English Language and Literature
The English program at Abelard pairs intensive study of the Western literary canon with the practice of expository, analytical, narrative and creative writing. By the time they have reached Grade 12, our students are writing university-level essays, and have developed both the analytical and technical skills they will require to succeed in any post-secondary discipline.
The study of literature trains our students to understand the underlying structure and patterns employed by authors to communicate experience and thought, and teaches them to analyze the connections between the world around us and the ways in which we perceive and interpret it. English class also brings together the knowledge and concepts they are encountering in their other courses as we ponder questions such as: how did the discoveries of Galileo influence Milton? How did Joyce, Woolf and Beckett incorporate the philosophy of Plato, Wittgenstein and Sartre into their works? Would Shakespeare have been familiar with the political theories of Machiavelli? How did William James’s Principles of Psychology inspire the literary device of stream-of-consciousness? How is the principle of Manifest Destiny explored in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian? Does the recurring imagery of hands in East of Eden have anything to do with the hands of Michelangelo’s David, or Da Vinci’s John the Baptist?
This integration of our curriculum gives our students the sense that no matter how specialized their interests are, in order to completely understand a particular field they must have a broader knowledge and understanding of other disciplines as well. This translates into a sense that each course they take in our school is of vital importance and interest.
In addition to literary analysis, our students engage in their own creative work, composing short stories, plays and even novels. Through creative writing, they achieve a greater understanding of the narrative structure and techniques they have studied, and they develop an individual voice.
Most importantly, stories make us more visible to ourselves. Through their study of literature, our students learn to be more self-aware and to be more aware of and compassionate to others.