American Literature

This 30-week class is for students in grades 10-12 to learn the fundamentals of literary analysis and writing a persuasive essay. The method is taken from The Lost Tools of Writing published by the Circe Institute.

Students will learn to use the classical Canons of rhetoric. They will learn how to decide what to say, how to order their thoughts, and how to express those ideas. They will become familiar with the standard form of a five-paragraph essay and learn how to use literary devices to enhance their writing. They will also learn the basics of literary criticism by reading and analyzing great works of literature. Discussions on virtue and literary themes will help the student develop a taste for well-written prose.

Students will complete a five-paragraph essay every three weeks with intervening weeks spent on analysis and outlining. For each essay, the student will be required to read a new novel. Class meetings will revolve around discussing the novels, generating ideas, and practicing the tools for crafting an essay. We will occasionally spend a week on a short story or poem. Those assignments will be completed in one week rather than three as most of the work will be done as a class. These condensed lessons serve as “intensives” where students will see the whole process in action.

*This class is offered as a companion class to American History with tutor Jamie Reed on Wednesdays at 10:45. It is NOT required to take both classes, but it is a great way to receive a History and an English credit from one curriculum.

The novels we will read this year are taken from Notgrass Exploring America and include:

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

***Reading selections may change depending on the interests and proficiency of the students, but will still align with the history lessons in Notgrass Exploring America.

Required materials:

Homework: An assignment is due each week. These assignments generally rotate every three weeks between essay plans, outlines, and the essays themselves. We will read a new novel every three weeks.


Time: 9:00-10:30
Grades: 10-12
Class Fee: $350
Supply Fee: $50
Tutor: Donna Enoch

In the event that the COVID-19 pandemic affects our ability to meet in person in a classroom, I will make the following adjustments to this class. Tutor and students will meet at the scheduled class time via a video chat service. Assignments can be submitted electronically, and feedback will be provided electronically. Our goal is to meet in person as soon as it is feasible. We may begin classroom meetings at any point during the school year as the COVID-19 situation resolves