Academics
Academic Departments

English Department

We think of Shakespeare as a writer, but he was formatively a reader of books and life. It was said of Shakespeare that he could get more from a single book than most people could from the whole British Museum. He mastered the art of absorption and synthesis, the ability to read and appreciate and, with that knowledge, make something new. These are our goals in the VES English department. And Shakespeare was a man of the world too—not just academically inclined. So when one reads Shakespeare, one finds everything from references to curing leather (his father was a glove maker) to legal terms he picked up likely while suing his neighbors. Literature ought to include everything, and it does at VES, where material ranges from the classics to modern best sellers to the students’ own lives and experiences.

Books help give you something to say, and they help you learn to say it well. The VES English program intensively promotes writing, whether in formal essays about literature or personal narratives. We believe that in reading we might discover the world; and in writing, we might reintroduce the world to itself.
  • English 9: Culture and Identity

    Prerequisites: None. Open to 9th grade students.

    Focused on the theme of Culture and Identity, students in English 9 read literature from around the world, working to understand what makes different cultures distinctive and also to see the qualities of humanity that transcend place. Students learn to read, think and write with enthusiasm and skill, and develop scholarly habits in group discussions and team projects. This course asks students to strive to ask excellent questions, think critically about themes and literary devices and express their ideas with strong supporting evidence, clarity and style. By the end of the year, students will be on their way toward mastering the analytical essay and developing their authorial voice.
  • English 10: Communities and Power

    Prerequisite: English 9. Open to 10th grade students.

    Students will gain appreciation for how groups develop, thrive and sometimes falter through the close appreciation of literature. The class, centered around the theme of Communities and Power, explores the differences in varying community structures—the individuals, the insiders, the outsiders, the families, the leaders, the honorable, loyal and corrupt. Through a variety of novels, short stories, plays and poems, students explore the manifestations of power in their own writing and their own role in shaping and developing their communities, macro and micro.
  • American Writers

    Prerequisites: English 9 and 10. Open to 11th grade students. Students in other grade levels require approval of the Department Chair to enroll.

    American Writers explores the literature of the United States through the lens of a variety of literary and philosophical movements that occurred throughout the nation’s history, from the Enlightenment up to Post- Modernism. The essential questions students will attempt to answer over the course of the semester include: How do you see yourself? How do you see your world? What is your journey? How do writers and literary movements attempt to answer these questions? Students will hear from a wide variety of American voices, and write a number of response papers, which are a mix of analytical and personal. The summative project is an autobiographical portfolio, in which students present their own answers to the above questions, including how their answers are influenced by and relate to American literary movements. This autobiography is then provided to College Counseling.
  • AP English Language and Composition

    Prerequisites: 
    1. Support of the department and recommendation of the English teacher, which emphasizes the literacy and working knowledge student’s demonstrated interest in reading and writing well
    2. Average grade of 90 or higher in the student’s current English class
    3. PSAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 550 or higher (or an equivalent score on the SAT, Pre-ACT or ACT)
    4. Satisfactory writing sample
    5. Scores > 3 on any previous AP exams

    Meet all criteria—Approved
    Meet 4 of 5 criteria—Approval Likely
    Meet 3 of 5 criteria—Approval Unlikely
    Meet < 2 of 5 criteria—Not Approved

    AP Language & Composition prepares students for writing at the college level. Through extensive writing practice and reading of essays by professional writers, students will develop their own style and gain greater confidence in their ability to express themselves in writing. Students will learn various forms of composition: the definition essay, the descriptive essay, the narrative essay, the expository essay, the persuasive essay and the critical review. Students also will practice the college application essay. This course prepares students to take the AP Language & Composition exam. The primary objectives are for students to take joy in what they read and delight in what they write.
     
  • AP English Literature and Composition

    Prerequisites: 
    1. Support of the department and recommendation of the English teacher, which emphasizes the literacy and working knowledge student’s demonstrated interest in reading and writing well
    2. Average grade of 90 or higher in the student’s current English class
    3. PSAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 550 or higher (or an equivalent score on the SAT, Pre-ACT or ACT)
    4. Satisfactory writing sample
    5. Scores > 3 on any previous AP exams

    Meet all criteria—Approved
    Meet 4 of 5 criteria—Approval Likely
    Meet 3 of 5 criteria—Approval Unlikely
    Meet < 2 of 5 criteria—Not Approved

    The primary goal of the AP Literature & Composition class is to develop students’ abilities as independent readers and writers through a college- level course during their senior year. This course is both demanding and intellectually stimulating. It requires a student’s best effort consistently and puts emphasis upon developing independence of thought and mature habits of critical thinking. Classroom discussion and active participation are vital and serve as a means of testing ideas. Written assignments, both short and long, will be an important and frequent feature of the course. Selected pieces are both canonical and modern fiction and poetry, concentrating on learning to encounter new works and respond in an informed voice.
  • English Rhetoric & Composition

    Prerequisites: AP English Language and Composition or American Writers
     
    English Rhetoric and Composition will consider arguments in everyday life. Students will begin by taking a close look at the media around them to understand that rhetoric is an underlying aspect of television shows, social media, comics, fiction, newspapers, magazines and movies. Selections for discussion may cover politics, history, science and other cross-curricular topics. Students will respond to these arguments by composing their own arguments through a variety of media. After identifying persuasion at work, students will study the types and composition of various types of arguments and use these methods to compose their own. Completion of this course will require a researched argument essay. This course will prepare students for college-level reading, response and essay compositions that make clear, well-reasoned arguments across disciplines.   
       
