"Our voice is a most precious gift, and to develop it is our sacred responsibility. Speaking clearly, writing clearly--these aren't our only aims. We must also express ourselves with grace, style and great care for our audiences, for the greater good."

— Susan Cook, English


  • English I
  • Hon. English I
  • English II
  • Hon. English II
  • English III
  • AP English III


  • AP English IV
  • Literature & Film
  • Shakespeare
  • Creative and Personal Writing
  • Censorship in Literature
  • Journalism
  • Irish Literature
  • Poetry & Music in Postmodern Culture
  • Public Speaking
  • African American Literature


ENG 101 - English I

The aim of the course is to foster habits of reading with attention and with sensitivity to the implications of what is read. The freshman student is introduced to five basic forms of literature: the short story, the poem, the play, the non-fiction essay and the novel. The freshman student is expected to recognize major literary devices found in these five forms and to note, critically, the purpose and effect of these devices on the content of what they read. Literature is drawn from various cultures and literary traditions. Throughout the entire year, there is also a systematic emphasis on composition. Exercises in the forms of language solidify a student's command of English grammar and refine the student's abilities of self-expression in writing. Particular emphasis is placed upon a process approach to writing through practice in writing narrative and descriptive paragraphs and essays. The student also begins to write critically about the literature he reads. In addition to intensive practice in composition, significant time is spent on the student's verbal development through vocabulary and speech. Note taking and study skills are also a central part of this introductory work in literary analysis and writing for various purposes and audiences.

Prerequisite: None    

ENG 102 - Honors English I

This course is available for the freshman who has demonstrated a proficiency in language skills based on his Entrance Exam and diagnostic testing. The student is introduced to five basic forms of literature: the short story, the poem, the play, the non-fiction essay and the novel. A student in the Honors program will be expected to handle significant reading assignments and to be involved in a more sophisticated analysis of literature. Active class participation is an important aspect of a student's grade. As in English 101, numerous and varied writing assignments help the student to refine his critical reading and writing skills. Significant time is spent on vocabulary study and speech to aid the student's verbal development in pursuit of eloquentia perfecta. Note taking and study skills are also a part of this accelerated introduction to literature and writing.

Prerequisite: Placement based on Scholarship-Entrance Examination and diagnostic testing. A student applying for this course should be comfortable with speaking in a group setting.

ENG 201 - English II

Students in English II will study the rich cultural literary heritage of America. Students will be exposed to traditional works from the Colonial era to the present as well as Native American and African American literature. Students will examine how these authors treat universal human concerns as well as their portrayal of life in America. In conjunction with the reading, English II--like English 101 and 102--emphasizes a process approach to writing. Students will write in a variety of modes, including narration, description, persuasion, and the critical essay. English II students will continue the study of vocabulary begun in freshman year. Students will also have the opportunity to develop their oral communication skills through informal and formal speech activities. Time is spent on note-taking and study skills as well.

Prerequisite: None

ENG 202 - Honors English II

Honors English II is an honors course offered to those sophomores who have developed a serious interest in the study of literature and who have demonstrated in freshman year an ability to write well. In addition, the student must assume the responsibility of a greater volume of reading and more extensive writing and speaking assignments than in English 201. Involvements in class activity and class participation are integral parts of this course and compose a significant percentage of the student’s grade. Particular emphasis is placed upon a process approach to writing. In addition to narration, several forms are used to help the student develop his own voice as a writer: description, persuasion, journaling, the writing of reaction/response papers, and short story writing. The Honors student will continue the study and practice of critical writing. The student will expand his vocabulary through his examination of American literature and through a systematic vocabulary review. While not an Advanced Placement course, English 202 serves as an excellent introduction to the AP courses in junior and senior years and is thus considered a pre-AP course.

Prerequisite: Students must have an A average in English for freshman year and the high recommendation of the student’s English 101/102 teacher. This recommendation will evaluate five factors of the student’s freshman English performance: Grade in English (93 or higher), advanced writing ability, class participation skills, reading comprehension and ability to meet deadlines. Also considered in the student’s placement are his overall G.P.A. (3.0 minimum), and P.S.A.T. verbal and writing scores. Note: Students in Honors English I are not automatically guaranteed a seat in Honors English II; also, students in English I can sign up for Honors English II during Course Registration for consideration in an Honors II section.

