Departments & Courses


SHC graduation requirement: Four years required; UC/CSU Admissions requirement: Four years required

Our Mission

Inspired by the global literary canon, the SHC English Department teaches students to find their own voice and to develop critical literacy so that they become passionate readers, articulate writers, and lifelong contributors to their communities.

English Department Goals

The SHC English Department educates students to:

  • Read broadly, deeply and joyfully.
  • Demonstrate understanding of ethical implications in literature.
  • Develop clear personal voice.
  • Effectively analyze written, spoken and graphic literature and rhetoric.
  • Create meaningful independent and collaborative compositions, projects and presentations.
  • Participate in the world of ideas.

A Note Regarding Junior/Senior English Selectives:

Juniors and seniors select one of following paths to fulfill SHC graduation requirements and UC/CSU admissions requirements. Please note that not every selective will be offered every semester. Click here to see previews of two English selectives, Asian American Literature and Magical Realism.

Fall 2023: Asian-American Literature, Irish Literature, Literature and Science, Modernist Literature

Spring 2024: Graphic Novels, Speculative Fiction, Poetry, Magical Realism

Fall 2024: Literature of the 5th Century BCE, Revolutionary Women's Literature, African-American Lit, Literature and Science

Spring 2025: Poetry, Shakespeare, Magical Realism, Modernist Literature


  1. Choose four semester-long courses from those listed below. Be sure to select two courses that you will enjoy since you may not always get your first choice.
  2. Choose AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition, which are both yearlong courses. These are limited enrollment courses; please see prerequisites below.
  3. Choose AP Language and Composition or AP Literature and Composition for your junior or senior year, or take Expository Reading and Writing for senior year; take two semester-long selectives for the other year.
  4. Take Expository Reading and Writing and AP Literature and Composition. 
  5. In addition to the two required years of upper division English, take any of the semester-long selectives as electives.

The Emerald

The Emerald newspaper continues a proud tradition begun in 1922 as SHC’s source of news, sports, opinion and campus life. The SHC Emerald Club, in association with the other media clubs such as Sports Media and The Shamrock, creates a monthly newspaper about the events at SHC, in the city, and in the nation. Reporters cover school events, athletic results, and local issues. Editorials comment on local and national debates. The paper provides a forum for focused, unbiased reporting as well as sound, logical arguments concerning the issues of students’ lives. Students who work on The Emerald will demonstrate solid commitment to creating an excellent publication.

Courses in this Department

This semester length course will examine several classic African American writers, with a particular eye towards the use of writing to address social change, oppression, and the examination of the self as an individual. We will begin by positioning African American literature within an American literary history. Specifically, we will consider models of storytelling that shape African American narratives. We will consider African Americans’ understandings of themselves in narratives, as well as the ways in which they have historically been understood in the American popular imagination. Finally we will dissect not only the historical and political contexts of the works, but also the ways in which issues of gender, sexuality, and class  inform the works.

Prerequisites: English 1-4.

This course aligns with an introductory college-level rhetoric and writing curriculum, focusing on the development and revision of evidence-based analytic and argumentative writing, the rhetorical analysis of nonfiction texts, and the decisions writers make as they compose and revise. Students evaluate, synthesize, and cite research to support their arguments. Additionally, they read and analyze rhetorical elements and their effects in nonfiction texts —including images as forms of text — from a range of disciplines and historical periods.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: Either 1) A cumulative 3.5 GPA in all previous English courses or AP Potential Score and a writing sample from the English Department test-in or 2) an "A" in the first semester of an AP English course or English Selective.

Surveying western literature, this writing-intensive course focuses on college-level literary analysis. Taught like a college class, the course includes close reading of sophisticated texts, an examination of narrative style and structure, and an extensive review of poetic technique.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: Either 1) A cumulative 3.5 GPA in all previous English courses or AP Potential Score and a writing sample from the English Department test-in  or 2) an "A" in the first semester of an AP English course or English Selective.

This course explores the literary, geographical, political, and cultural influence of setting and authorial background on narrative, content and style. What happens to narrative voice when we cross oceans? How can stories honor our ancestors and ourselves? What do we do when our hearts belong to two or even three countries? This course surveys short stories, poetry, memoirs, and brief nonfiction writings by Asian American authors, as well as writing by authors from China, India, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Besides enjoying vibrant prose, students will refine their college level skills in oral and written discourse, as well as closely examine the issue of narrative perspective.