  • English Seminar: Book Design and Literature

    Prerequisites: Open primarily to 12th graders. Students in other grade levels require approval of the Department Chair to enroll.

    Students enrolled in this course will become masters of a particular classic work of literature in the public domain (published before 1923). Examples include Peter Pan, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Black Beauty, The Secret Garden, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and so forth. They will study this work intensely, demonstrating their knowledge through discussion, analysis and written reflections. Afterward, students will conceive, design and create a new edition of this book.

    Along the way, students will study many examples of iconic as well as esoteric book design and illustration. Postmodern novels and artist’s books will be analyzed closely for both literary and aesthetic merit as students consider the book as an artistic medium. Further study will include contemporary publishing houses such as MinaLima and Visual- Editions. The dynamic, intertextual relationship between visual artists and authors will be highlighted and studied throughout the year through critical essays, biographies, poetry, film and images. Students will write and illustrate frequently and in a wide variety of genres, as they analyze and illuminate the texts they encounter. Class also will include field trips and guest speakers.
  • English Seminar: Classical Literature and Contemporary Adaptations

    Prerequisites: American Writers or AP English Language & Composition

    Students will study classic literature and equivalent modern adaptations in various types of media. Students will learn literary analysis skills and apply these skills to literature and text. Units will begin with students reading the text and discussing themes and literary devices at work. Then, students will watch the modern film version and discuss these themes and literary devices again. After each unit, students will complete an analytical essay, a creative writing assignment or a project-based assignment. By the end of the course, students will have a lexicon for analysis of literature and media, will recognize literary tropes, will write creatively and analytically, and will be able to draw connections between classic literature and modern adaptations.
  • English Seminar: Literary Journalism

    Prerequisites: American Writers or AP English Language & Composition

    “In the broadest possible sense, writing well means to communicate clearly and interestingly and in a way that feels alive to the reader. Where there’s some kind of relationship between the writer and the reader—even though it’s mediated by a kind of text—there’s an electricity about it.” - David Foster Wallace

    Here, DFW seems to touch on the necessity of a contract drawn between writer and reader, where both act as conduits, where both feel the pulse of the other, where both effortlessly flow into the other, where both find synergy that is electric.

    In this course, we’ll focus on that synergy, that electricity, that jolt of the writer-reader current. The conduit for our electricity will be the world around us—VES, Lynchburg—as we attempt to capture life unfolding. We’ll explore the ordinary moments and the extraordinary moments of our lives in the cloistered, mountainous pocket we call home—from weekend moments to athletic contests, restaurant openings to movie premieres. If the moment is ordinary, we’ll make it extraordinary; if the moment is extraordinary, we’ll make it more extraordinary.

    We’ll explore how the essay can help us create the electricity DFW recognizes, by building a portfolio of work based on experiences at VES and in Lynchburg. We’ll model our approach after Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, David Foster Wallace, and many more.

Department Staff

  • Brian Campbell

    James W. Hopkins Chair of English/English Teacher/Head Coach, Distance Track
    434-385-3663
    Bowdoin College - B.A.
    Dartmouth College - M.A.
  • Melissa Csatlos

    Academic Dean and Director of College Counseling/ English Teacher
    434-385-3632
    Hamilton College - B.A.
    University of Virginia - M.Ed.
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  • Jason Knebel

    English Teacher/Coach, Boys Soccer/ Advisor, Honor Committee
    434-385-3839
    Lenoir-Rhyne University - B.A.
    Western Carolina University - M.A.
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  • Matthew LaFreniere

    Assistant Dean of Faculty; English Teacher; Coach, Boys Lacrosse
    434-385-3705
    University of Maine - B.A.
    Fairfield University - M.F.A.
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  • Kathryn Markunas

    English Teacher/ Head Coach, Swimming/ Coach, Girls Soccer
    434-385-3625
    Loyola University - B.A.
    Loyola University - M.A.T.
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  • William Rhem

    Coordinator of Global Initiatives/English and Spanish Teacher/ Coach, Boys Soccer, Boys Basketball
    434-385-3828
    Wofford College - B.A.
    Middlebury College - M.A.
    Columbia University - M.Ed.
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  • Alison Tuck

    English Teacher/ Advisor, The Vestige/ Coach, Drama
    434-385-3653
    Lynchburg College - B.A.
    Lynchburg College - M.A.
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A College Preparatory, Independent Boarding and Day School for Students in Grades 9-12
400 VES Road, Lynchburg, VA 24503 • 434.385.3600