American Literature

This 30-week class is for students in grades 9-12 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. The persuasive essay is a regular requirement at the college level.

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. If an opportunity arises, we may 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.

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
  • Other novels chosen by the tutor (and students!)

***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: $400
Supply Fee: $50
Tutor: Donna Enoch