Great Reads at Milton
by Louisa Moore on Friday, October 5th, 2012
Barely three weeks have passed since school started, and students are already bogged down with work, sports, and extracurriculars. Summer vacation seems like ages ago! While Milton students take a wide and diverse range of classes, all students must take English during each of their four years at Milton. As a freshman, everyone takes the same Class IV English course, so conversations often focus on the same books. But as students move on to Class I, II, and III, English course choices become more varied.
I enjoyed Class IV English, but it was an adjustment from middle school, where I had never really written an analytical essay. Looking at my bookshelf, three works stand out: Othello (the freshmen required read), East of Eden (the summer reading), and Master Harold…and the boys. Although I enjoyed these works, I had not quite developed the love for English that I have today. The content and characters seemed vivid to my ninth-grade mind, but margin notes and analytical thinking had not yet become a part of my approach to reading.
As a sophomore, I took “Foundations of Literature”, a course that moves chronologically through the founding works of literature. After a brief introduction to some poems and short stories, we jumped into The Iliad, Homer’s epic about the Trojan War, Hector, and Achilles. As a Latin student, I was already familiar with the story, allowing me to appreciate the language and characters more. I could make connections with the Aeneid, Virgil’s epic, which I was translating into Latin at the same time. From there, we continued through other classics, including the sophomore texts, the Oedipus Cycle and Macbeth. I enjoyed them greatly and began seeing references to the texts everywhere.
After January exams, Mr. McCloskey went on sabbatical, and Mrs. Zilliax, who retired last year, began to steer us through a series of plays: Pygmalion, Equus, Six Degrees of Separation, and A Soldier’s Play. I especially loved Six Degrees of Separation and Equus. The characters, plots, and language in both works were so powerful and exciting that homework reading became something I looked forward to. To finish the year, we read more modern day novels, few of which I enjoyed as much. One of my less-favored reads was Their Eyes Were Watching God. Written in the 1930s, the book had some difficult dialogue; it took me a few nights to figure out that “g’wan” meant “go on.”
Last March, I found that one of the most difficult parts of choosing an English course was that all the options seemed so appealing. I wound up taking “American Literature.” I figured that I would like it because The Great Gatsby, one of the summer reading books, was one of my favorite reads. It was the first book we discussed this year, and afterwards, I appreciated it even more. Toni Morrison’s Sula, one of the summer reading books, became a new favorite. