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The department’s major goals include developing students’ abilities to...
- Express themselves with clarity and power both orally and in writing
- Form and recognize authentic ques tions or original ideas and then explore, cultivate, and articulate them
- Read literature with sensitivity and understanding, paying close attention to language, imagery, argument, and idea
- Explore varied cultural perspectives
- Make connections between literature, their lives, and their learning in other contexts
Students write frequently. Short papers include personal responses, essays, dialogues, journal entries, short stories, and poems. Longer writing may include literary analysis, critical studies, extended fiction, or personal narrative. Among the many ways of responding to literature, The Putney School focuses on two: 1) writing analyses that show the evidence of thought that is clear, bold, cogent, and original, and 2) writing “in kind”-that is, writing poems, plays, stories, and essays. Readings range from the canonic to the contemporary and roam over a wide landscape of cultures and voices both in English and in translation. Most genres are represented, including novels, short stories, essays, poetry, plays, graphic novels, and film. Classes are taught seminar-style. Lecture is rare. Class participation is essential as students try out their ideas aloud.
Ninth Grade Integrated Course Requirement
Ninth grade students take Humans in the Natural World which integrates English, Social Science and Natural Science.
Humans in the Natural World (three credits)
Using the tools of these three disciplines, this three-trimester course begins by asking “How Do We Know What We Know?” Starting with things we can observe locally, we will expand to connect to the global community. Students will be expected to collaborate with each other, make connections
and synthesize information about their world from historical, scientific, artistic and literary sources. Each student will undertake several long-term projects, including detailed studies of a plot of land, a country, and a commodity. Students will read novels, poetry, and both primary and secondary sources in all the disciplines. Ultimately, our 9th graders will hone their skills in analytical and creative writing, oral presentation, collaboration, research and analysis. They will also learn the habits of reflection, self-evaluation, perseverance, and practice. Throughout they will demonstrate their skills and understanding through presentations, experiments, Wiki creation, writing and teaching. After completion of the integrated course, Putney students will be expected to accurately sketch the world around them, critically observe and analyze their environment, collect and use GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data, write in both analytical and imaginative forms, synthesize scientific and historical facts into meaning and be fearless enough to embrace uncertainty, ambiguity, and the benefits of failure. Students will earn credits in science (.5 biology .5 earth science), history/ social science (1.0), English (1.0). In addition they will learn some basic tools and vocabulary of economics, GIS,
data analysis, and political science, as well as the rudiments of epistemology. Mathematical thinking will be an integral part of our study.
Tenth Grade Course Requirement
Tenth grade students focus on the craft of essay writing and literary analysis.
Composition: Forms of the Essay & Foundations of Literary Analysis • English 10 (full credit)
The first trimester will be spent writing nonfiction: short summaries, descriptions, longer analyses, profiles, and narratives. The course approaches writing as a multi-step process that includes prewriting, drafting and revision. In developing their own voices, students learn to be deliberate, persuasive, and creative in all written work. The second trimester allows students to continue developing their voices as writers, moving from the personal to the analytical. Readings include plays, novels, short stories, and poetry by such authors as Tim O’Brien, Chinua Achebe, Marjane Satrapi, and Adrienne Rich. Students are introduced to skills of literary analysis and develop their analytical voices through writing essays in response to readings.
Eleventh Grade American Studies Requirement
These courses are required for juniors in lieu of 11th grade English and U.S. History to provide richer exploration of American society, culture and history.
American Studies Grade 11 (1.5 credits)
This course is a year long interdisciplinary course that asks the fundamental question: “What does it mean to be an American?” The course is arranged around a series of thematic explorations including nature and the wilderness; democracy and American political thought; class identity and formation; slavery and its legacy, ethnicity and identity; consumerism and American economic growth. Courses are taught by teachers in both the English and History departments, and readings from both disciplines provide the essential backdrop for dynamic class discussion and exploration. Finally, students are expected to design their own thematic unit of study as a final assignment in the class. Fundamental skills of independent thought, reading for meaning, oral expression, and creative and analytical writing are central to the class.
Writing and Research: Humanities Thesis (half credit)
This course meets for one trimester and is taught by members of the English and History departments. The primary goal of this course is to facilitate the writing of a substantial research paper. Students learn the essential skills of thesis development, interpretation, and analysis. A significant amount of time is devoted to the study of rhetoric and research methodology.
