Course Syllabus

English 12 acp                                                                                               

Mr. McCullough                                                                                                                   Rm. 215  

Welcome to English 12 acp and what I expect will be a challenging and enriching experience for all of us.  Our journey together will be in the company of some of the most important writers in the western tradition.  We can’t help but learn a great deal from them, and, of course, from one another.  The success of the course, though, and the benefits you derive from it, will depend largely on your engagement, dedication and receptiveness.   

In English 12 acp you will immerse yourself in literature and ideas.  You will read and listen closely, think broadly and deeply and be open to new perspectives.  You will make relevant, discuss and write about what you conclude.  You will work to hone your powers of perception and self-expression.  You will respect and support your classmates.  You will give your responsibilities your best effort.  



You will come to class on time and prepared.   

You will be attentive, receptive and responsible, as well as courteous to and respectful of others.  

You will meet deadlines for all reading and writing assignments.  If you anticipate a problem, let me know.  Excuses after the fact will fall on unsympathetic ears.  One late waiver a quarter is available for written work to those who need it.     

You will adhere to the strictest tenets of academic and personal integrity.  The consequences of any transgression will be severe.         


You can expect an average of about forty pages of reading in preparation for each class meeting.  Anticipate unannounced quizzes on the readings, as well as exercises to encourage and assess your mastery of vocabulary and the craft of writing.  Absent students are responsible for making up promptly the work they missed.  Do not expect reminders from me.  


Grading will be based on a point system.  Your grade will be determined by what percentage the points you earned are of the total possible during each grading period.  The significance of an assignment will be reflected in the number of points it’s worth.  Papers and DEs will account for roughly 60% of your grade; engagement (participation, conscientiousness, diligence, receptiveness) about 20%.  Quizzes and other in-class experiences will comprise about 20%.  

Discussion Essays and Papers  

Discussion essays should be not less than 200 words, formal papers not less than 750.  (Your senior paper in the spring will be considerably longer.)  Late DEs will not be accepted for credit, late papers will be assessed a ten percent penalty a day.  All written work must be word-processed in a conventional font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins.  DEs must be more than just one paragraph.  To get full credit for a DE you must define the word that appears in parentheses with each assignment.  Papers must be accompanied by an assessment sheet.  

My email address is


Here's a link to a quick video describing the course...


Orange Syllabus One

9/6  Discussion: Louis Agassiz's fish and Robert Frost's "The Pasture."

9/7  Read Richard Wilbur's "Hamlen Brook" and Jane Kenyon's "Otherwise."

DE1: (discourse) Explain how "Hamlen Brook" could be read as a response to "Otherwise," or "Otherwise" to "Hamlen Brook."  As ever, be sure to support your assertions with specifics.

9/8  In class essay: John Lanchester's The Wall.

9/12  Today we'll begin our study of Homer's The Odyssey.

Read Books 1 and 5 of The Odyssey.

9/13  Read Books 9 and 10 of The Odyssey.

DE2: (savvy) What do we learn about Odysseus from his experiences with the Cyclops and Circe?

9/15  Read Books 11 and 12 of The Odyssey.

9/16  Read Books 13 and 19 of The Odyssey.

9/19  Read Books 20 and 21 of The Odyssey.

DE3: (edify) Using Odysseus as your primary example, explain how adventures serve to both test and define one's character.  As ever, be specific.

9/21  Read Books 22 and 23 of The Odyssey.

9/22  Read Book 24 of The Odyssey.

DE4: (precept) In what ways has Homer helped establish western civilization's version of the principles and ideals by which the individual defines and comports her- or himself?  As ever, support your assertions with specific evidence.

9/27  Today we'll begin our study of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

9/28  O Brother, Where Art Thou?, continued.

9/29  In class today we'll finish and discuss O Brother, Where Art Thou?

10/3  Read Ernest Hemingway's "Indian Camp" and "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" in In Our Time.

10/4  Read Hemingway's "The End of Something" and "The Three-Day Blow."

DE5: (contemplative) These are stories of loss.  What has Nick lost?  What has he learned about himself?  What has he learned about life?  Be specific.

10/7  Read "The Battler" and "Cross Country Snow."

10/11  Read "The Big Two-Hearted River, Parts I and II."

DE6: (catharsis)  "There had been this to do.  Now it was done.  It had been a hard trip.  He was very tired.  That was done.  He had made his camp.  He was settled.  Nothing could touch him.  It was a good place to camp.  He was there, in the good place.  He was in his home where he had made it."  Explain.