Prerequisites: English 1-4.

This course’s study of archetypal literature provides a basic understanding of the writer’s craft. English 1,2 teaches vocabulary and grammar through context and application. Students compose creative writing inspired by the literature as well as practice the composition of timed essays and the process method for basic three-part explanatory, contrast and problem-solving essays. Throughout the course, students employ literary terminology in text-centered verbal and written discourse. Note: students in the DePaul Scholar and I2 Programs will have a summer assignment in this course.

Incorporating service learning and highlighting the immigrant experience, students build upon their skills from English 1,2 with a greater focus on poetry and drama. Students will engage with a variety of perspectives surrounding the themes of epiphany, adolescence, morality, and ethnicity as they strengthen their critical literacy and writing abilities.  

English 3,4 Honors explores all the topics covered in English 3,4, but in greater depth and intensity. Students read more and at a more rapid pace; students write more challenging and more frequent essays. This course is designed to prepare underclass students for the English advanced placement program.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: 1) Either an A in English 1 or an evidence-based reading and writing (ERW) score in the top quartile of the PSAT 8,9 AND 2) A writing sample from the English Department test-in.

Designed by university faculty, the Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC) is a college preparatory, rhetoric-based English language arts course designed to develop academic literacy, or advanced proficiency in rhetorical and analytical reading, writing, and thinking. Student performance in this course is a primary factor used to determine entry level English placement in the CSU and UC systems. NOTE: as of 2023-24, ERWC is reserved for 12th graders only. 

Prerequisites: Three years of English.

More than a form of communication for the Irish people, language is often a means for playing a verbal game and for creating an identity. As anyone who has attempted it will no doubt attest, mundane conversation with an Irish person is virtually impossible. Irish writers are renowned for their satirical accounts of life in a war-torn, impoverished nation. This course will examine several classic Irish works, with a particular eye toward the use of humor as a means for coping with oppression and depression. Prerequisites:  English 1-4.

Journalism is the systematic gathering, interpreting, processing and disseminating of information, opinion and entertainment for publication. This course is an academic subject requiring substantial reading and writing. Legal, ethical and sociological aspects of journalism come under intense scrutiny. Students learn many aspects of newspaper and magazine journalism, including reporting, interviewing, feature and investigative writing, new journalism techniques, editing, computer layout and design. Note: As an elective, this course does not count toward the English graduation requirements. It is offered block 7 or 8.

Prerequisites: Students must be 10th, 11th, or 12th graders with a cumulative 2.5 GPA in all previous English courses.

Note: As an elective, this course does not count toward the English graduation requirements. 

What does it mean to be human? How much control do we humans have over our physical and mental capacities, or over our external world? Does technology allow us to play God? Literature and Science seeks to define what it means to be human by examining classic and contemporary literature that explores bioethical issues. Based in texts such as Shelly’s Frankenstein, Hawthorne’s "The Birthmark", Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, students explore and debate some of the most provocative political and moral issues of our time.  As young adults, as emergent voters in the biotech hub Bay Area, as students at a Catholic school, and ultimately as human beings, our students will be asked to understand and to decide an array of bioethical issues. Though it will not manufacture answers, this course will stimulate ethical inquiry through narrative as well as hone literary and writing skills.

Prerequisites:  English 1-4.

The “Golden Age of Athens” has a rightful claim as the basis of western civilization; architecture, sculpture, art, politics, philosophy, and drama flowered in this brief period of history. This course will try to form a picture of life in the “Golden Age” of the Greeks from the fragments we have left. How can imagination fill in missing pieces of this historical puzzle? Students will study the dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes in context of the Festival for Dionysius as well as the chronologies of Herodotus (“the Father of History”) and Thucydides. Students will also take a look at the major characters that shaped this protean period of time: Pericles, Socrates (via Plato), Themistocles, and Phidias among others. Students will then finally contemplate a new question: why does this classic era still influence today’s postmodern world? 

Prerequisites: English 1-4.

