The curriculum of the English Department is designed to help students read literary texts (including film) very closely in order to discover, through class discussion and through writing, what the text says, what the text means, how the text affects us, and how the text achieves its effect. We study texts by a variety of authors from various countries (concentrating especially, though by no means exclusively, on literature originally written in English) and from various periods. Although we explore backgrounds to the texts we read, our courses do not survey literature chronologically. Through class discussions and activities, study guides, written homework grounded in the text, and analytical essays, we help our students to understand figurative language, imagery, and patterns of language and to draw progressively more sophisticated inferences. Through their work, students engage in a dialogue with the text at hand, letting it speak directly and personally to them, and, in their turn, speaks their insights to it and asks their questions of it.
Our writing program focuses on the process of writing an analytical paper. We help our students learn how to find a suitable thesis; how to research a text to find support for the thesis; how to narrow or expand the thesis to fit the assignment; how to organize according to what the thesis says and to its logic; how to use rough drafts to develop the analytical position, to discover the information that must be in the introduction, to check for errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics, and to come to a conclusion that follows the positions and the logic of the paper. Just as in our class discussions, we insist that our students in their writing support all analytical ideas by quoting directly from the text or texts under consideration. Our students also explore literature by writing personal essays, short stories, and poems.
Students must be enrolled and earn credit in an English class during each quarter they are enrolled at University High School. Freshmen and sophomores take year-long courses. Juniors and seniors may elect to take Analysis and Composition, a year-long course, during either their third or fourth year at University High School. Juniors and seniors not taking Analysis and Composition elect one of at least three courses each quarter.