ENG 301 - English III

English 301 is a survey of British and World literature. Students will discover how the topics that interested writers and the style in which they wrote developed over the course of centuries. Discussion is integral to the course, and so too is the continuation of critical reading and writing skills developed in previous English courses. Once again, particular emphasis is placed upon a process approach to writing, with particular formation in analytical and argumentative essays in which students will adhere to the formal conventions expected of them in such written modes. The student will also be given regular opportunity to refine his writing skills in the various modes practiced in his career at the Prep: descriptive, narrative, persuasive, journaling, reaction/response essays and creative writing. Attention will be given to the writing of the SAT essay and the essay for college application. Vocabulary study and acquisition is built into the course, and students will have the opportunity to hone public speaking skills in formal presentations to the class. Time-management, note taking and study skills will also be addressed in this course.

Prerequisite: None

ENG 302 - AP English III

An Advanced Placement program is available to qualified students in both junior and senior year. For juniors, this course is A.P. Language and Composition; for seniors, A.P. Literature and Composition. The AP program in English is designed for students with confidence in their writing ability and a significant interest in literature, critical thinking and writing. AP English classes utilize the format of a college-level seminar. The AP Language and Composition course in junior year focuses on what rhetorical and compositional strategies authors use to achieve their purpose. Along with these demands of the A.P. Language and Composition program, it is imperative that students in the course anticipate comprehensive coverage of British and World literature. In addition, students must be willing to participate in discussions students, and must assume the additional responsibility of a greater volume of out-of-class writing and reading in preparation for class.

As in previous English courses, particular emphasis is placed upon a process approach to writing. Junior AP students will also be expected to write several critical analysis essays on works included in the study of British and World literature. Students will also work in the written modes of analysis and writing that are the focus of the A.P. Language and Composition program; these include rhetorical analysis essays, argument essays and synthesis argument essays. Time will also be spent on the writing of the S.A.T. essay and the essay for college applications. Vocabulary and informal and formal speech activities are, as they are in English 301, part of this accelerated course.

Students are required to take the College Board AP English Language and Composition exam in May. A culminating project acts as the final grade for this course. It should also be noted that junior AP English students need not be retained in the program during senior year if they do not sustain a high degree of motivation and/or do not demonstrate above-average aptitude for the material.

Prerequisite: Students must have an A average in English for sophomore year and the strong recommendation of the student’s English 201/202 teacher. This recommendation will evaluate five factors of the student’s current year’s English performance: grade in English (93 or higher), writing ability, class participation skills, reading comprehension (the ability to analyze and synthesize), and the ability to meet deadlines.

ENG 402 - AP English IV: Literature and Composition

Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition, a college-level course, will     provide opportunities for students to develop their ability to read critically, think clearly, and write concisely. This course follows the guidelines for the A.P. Literature and Composition program and is designed for students with confidence in their writing ability and a significant interest in critical thinking and writing. A.P. students will study various schools of literary criticism and do readings in literary criticism related to the works they study. During the course, the students will read books that they have not had a chance to explore before, exchange ideas with their classmates about the ideas they encounter in these books, and challenge the beliefs and ideas which they currently hold. Students will have the opportunity to read some of the finest poetry, plays, novels, short stories, and essays ever written. They will refine their ability to discover meaning in literature by being attentive to language, image, character, action, argument, and the various techniques and strategies authors use to evoke emotional responses from readers. A.P. Lit. & Comp. students will be expected to justify their interpretations by reference to details and patterns found in the text, to compare their interpretations with those proposed by others, and to be prepared to modify their interpretations as they learn and think more deeply. The mode of instruction is primarily seminar with deep experience in the Socratic Seminar. A.P. Lit & Comp students will also participate in writing workshops, peer review, and revision of their work. Particular emphasis is placed on the process approach to writing. In addition to proficiency in the modes practiced in their three previous years of study, students will write critical analyses, craft the college essay and work in some modes of creative writing. Finally, students will refine their skills in answering multiple choice questions about literature and writing the AP timed-write essay needed for the required A.P. Literature exam in May.