Before humankind invented written language, we told stories with pictures, evidenced by the crude drawings found on caves walls in southern France and Spain. As written language evolved and became the preferred medium for storytelling, visual storytelling persisted through church windows, tapestries, oil paintings and comic texts, maintaining an important role in the transmission of the stories of the people by whom and for whom they were created. Ours is an era of increasingly complex visualization with the use of digital technologies and the proliferation of these images via the Internet.How well do we understanding the medium of visuals for storytelling? In this course, students will learn the vocabulary of graphic novels and examine how graphic novels build the interpretive skills students already know about works of fiction and non-fiction. Readings will include texts that showcase the possibilities of graphic novels to tell a story, convey historical knowledge, offer commentary on the human condition and more. While the majority of assessments will be written in text-only language, students will have an opportunity to create their own short-length graphic stories.Prerequisites: English 1-4.

This course explores the genre of literature known as Magical Realism, and requires readers to willingly suspend their disbelief of the fantastic and supernatural, and instead accept as the framework in which to understand very real world situations. The artistic genre emerged in Latin America as a subversive means to give voice to the marginalized and disenfranchised. To that end, this selective focuses on the work of Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende, and13 contemporary American Indian writers. Students will continue to refine their skills in oral and written discourse, as well as closely examine the genre and its impact.

The word “modernism” implies a self-conscious break from the past. In the United States and Europe, from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the ache of modernism was so fervent in literature, art, philosophy and architecture that the era took this “modern” name. While engaging with the era’s poets and authors, students will examine this break from the past and the impact it has had on literature as a whole. Students will then examine modernism as a specific era of history and analyze the wave of modernism in other branches of expression. Prerequisites: English 1-4.

Poetry asks students to engage deeply with a broad expanse of poems, building upon knowledge and skills learned in earlier English courses. This course will examine the elements of poetry - images, figures of speech, tone, symbols, allegory, sounds, patterns, and rhythm. Students will read diverse poets and various genres to glean patterns, style and approaches, as they develop their unique voice and create their own poetry. Since poetry is a medium that appeals simultaneously to the intellect and the senses, and should be read aloud and heard to be fully enjoyed, students will engage in myriad independent and collaborative activities involving sound and sense. Prerequisites: English 1-4.

Revolutionary Women’s Literature takes a scholarly approach to the appreciation and understanding of the impact American female writers have made on American literature and social history. The course examines the challenges these literary pioneers overcame through analysis of the intersection of their personal lives and the social issues that inspired their work. While disparate in style and subject matter, Dickinson, Chopin, Hurston and Hellman all flouted convention to promote the causes of women and other disempowered Americans.

Prerequisites: English 1-4.

The completion of this course will develop the student’s Shakespearean eye and ear through poetry and drama, and the study of William Shakespeare, the person within his historical context. Since even a year-long university course would have difficulty examining the entirety of Shakespeare’s works (38 plays, 154 sonnets and other long poems), this semester course does not aim to digest the whole of Shakespeare at once or promise the mastery of Shakespeare, but rather provides an in-depth sampling of each of the three categories of plays (history, comedy and tragedy) originally presented in the First Folio, along with a tasting of some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Shakespearean drama was meant to be seen and heard; while our postmodern world offers us the convenience of Shakespeare’s works in text format, participation as both an audience member and as an actor will be essential to the completion of this course. Putting drama into action will also help students imagine the motivation of the playwright, actor and audience member during Shakespeare’s time. 

Prerequisites: English 1-4.

This course takes a scholarly approach to the appreciation and understanding of classic science fiction. Far from the light sabers and scaly monsters of pop/genre fiction, this course presents an argument for speculative literature as one of the most cogent, serious and exciting literary forms in modern times. The course examines the history and evolution of speculative literature from its origins in ancient folklore through its golden age and onward to its contemporary forms, with special attention to such enduring sci-fi motifs as technological innovation, robotics, alien contact, time and space travel, human evolution and apocalypse. Prerequisites:  English 1-4.

This course explores the literary, geographical, political, and cultural influence that land and place can have on narrative, content and style. It then dives into questions that offer multiple answers. How do place and culture shape us? What can we glean about our shared humanity from reading stories from other regions and cultures? While not attempting to span all parts of the globe in one semester, this course surveys short stories, poetry, and novels from all continents. Besides enjoying vibrant prose, students will refine their college level skills in oral and written discourse, as well as closely examine the issue of narrative perspective.

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