Writing & Literature I  • Year 

Writing & Literature I introduces students to the English Department at Darrow. Expectations for discussion, writing process, critical reading, and research are introduced and practiced. Students explore sense of place and its effect on identity both personally and through the experiences of the characters in the books read. What are my approaches, practices, methods to/for reading and writing? What does it mean to have a “sense of place?” How do I begin to know a place? What is community? What communities do I belong to? What are the expectations of those communities? How do I resist or conform to those expectations? What is identity? How is identity shaped, formed, changed? How do our social and natural environments shape our identities, and how do we influence our natural surroundings and communities?


Writing & Literature II  •  YEAR

We will explore the ideas associated with finding the power of one’s voice, knowing oneself and expressing oneself. To what extent are our views shaped by external forces/internal conflicts of the self? What does it mean to have a voice? Does literature/writing have the power to effect change? How so? What is injustice? How does literature function as a response to injustice? What happens when members of a society are marginalized?

Prerequisite: Writing & Literature I or equivalent from another school


Writing & Literature III   •  Year

The aim of Writing & Literature III is to discover and define the various ideas, philosophies, and social issues that represent, through literary works, the critical components of the American experience and American history. Students will also study different methods of both identifying and delivering critical messages and use their understanding of those methods to craft their own criticisms of issues important to modern American society. The practice and refinement of these skills are aimed to prepare students for similar analysis and discussion of themes and ideas in other literary canons as well as to effectively express their thoughts and ideas through writing.

Prerequisite: Writing & Literature II or equivalent from another school.


Writing & Literature IV: Writing for Performance*   •  Fall 

Students will receive a strong foundation in the playwriting craft, dramaturgical thinking, theatrical tools, play and scene structures, textual analysis, and constructive peer feedback models.To that end, this course includes prompts and free writes; scene writing and monologue writing; reading aloud and performance; collaborative group writing and devising; reading and analyzing plays; class discussions; peer feedback; ensemble-building; and personal aesthetic explorations. Students will choose to focus on their favorite piece to present in a “staged reading” style for their final exam. Students will be encouraged to invite members outside of the class to be a part of the audience. Students may also submit their plays for consideration to be in Darrow on the Fringe in the winter.

*This course is cross-listed with Performing Arts. Students will need to choose which department to receive credit in.

Open to all seniors and to juniors with permission of the Department Chair.


Writing & Literature IV: Russian Literature A   •  Fall

George Orwell’s 1984 is widely known, but the progenitor of 20th century dystopian fiction, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, is less so. In Russian Literature: Dystopia we will read both novels with the express purpose of determining whether 1984 derives from We and, if so, to what extent. Students in the course will be asked to prepare for and conduct a trial of Orwell on charges of intellectual and artistic appropriation, as well as being tasked with writing their own dystopian fiction, based upon or inspired by these works and/or current events.

Open to all seniors and to juniors with permission of the Department Chair


Writing & Literature IV: Foundations of Science Fiction   •  Spring

What is science fiction, and why do we need it? Where did it come from; where is it going? These questions and many more are essential for understanding the most important opportunity reading and writing science fiction helps us to develop: The question of WHAT IF. If the concept of WHAT IF intrigues you, irritates you, or sparks your imagination, this is a course for you. We will read works that helped develop what we think of as science fiction, works that are considered important in the field, and works which are enjoyed by fans and fanatics alike. This class will focus on texts of science fiction, and we will but briefly examine SF created for television, movies, and/or comics. We will consider ideas around world-building, social and political commentary, time travel, dystopian futures, robotics, and so much more. This course, while reading intensive, will also include both analytical and fiction writing. We will explore what others have written about potential or alternate pasts, presents, and futures. Above all, we will ask, WHAT IF?

Open to all seniors and to juniors with permission of the Department Chair.


Writing & Literature IV: Race: Reality and Fiction  •  Spring

If race has no genetic or biological basis, why does it matter so much? How has the notion of race been created and maintained over the last 300 years of American history? What are the impacts of racial categories in society? This course will explore the development of the idea of race through anthropological and historical research, and will apply these insights to works of fiction. Students will gain valuable tools for interpreting and discussing a very thorny and problematic topic and for analyzing current events and everyday interactions. Students will choose whether to earn History or English credit through varied assignments, but all students will read the major assigned texts.

This course is cross-listed with History. Students will need to choose which department to receive credit in.

Open to all seniors and to juniors with permission of Department Chair.


Writing & Literature IV: Russian Literature B:Screenplay Priject  •  Spring

Fifteen or so years ago, two Darrow faculty members made ambitiously wishful plans to make a film based upon Yuri Olesha’s novel Envy.  This enigmatic work with its vibrant poetic language, memorable characters, stunning imagery and complex narrative structure recommends itself for translation to a performing arts medium.  While the two faculty members never acted on their nascent idea, in Russian Literature: Screenplay Project students will immerse themselves in Envy, as well as other selected 20th century works such as We and Omon Ra, which suggest or, actually, demand cinematic treatment. Based on this reading experience, students will create a screenplay based upon or inspired by one of the novellas. The essential challenge of this project will be to translate or adapt text, which tells, to prospective film, which shows.

Open to all seniors and to juniors with permission of the Department Chair.

NOTE: Russian Literature A & B are two separate, senior-level, semester elective courses. Russian Literature A is not a prerequisite for Russian Literature B.


Writing & Literature IV: Utopia/Dystopia  •  Spring

What drives humans to create perfect communities and speculate about disastrous ones? How do these imagined (and sometimes real) societies serve as responses to urgent social, political, and environmental issues? As we learn together on the site of the Shakers’ utopian community, we will discuss and analyze films, novels, podcasts, essays, and short stories that explore the blurred lines between utopia and dystopia. Texts studied may include films like Get Out (2017) and The Stepford Wives (1975); novels like Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, The Circle by Dave Eggers, or The Power by Naomi Alderman; and episodes from Nice Try!, a podcast about real-life attempted utopias from Levittown to Disneyland.

Open to all seniors and to juniors with permission of Department Chair.

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