ENG 403 ½ credit - Literature and Film

This course is designed to explore the relationship between literature and film as it recognizes film as a distinct and valid literary art form. Designed to explore the methods, techniques and processes of great American filmmakers, the course moves students through an examination of a variety of cinematic genres. Students will be encouraged to relate their understandings of literary conventions in their study of film, and will also be asked to read novels in order to study their film adaptations. In their work, students will gain insight into how characters are developed within literature and film. By grasping a more thorough understanding of the creative processes that authors and directors undergo, students will also develop thoughtful and critical approaches to film and media. Students will learn to identify and discuss directorial aspects of filmmaking, such as cinematography, score, costume, editing, sound effects, set design, and prop consistency. Of course, students will also be encouraged to express their reactions to character, acting and dialogue, and are expected to share their critical analysis of each. As they examine film’s effect on their imaginations, and as they are encouraged to carefully consider the impact of media on the mind, students will also have the opportunity to develop their own screenplays and/or movie scenes. Through written assignments, classroom discussions, and introductory work in screenwriting/filmmaking, students will develop their understandings of the genre and on media and its powerful impact on social psychology and culture.


This course offers students the opportunity to examine various works of science fiction and its numerous subgenres. Special emphasis will be placed on the texts’ presence in science, history, and modern culture and predications for where those trends will lead. Readings will be examined alongside an assortment of media: film, radio, music, and television. Writing assignments will allow students to explore their own abilities as writers, offering them the chance to assemble their own short works of science fictions based on the topics discussed. Students will also be expected to participate regularly in class discussion and group assignments. Independent reading, research, and public speaking will all be components of the course.

ENG 405 ½ credit - Shakespeare

This course studies the plays of Shakespeare as literary, dramatic, and cultural texts and develops the students ability to write in clear, well-argued critical prose. The aim is to rediscover Shakespeare in his own time, while also knowing him as our contemporary, a maker of our culture and a continuing source of pleasure. Students will carefully examine several of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Examples include Henry IV, Part I; Twelfth Night; Measure for Measure; Titus Andronicus; Othello; The Winter’s Tale; Midsummer’s Night’s Dream; King Lear; and The Tempest. Students will write one literary essay per play on mutually agreed upon topics. Other possible activities include integration of music (e.g., Verdi’s Falstaff; Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), study of film adaptations, and/or a field trip to view live performance.

ENG 406 ½ credit - Creative and Personnal Writing

This course will examine various forms of personal and creative writing. Certainly, personal writing is one of the most significant means for capturing and expressing the human experience. Memoir, poetry, autobiography, music, journal, film and the personal essay are some of the many ways we have found to express who we are. Since much of a student’s scholastic writing has focused on the critical and analytical modes of writing, this course will provide students an opportunity to examine models of personal writing by professional writers. Using these published writers as models, students will, writing intensively, create their own bodies of work. Students will thus sharpen their personal writing skills and develop their voice through their practice in various modes of personal writing. Students will give and use peer feedback and learn and apply a variety of editing and revision strategies to develop their expression and identity on--and off--the page.

ENG 408 ½ credit - Censorship in Literature

This course will engage students in a careful reading and critical analysis of works of literature that have been censored or banned around the world. This censoring takes place in schools, libraries and bookstores, and it takes place for a variety of reasons, ranging from religious and political to sexual and social. The aim of the course is to look at books that have been censored and to find the merit in those novels, novels that take students to a place that forces them to confront thoughts and ideas that most people are uncomfortable thinking about. Through the semester, this course will examine some of the more frequently censored or banned books and try to see the issue from both sides of the fence. Course readings include Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, 25th Hour by David Benioff, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, and Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr. The second part of the course shifts into an intense analysis of Season 1 of HBO’s The Wire. Students will write response essays flowing out of discussions about their viewing of the show, created by David Simon who, in a recent interview, likened the show’s West Baltimore setting to North Philadelphia. Students will thus engage in conversations about the setting of their school neighborhood and have a visit from Lt. Phil Riehl, second-in-command in the Homicide Division of the Philadelphia Police department, himself a huge Wire fan who will discuss the realities of life in Homicide and the similarities between the show and real life. The course will thus engage students in a critical analysis of text and context in relevant, interesting ways.

