British Literature, Writing

Tony Boisvert

  • two main objectives: develop critical literacy and thoughtful written expression

  • recommended for 10th graders and advanced-reader 9th graders

  • read some of the greatest works published in English

  • develop confidence in writing academic essays

  • improve the quality of our writing through skills acquisition

Our English courses seek to help students improve their reading, writing, and speaking skills. Over the course of two semesters, students read and analyze great works of literature, grappling with new concepts through writing and discussion. This kind of consistent engagement with classic books allows students to think through issues, develop their own ideas, and learn to set out their thoughts in clear, coherent, and original prose. We accomplish much of our work around the seminar table, where students learn to model strong reasoning, articulate opinions, and a charitable exchange of ideas. We encourage students to connect their Christian experience to the topics we cover, synergizing faith and learning in this context of English studies. Learning is a form of worship—we will seek to do it with integrity and discipline.

Course Description

British Literature, Writing is a 9th/10th grade reading and writing course which attempts to develop critical literacy and thoughtful written expression. These two objectives embody the overall purpose of the language arts: to hone skills of communication. Because reading and writing are so closely tied together, students will always work to improve their writing when they are reading critically, and by writing well they will learn to be strong readers.

This course seeks to expose early high school students to some of the greatest works of literature produced in the English language, those written and published on the British Isles. Representative literature will be drawn from our period (roughly 1000 AD through the 1970’s), that is, Beowulf to Tolkien (or put another way, Beowulf to Virginia Woolf). We will focus primarily on the “canonical” literature, e.g., Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Bronte, Joyce, Woolf, etc., though some exciting additions are Tolkien’s unfinished masterwork, The Silmarillion, and Lewis’s poignant Screwtape Letters. At two points during the year we will compare major works from different eras (Beowulf and Frankenstein; Paradise Lost and The Silmarillion) to underscore development and continuity in the literature as well as to provide a break from epic poetry.

Students are responsible for a typed essay or creative piece every 2 to 3 weeks.  These pieces cover a wide range of written expression geared toward the students’ ability levels: reflection, exposition, persuasion, literary analysis, narrative, poetry, etc. All genres will work towards thoughtful communication of ideas and critical analysis of the curriculum. While encouraging academic thinking, these assignments will also sharpen writing skills. Students will participate in writing exercises which hone diction, syntax, paragraphing, outlining, grammar, mechanics, etc. At least one longer research paper will be assigned towards the end of the year, giving students the time they need to work on a more complex and far reaching essay. Students are encouraged throughout the year to workshop their work during class sessions and in peer review. 

The Last Leaf Essay

If you are new to New Hope and applying for an English course, please download the following.


The St. Martin’s Handbook (6th or 5th Edition is fine) (0-312-44317-X)
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss (1-592-40203-8)
Immortal Poems of the English Language, Oscar Williams (ed.) (0-671-49610-7)
Beowulf (Anonymous), Seamus Heaney (transl.) (0393320979)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Penguin Classics) (0141439475)
The Canterbury Tales (selections) by Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Burton Raffel) ( 978-0812978452)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare Made Easy) (978-0812035841)
Julius Caesar (Shakespeare Made Easy) (978-0812035735);
Hamlet (Norton Critical Edition) (0393956636)

Paradise Lost 1-4, 7,  by John Milton (0140424393)
The Silmarillion (selections), by J.R.R.Tolkien (0618126988), and other Tolkien excerpts
Great Expectations (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens (0141439564)
Wuthering Heights (Penguin Classics) by Emily Brontë (0141439556)
Dubliners (Norton Critical Edition) by James Joyce (0393978516)
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (0156907399)
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (0060652934)

**It is crucial that you procure these versions of the texts (Heaney, Raffel). Feel free to buy paperback or hardcover, but the translation matters a great deal.