We offer discussion-centered courses in literature and writing that equip students with analytical and communication skills while fostering a love of reading and literature. Our curriculum seeks to balance a traditional education in canonical texts with exposure to more contemporary works and a diversity of perspectives and cultural voices.

English Department Mission Statement

Sample Courses

Memoirs of Expats in Paris

Such prominent intellectuals as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, and Gertrude Stein appear as characters in each other’s memoirs of their Parisian experience, offering divergent portrayals of themselves and each other. Through our comparison of such memoirs as Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, and McAlmon’s Being Geniuses Together, this course explores the personal relationships and aesthetic values that formed in and around Shakespeare & Company Bookstore, the headquarters of the Lost Generation in Paris.

American Literature of the Sixties

Rising from the reverberations of Allen Ginsberg’s great Howl, the sixties were a decade of revolution, protest, polarization, liberation, experimentation, and promise. The fear of nuclear annihilation and the paranoia of the Cold War permeated the American psyche. The civil rights movement gave voice to disenfranchised African Americans and fueled the movement for women’s liberation. The conflict in Vietnam, raging violently in the East, was broadcast nightly on American television. The New Left protested for a new form of politics while the counterculture encouraged the youth of America to expand their consciousness. In all, the sixties were a wide-spread convergence of the political, the personal, the philosophical, and the artistic. Through the study of such writers as Ginsberg, Kerouac, Atwood, Mailer, Vonnegut, Plath, Friedan, Pynchon, King, X, Thompson, Baraka, Sexton, Kesey, Wolfe, and others, students will analyze how literature and other forms of art from the sixties reflect that turbulent and often romanticized decade.

Creative Writing

Taught by the Gilman Writing Fellow, this course is an intensive workshop in creative writing. Because each new Fellow will design the curriculum according to his or her interests and talents, the course content is variable; it will include elements in both fiction and poetry, and may cover playwriting. Students should expect to write daily, read the works of accomplished writers, and participate in critiques of one another’s writing in workshop format.

Narrative Technique in Drama and Film

This course is designed for students interested in writing, and in theater and film studies. The focus in this class will be on analyzing storytelling techniques in plays and films, learning and becoming fluent with the vocabulary of playscripts and screenplays, exploring the dramatist’s and the screenplay writer’s craft, and studying plays and films from a writer’s point of view. The works studied will include both classic and contemporary plays and both classic films from the Golden Age of Hollywood and from modern cinema. In our study, we will take into account the contributions made to the storytelling of a particular play or film by other collaborative artists such as the director, designers, and actors, and evaluate those contributions in terms of an overall understanding and appreciation of the work as a whole.


In this course, students read closely and with care The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. In addition, they also accept the challenge of also letting "Dante read us." Other complementary authors include C.S Lewis, Sam Keen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Barbara Reynolds, and Harry Chapin.

Sample Coordinate Courses

Recreating Nature

Offered at The Bryn Mawr School. Using naturalist Aldo Leopold’s classic volume, A Sand County Almanac as both inspiration and example, students will create an illuminated journal combining focused nature writing and drawing. A daily practice of Zazen meditation and observation techniques will allow students to heighten awareness and re-train their perceptions of nature so they can better record them. Short selections from the writings of Charles Darwin, John Muir, Dorothy and William Wordsworth, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, Walt Whitman, Rachel Carson, W. S. Merwin and others will supplement the Leopold readings.

Nonfiction Writing

The ability to write powerfully opens many doors and helps the educated achieve their dreams. From politicians and professors to entrepreneurs and engineers, those who excel professionally often distinguish themselves through writing. This workshop-based course, rooted in the wisdom of William Zinsser, teaches students to write about their world with “clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.” Students produce several pieces including a short biography, a critical review, a travel piece, a lyric essay, and a formal argument. Instruction places a strong emphasis on revision, and the course uses portfolio method of evaluation that encourages risk-taking and rewards effort.

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