco.

ENG IV: Playwriting

OFFERED: fall and spring terms

Playwriting is designed to identify and investigate the tools needed to specifically craft a stage worthy play. Through a series of reading and writing assignments based on Aristotle’s six elements of drama, each student will explore action, character, idea, language, music, and spectacle. Reading assignments will include plays from a variety of successful playwrights. Each student will be responsible for writing a one-act play by the end of the term. This course may count toward the fulfillment of either a student's English or fine art graduation requirement.

ENG IV: Portraits of Putnam: Non-Fiction Writing About Place in Pomfret and Putnam

Offered: Fall Term

In this course, we will be reading and writing long-form non-fiction. The literary giants whose essays will drive this course -- James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Susan Orlean, Ken Kesey, and Barry Lopez, to name a few -- chose charismatic people, fascinating places, and peculiar events as their subjects; they honored those subjects with their research, their attention to the truth, and then, their carefully crafted prose. These writers will serve as our own role-models as we venture into our surrounding communities to find subjects for our own writing, including making connections with people in our local communities in order to tell their stories and to develop a deeper understanding of our place. The final assessment will be a photojournalism project.

ENG IV: The Long Poem and Short Novel: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Daisy Miller

Offered: Spring Term

Often neglected and maligned, the long poem and novella are brilliant genre forms that don’t receive as much air time as they deserve. We will look closely at some longer poems of about 500 lines to see what characteristics these poems possess to set them apart from their short and epic brethren. Similarly, we will explore how the novella falls between the short story and the novel. Students will write analytically, creatively, and engage in Harkness-style discussions as they take a deep dive into these two amazing literary forms. Students will also be exposed to the ballad stanza and how it forms the backbone of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

ENG IV: The Public Square: Contemporary Documentary Media Workshop

Offered: Winter Term

The role of non-fiction, journalism, and documentary has never been more important in the world.  In this class, we will study how writing forms the basis of these different media.  While reading from a wide range of sources and using an essay workshop model as the foundation of the course, students will study essay writing, journalism, creative nonfiction, along with podcasting and documentary film, as they work on crafting their own versions of each media form.  The class is writing intensive and includes subunits on public speaking, investigative journalism, and creative writing.

ENG IV: That Escalated Quickly: The Art of Flash Fiction

Offered: Winter Term

Flash fiction is a genre of fiction characterized by its brief nature, usually consisting of only several hundred words. In this course, we will read several dozen examples of flash fiction, including but not limited to the micro-memoirs of Beth Ann Fennelly (Heating & Cooling), and the weird, awesome, and often unsettling flash fiction of Etgar Keret (The Girl on the Fridge). We will look at the importance of word choice and tone when length is so limited, as well as take a stab at crafting our own flash fiction collection.

ENG IV: Walking Through the Apocalypse: Visions of the Future

Offered: Fall Term

Apocalyptic literature reveals the author’s vision of “End Times,” that is, what happens to humanity when traditional ways of life come to an end. In this course, we will look at the apocalypse as it is envisioned by a variety of authors. Possible texts include McCarthy’s The Road, Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Oliva’s The Last One. While all texts in this course expose a haunting post-apocalyptic world, we will ask (and answer) some important questions about what an apocalypse might mean for the future. Moreover, what if an apocalypse happens and we don’t know? Though the stories all different in nature, each carries several common threads of perseverance, tenacity, and strength.

ENG IV: Writing my life: Examining the art of the memoir

Offered: Winter Term

Why are memoirs so popular? Nowadays, when one looks at the bestseller list, there is always a memoir in the “top-ten”. From texts like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love to Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father, everyone seems to be writing a memoir these days. So what is our cultural fascination with memory? How does a life change when it is written down? In this course, students will explore the social and personal complexities of memoir writing and in turn, have the opportunity to write multiple memoir pieces throughout the term. This course is writing intensive and students should expect to write daily.

ENG IV: Writing Poetry

Offered: Spring Term

In this course, we will explore poetry through a survey of (some of) the various forms it can take. Every week, students will read, reflect upon, and discuss poems selected by the instructor. In addition, they will each draft a minimum of one new poem per week and present it to the class in an open, workshop setting. Revision--based on feedback both from instructors and peers--will play an important part in preparing end-of-term portfolios. Students will also be required to participate in a public reading. This course may count toward the fulfillment of either a student's English or fine art graduation requirement.

Adv. ENG IV: A Journey on the “wine dark sea”: A Study of Homer’s Odyssey

Offered: Fall Term

This course will explore what is commonly thought to be one of the earliest pieces of literature (behind Gilgamesh and Iliad). Homer’s epic focuses on Odysseus’ twelve-year journey across the “wine dark sea” to his beloved Penelope at home in Ithaca. Students will engage with the conventions associated with epic poetry as they write about both character and conflict. This epic poem is widely considered a “right of passage” for high school students, and we will read and discuss the poem in its entirety. Modern “texts” frequently allude to elements of Homer’s tour de force, and we will look at these pieces as well.

Adv. ENG IV: सर्वं ज्ञानं मयि विद्यते: Exploring post-colonial literature in South Asia

Offered: Winter and Spring Terms

Do you recognize this language? Written in Sanskrit, an ancient Hindu language (almost 3,500 years old!) this line loosely translates to “All that I have to learn is within me.” In the last 100 years, many South Asian authors have emerged on the global literary scene. And yet, often, their work is classified as ‘exotic’ or ‘different’ and not as important or lasting as more classical western literature. Yet as the Sanskrit quote indicates, many would argue that South Asian authors capture the unique parallel experience of being an insider and also an outsider in their post-colonial landscapes. In this advanced level course, students will explore several different works by authors such as Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, as well as others, all why asking the question, “What does it mean to remake worlds in literature?”