ENG 413 ½ credit - The American Musical: From Page to Stage

The primary objective of this course is the development of the student’s appreciation of art and his critical interpretation of art—specifically the American musical—through analysis of the text (i.e. the play on the page and the learning the conventions therein), the text’s translation to the stage, and the text within its historical context. Certainly the graduate of a Jesuit college prep school can profit culturally by having an historical appreciation for a truly American creative legacy, and through this course will also be equipped with the language and mode of analysis to think about the genre in critical and creative ways. As The American Musical: From Page to Stage addresses the background, development, and flowering of this genre, and focuses the student on the works themselves, it will also pay special attention to the backgrounds and contributions of our greatest composers, lyricists and performers. A focus on a writing process that helps students develop and synthesize the students’ learning is key to this course; so too is an emphasis on the students’ oral presentation skills. Flexibility is an inherent characteristic to this course, as plays and people can be changed in some cases.

ENG 415 ½ credit - Irish Literature

This course is designed as an overall study of Irish Literature – concentrating mainly on the 20th Century. The course starts with a brief history of Ireland, with an overview of the Clans, the Flight of the Earls, the Ulster Plantation, and, of course, The Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor). The emphasis will then turn to our main focus – the 20th century - with the establishment of the Abbey Theatre, 1916:The Irish Rebellion, and The Troubles. Some of the texts used are Making History and Translations – Brian Friel, The Irish Potato Famine – Charles Rivers, Cathleen Ni Houlihan – William Butler Yeats, Playboy of the Western World – John Millington Synge, Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce. We will be studying the poetry of Padraig Pearse, William Butler Yeats, John Millington Synge, Lady Gregory, and Seamus Heaney.   The course will also rely on films and documentaries to provide a vision of events in the North. Some of the films viewed in the course are 1916: The Irish Rebellion, In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins, Some Mother’s Son, and Hunger.

ENG 416 ½ credit - Poetry and Music in Postmodern Culture

This course examines the connections among poetry, music, and other aspects of culture in the postmodern world. Students will examine poetic structures as they have evolved from the mid-1900s to today. The course will use themes of postmodernism to analyze how poetry and music have evolved over the past few decades. One of the most important aspects of this course is preparing students for academic writing in the college curriculum. With this in mind, students will not only be expected to analyze and argue in their writing, but will also be instructed on the process of scholarly research and synthesis.

ENG 417 ½ credit - Public Speaking

The Public Speaking senior elective is designed for the serious student who desires to expand his knowledge and appreciation of speaking the English language, particularly in front of groups. A primary goal of the course is to help students develop confidence, not only in speaking in front of groups, but also in gathering and organizing the material they are presenting. Towards the course’s primary goal of effective public speaking, students will also learn to be smart listeners and active scrutinizers of information, and in so doing work towards Jesuit education suggests students need to develop “mastery of logical skills and critical thinking.” Important classroom discussions will cover the basic elements of logic and rhetorical analysis, which will be applied to statistics, research results, and mass media. While the class will cover the importance of presenting well-organized arguments, the class is not designed for the student with a pronounced interest in forensics and debate. Developing confidence and clarity of thought remains the center of the course’s goal. The course is not geared towards, or a component of, the school’s forensics program.

ENG 418 ½ credit - African American Literature

This course examines seminal works of African-American Literature from 1900 through the present from a thematic perspective. In it, students will analyze common threads that run through various genres and time periods, including the search for self-identity, the desire for self-definition and determination, the call to social action, the identification of social ills (past and present), and the celebration of race. Students will examine the cultural and historical trends that inform the thematic issues. The course will introduce students to major works and writers of the contemporary African American canon. Time will be devoted to close reading of texts, independent study of parallel works, and literary discussion of trends in the genre. Further, close study of the cultural context within which this literature has been produced will be conducted, utilizing documentary video, music, and scholarship from other disciplines like sociology, psychology, and history. Students will be expected to write about these insightfully and speak about them adeptly in both class discussion and formal presentation.

St. Joseph's Preparatory School
1733 West Girard Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19130
tel: 215.978.1950
fax: 215.765.1710
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