10/13  Read to page 42 (through "got to be there.") of James Dickey's Deliverance.

10/17  Read to page 89 (through "...turning on the light.") of Deliverance.

DE7: (audacity) What do the men hope to find on their adventure?  Be specific.

10/18  Read to page 131 (through "...going with it.) of Deliverance.

10/20  Read to page 178 (through " the purpose.") of Deliverance.

10/21  Read to page 232 (through "...I had told him.") of Deliverance.

10/24  Finish reading Deliverance.

DE8: (vindicate)  Explain the novel's title.

Today we'll begin our study of the film version of Deliverance.

10/26  Today we'll continue the film version of Deliverance.

10/27  Today we'll finish our study of Deliverance, novel and film.

10/31  Paper #1: An expanded and polished DE1, DE2, DE3, DE4, DE7 or DE8; or an analysis of one (or more) of the Nick Adams stories, open topic; or an assessment of the film version of Deliverance as an adaptation of the novel.

In class we'll examine an excerpt from Frederick Douglass' memoir.

11/1  Today we'll begin our study of William Shakespeare's (purportedly) Hamlet with Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 film version.  Get started on the reading.  The play is challenging in many ways, and we'll be moving quickly once we get rolling--so bear down and be alert.

11/3  Today we'll continue our study of Zeffirelli's film.

11/7  Today we'll finish and discuss the film and begin our study of the text of the play.

11/8  Finish reading Act I of Hamlet.

DE9: (melancholy) "Time is out of joint.  O cursed spite,/That ever I was born to set it right!"  Explain.

11/10  Read Hamlet, Act II.

11/14  Read Hamlet, Act III.

DE10: (rancor) Explain Hamlet's displeasure with Ophelia.  Is it fair?  Why?  As ever, support your assertions with specific evidence from the text.

11/15  Read Hamlet, Act IV.

11/17  Read Hamlet, Act V.

11/18  Today we'll continue our examination of Hamlet.

Your recitation of the "To be..." speech is due today, 7:00-3:30.

11/22  Today we will conclude our study of Hamlet.

DE11: (aver) " my cause aright/To the unsatisfied," says Hamlet.  What does he mean and why is it important?

11/29  In class today we'll examine Philip Larkin's "Aubade," Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins..." Mary Oliver's "In Blackwater Woods," Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," Derek Mahon's "Everything Is Going To Be All Right," and Jane Kenyon's "Let Evening Come."

11/30  Read Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat." 

DE12: (vexation) "When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples."  Explain.

12/2  Read Edith Wharton's "Roman Fever."

12/5  Paper #2 is due today: an expanded and polished DE(, DE10, DE11 or DE12; or a close analysis of a character, passage or theme in Hamlet; or an analysis of any of the poems we've studied recently; or an analysis of "Roman Fever."

In class we'll begin our study of Thornton Wilder's Our Town

12/8  Read Act II of Our Town.

12/9  Read Act III of Our Town.

12/12  Today we'll conclude our study of Our Town.

DE13: (transient) What does Emily come to realize in revisiting her life?

12/14  Today we'll begin our study of Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life.

12/15  Today we'll continue our study of It's A Wonderful Life.

12/19  Today we'll finish and discuss It's A Wonderful Life.

DE14: (antecedents)  What are the antecedents of George's frustrations?  As ever, be sure to support your claims with specifics.

12/20  In class today you'll be writing about Our Town and It's A Wonderful Life.

12/21  Today we'll brace ourselves for the Vocabulary Olympics.

12/23  The Vocabulary Olympics.

1/3  Today we'll scrutinize T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

1/5  Read Nikos Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek through chapter three.

1/6  Read Zorba the Greek through chapter six.

1/9  Read Zorba the Greek through chapter nine.

1/11  Read Zorba the Greek chapters 10-12.

1/12  Read Zorba the Greek chapters 13-16.

1/13  Read Zorba the Greek chapters 17-20.

1/18  Read Zorba the Greek chapters 21-23.

1/19  Finish Zorba the Greek.

In class today you'll be writing about the novel.

1/23  Today we'll begin Michael Cacoyannis' film version of Zorba the Greek.

1/25  Today we'll continue Cacoyannis' film.

1/26  Today we'll finish and discuss the film.

1/30  In class today you'll be writing about the novel and the film.