Twelfth Grade Elective Requirement
Electives in English offer in-depth examination of a theme, genre, or area. Seniors are challenged to take leadership in class discussion, to write original essays that are both logical and imaginative, and to pursue independent projects. Students are expected to develop a clear sense of voice in their written work and to revise their work thoughtfully and creatively. Some time is set-aside in each fall trimester elective for writing personal narrative, in part to complement the college application process.
Contemporary World Poetry (half credit)
This class focuses on how to read and understand poetry, particularly within its cultural context. We will read poems from a wide range of cultures and time periods, with emphasis on contemporary poets. We will also write poems and provide an intelligent audience for one another’s work. Readings will include works by such poets as Czeslaw Milocz, Derek Walcott, Yehuda Amichai, Tomas Trastromer, Breyten Breytenbach, Wislawa Szymborska, and Shu Ting.
Creative Writing: Poetry, Prose and Creative NonFiction (half credit)
Students write daily in this course, experimenting in genres that may include poetry, short story, microfiction, plays, and creative non-fiction. Study includes readings in each genre as models with emphasis on learning craft. Students produce multiple drafts of pieces in most genres, focusing on the process of revising their creative work and culminating in a portfolio.
Existentialism (half credit)
“Existentialism” refers to a mode or way of relating to life, science, art, and philosophy. Specifically, it refers to a group of nineteenth and twentieth century thinkers, who emphasize individual freedom and the moral and creative responsibility that accompanies that freedom. This course explores the literature, philosophy, and film of this genre. Questions that guide our study: What does it mean to be human? How do we define ourselves over
and against others? How should one live? What gives meaning to our lives? How do we express that meaning? Works include literature by Camus, Kafka, Dostoevsky, O’Connor; plays by Beckett; the poetry of Rilke,
Eliot, and Dickinson; the philosophy of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and De Beauvoir.
Feminist Perspectives in Literature (half credit)
This course will combine a study of influential and iconic women’s writing, feminist theory, and historical context to help students understand the call and response for the woman’s voice in our literary world. We will read classic, subversive, and enduring women’s literature and trace the emerging and evolving subjects, themes, and formal innovations to explore the goals and strategies of women writers in the 19th and 20th century. Authors and theorists may include: Gertrude Stein, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, and Helen Cixous.
Introduction to Media Studies (half credit)
What is cinematography, and why does it matter? How does the way we watch television influence the way
we think about the world around us? Does my action in a video game really mean anything about the way I live my life? What does my Facebook profile
say about my class, race, and gender? This class will address these questions, equipping students with the tools to analyze and critique the various forms of media that structure our daily lives and interactions. Students will look to film, television, music, advertisements, video games, and social media, learning how to think about why we receive the pleasures that we do from various texts, and how what we see on the screen affects how we live our lives off the screen.
Marvelous Realism (half credit)
This course will explore the genre
of literature commonly referred to as “Magical Realism.” We’ll learn about the origin of this movement in the visual arts and how it has blossomed in both literature and film. Possible authors include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Salman Rushdie, Junot Diaz, Toni Morrison, Franz Kafka and Julia Alvarez.
Philosophical Themes in Literature (half credit)
This course examines literature that raises fundamental philosophical questions about meaning, metaphysics,
the nature of knowledge, and ethics. Emphasis will be on close contextual exegesis and critical thinking. Authors may include Thucydides, Plato, Sophocles, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Dickinson, Tolstoy, Hesse, Kafka, Camus, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Salinger, Simone de Beauvoir, Richard Wright, Flannery O’ Connor, Wallace Stevens, and Cormac McCarthy.
Reading Contemporary Short Fiction (half credit)
An exploration of short stories by contemporary masters of the form, representing a wide range of stylistic approaches. Authors may include Alice Munro, David Foster Wallace, Lorrie Moore, Raymond Carver, Ethan Canin, Richard Ford, Edwidge Danticat, Hanif Kureishi, Tobias Wolff, Junot Díaz and T.C Boyle.
Social Justice Literature: Marginalized Voices Around the World (half credit)
This course will focus on literature that reflects injustices suffered by people
in a variety of settings throughout the world. We will read an eclectic collec- tion of novels, testimonies, short stories, and poetry. Possible authors include Ralph Ellison, Rigoberta Menchu, Arthur Miller, Bharati Mukerjee and Isabel Allende.