Adv. ENG IV: Faulkner: The Sound and The Fury

Offered: Winter Term

Some books are easy and straightforward, and others are written by William Faulkner. This class will tackle Faulkner’s novel, The Sound and the Fury, the sprawling novel about the unraveling of the Compson family in the changing South. Told from four different and equally unreliable perspectives, what results is a tale that feels like a Greek Tragedy, a Soap Opera, and a therapy session all in one. The reader becomes intertwined with this story, as we have to make sense of what we are reading. Faulkner was smitten by his own creation; never one to be modest, he once told a friend: “It's a real son-of-a-bitch … This one's the greatest I'll ever write." So, roll up your sleeves, and let’s dig into this rich, American classic together.

Adv. ENG IV: James Joyce: An Exploration of Ourselves

Offered: Fall Term

Arguably, one of the most riddling geniuses in English literature, James Joyce is an utterly joyful writer. Overflowing with tidbits of information, Joyce’s stream of consciousness writing highlights his knowledge in a rather egotistical fashion. Together, we explore how Joyce insistently challenges many of our most basic assumptions about literature and life, moving us to reassess our personal and institutional values, our accepted modes of thought and behavior, and our views of the sacred and the profane. Through examining Joyce’s literature, this course teaches us to be wary of knowledge handed down as doctrine, questioning the integrity of those in positions of “power” and the effect that they have on the hierarchy beneath them. Possible texts include A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, and Ulysses.

Adv. ENG IV: Literature of the Land

Offered: Spring Term

Wendell Berry boldly asserts, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” During our trimester together, we will explore this idea of a fundamental connection between self, community, and place. This discussion-based course presents an opportunity to read and respond to literature that explores the relationship between people and the natural world. We consider a variety of topics: What is nature? What are our obligations to the natural world, and how do those obligations inform–or conflict with–our obligations to one another? What constitutes a sense of place, and what role does this concept play in developing a sustainable relationship with the land? As we consider the way writers have viewed nature, we will examine and shape our own attitudes and beliefs about the relationship between the written word and the world around us. Analytical and creative writing assignments will provide opportunities both for analysis of the readings and for introspection, and this class will frequently take us outside.

Adv. ENG IV: Man or Monster?: Macbeth and Othello

Offered: Spring Term

In this advanced course we will read two of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and explore the questions: What makes a villain? What is the difference between a dangerous person and an evil one? Who in this text truly deserves the title of monster?  Although both texts are named after the play’s protagonists, it is debatable whether or not these men deserve the title of villain. What are the other forces at play? How does Shakespeare craft complex and interesting characters whose trials and tribulations still resonate with us to this day?

Adv. ENG IV: Ready, Set, Play! Sports in Literature

Offered: Spring Term

This course will explore sports writing through various fiction and nonfiction texts, films, and other media. Students will read and analyze the strategies used to build an effective sports story. In addition, students will be expected to write a significant amount in nonfiction and fiction styles. Topics of discussion include coming of age, gender roles, Title IX, racial conflicts, and the rewards and pressures of athleticism. Possible materials include select readings from H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights and Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Sarah DeLappe’s play The Wolves, short articles, the documentary A Hero for Daisy, the films Miracle and Whip It, and ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries.

Adv. ENG IV: State of Conformity: the cultural pressure of gender roles in The Handmaid’s Tale and The Stranger

Offered: Fall Term

In this course, we will examine how different societies can act to pressure individuals into conformity, and will look specifically at how this can happen through gender roles and expectations. The course will focus on Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, and Albert Camus' depiction of justice in The Stranger. In addition to these two giant works of the 20th century, we will study feminism, social justice, gender roles, the legal system, and other "big ideas," always seeking to relate them in a practical way to the world of today.

Adv. ENG IV: Strong Women: Antigone and A Doll’s House

Offered: Winter Term

This course will focus on powerful women who were, in many ways, pioneers as they each sought to rebel and seek a life outside of a masculine society. Looking at these texts in translation (from Greek and Norwegian), students spend time looking at the development of Drama from the 5th century tragedians to modern day and where these two plays fall on that spectrum. We will look at a variety of English translations of these two plays, write analytically, engage with literary criticism, and act out small scenes. If possible, we will try to see a professional production as well.

Adv. ENG IV: Writing - Fiction: The Story that Makes You Want to Write It

Offered: Winter Term

American flash fiction master Lydia Davis begins her short story--“The Center of the Story”--this way: “A woman has written yet another story that is not interesting, though it has a hurricane in it, and a hurricane usually promises to be interesting.” In this course, we will closely examine a wide selection of (mainly) contemporary short stories and try to find what makes them interesting, urgent, and relevant to society. In addition, students will write original stories (from suggested prompts) that we will discuss in an open workshop format in class. They will be required to submit a revised manuscript of their stories (based on the suggestions of their peers and the instructor) for the final project, and to participate in a public reading.

Meet the English Department

Marvin Aguilar

Marvin Aguilar

English Teacher
Katie Forrestal

Katie Forrestal

English Teacher
Dan Freije

Dan Freije

English Teacher

Fantasia Hanmer

English Teacher
Todd Matthew

Todd Matthew

English Department Head
Charlotte McMahon

Charlotte McMahon

English Teacher
Gregory Rossolimo

Gregory Rossolimo

English Teacher
Sheridan Zimmer

Sheridan Zimmer

English Teacher, Form Dean