1/31  Read Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard To Find."

2/2  Read O'Connor's "Good Country People."

2/6  Read O'Connor's "A Stroke of Good Fortune."

2/7  Read O'Connor's "The Life You Save May Be Your Own."

2/9  Paper #3 is due today: an appreciation or critique of Zorba, his attitudes, philosophies and behavior; or an examination of the thematic consistencies of the four O'Connor short stories.

In class we'll begin our study of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

2/10  Read Act I of The Merchant of Venice.

2/13  Read Act II of The Merchant of Venice.

2/15  Read Act III of The Merchant of Venice.

2/16  Read Act IV of The Merchant of Venice.

Your recitation is due today: Shylock's speech in Act III, Scene i, from "...he hath disgraced me..." to " we not die?"

2/27  Finish reading The Merchant of Venice.

2/28  In class today you'll be writing about the play.

3/2  Today we'll begin our study of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

3/6  Finish reading section one of Heart of Darkness.

3/7  Read section two of Heart of Darkness.

3/9  Finish reading Heart of Darkness.

In class today you'll be writing about the novella.

3/10  Read T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men."

3/13  Today we'll begin our study of Francis Ford Coppola's film Apocalypse Now.

3/15  In class today we'll continue our study of Apocalypse Now

3/16  Today we'll finish and discuss Apocalypse Now.

3/20  In class today you'll be writing about Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now

3/21  Read Tim O'Brien's "The Sweetheart Of The Song Tra Bong."

3/22  Read O'Brien's "The Things They Carried."

3/24  Read O'Brien's "How To Tell A True War Story."

3/27  Read O'Brien's "The Man I Killed" and "Ambush."

DE22: (conundrum) Explain: "Even now I haven't finished sorting it out.  Sometimes I forgive myself, other times I don't.  In the ordinary hours of life I try not to dwell on it, but now and then, when I'm reading a newspaper or just sitting alone in a room, I'll look up and see the young man coming out of the morning fog."

3/28  Read Robert Olin Butler "Fairy Tale."

Today we'll discuss the story, and you'll be given the official Senior Paper assignment.  It's due May 1.

3/29  Have at least the first two chapters of Dear America finished by today.

3/31  Read chapters three and four of Dear America.

DE23: (epistle) Choose a letter in Dear America and explain why it struck you.

4/3  Read chapters five and six of Dear America.

4/4  Paper #4: The Merchant of Venice/Heart of Darkness/oppression/bigotry/the war in Vietnam/Apocalypse Now/The Things They Carried/Dear America...  What from these have we learned about ourselves?  What can be done about it?

4/10  Read Jhumpa Lahiri's "A Temporary Matter."

4/11  Read Lahiri's "When Mr. Prizada Came to Dine."

DE24: (sanguine) What is Lahiri suggesting with this story?

4/13  Read Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies."

4/14  Read Lahiri's "Mrs. Sen's."

4/24  Read the Mary Oliver poems.

DE25: (erudite) Choose a Mary Oliver poem and explain why you chose it.  What is she saying and why is it important?

4/26  Read the Billy Collins poems.

4/27  Favorite Poem Day.  Please bring a copy of your favorite poem for everyone in the class.  Be prepared to explain your choice.

DE26: (zeal) Explain why your favorite poem is your favorite poem.

5/1  Your Senior Paper is due today.  In class we'll continue with your favorite poems.

5/2  Senior Presentations begin today.

Jimmy Woods, Nico Whiteley, Nahom Tsegaye

5/4  More Senior Presentations.

Payton Temple, Brooke Rosedale, Ali Riad

5/8  More Senior Presentations.

Aidan Ortiz, Mikey Messore, Caroline McInnish

5/9  More Senior Presentations.

Matthew Malone, Cooper Kennedy, Eshan Jain

5/11  More Senior Presentations.

JJ Jacobs, Charlotte Foreman, Yoav Feingold

5/12  More Senior Presentations.

Katie Cunningham, Lillie Caiazzo, Anup Acharya

5/15  DE27: (penultimate) Of all the works we studied this year, which had the biggest impact on you?  Why?

In class today we'll begin our study of Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You.

5/16  Today we'll continue You Can't Take It With You.

5/19  Today we'll finish and discuss You Can't Take It With You.

DE The Last: (jubilant). What will you take with you when you leave high school?  What will you leave behind?

5/22  Aloha.


Course Summary:

Date Details Due