In the richness of its course offerings, its small classes typically conducted in a seminar format, and its emphasis on writing and discussion, the department of English exemplifies the academic rigor and standards of excellence found across the Deerfield curriculum. English classes at Deerfield develop students’ ability to use and appreciate the English language. All courses stress careful reading, responsible thinking, and clear, precise expression of ideas. Students study works representing a broad range of historical and cultural perspectives, with a particular emphasis during the sophomore and junior years on British and American literature.
Students also share their talents and develop their poise in required declamatory experiences. As freshmen, students orally interpret a short story in a prepared reading. Sophomores present a memorized excerpt from any work of literary merit. Juniors write essays on American experiences or themes of their own choosing and then speak the piece from memory. Seniors construct longer essays called meditations, reflections linking personal experience to something larger in the world. The reading of selected meditations at school meetings in the spring is an important Deerfield tradition.
Numerous opportunities to publish work exist in such student publications as Albany Road, Deerfield’s literary magazine. In addition, the department publishes its own volume of prize-winning and exemplary student writing, Little Brown House Review. The department often hosts an actor or writer-in-residence and offers special study opportunities abroad, most recently during spring break at Oxford University for seniors in the department’s Honors Oxford course.
Believing that reading remains one of life’s great pleasures and an important means of broadening students’ horizons of knowledge and experience, the faculty assigns summer reading books, paving the way for themes and coursework students will encounter in their upcoming year.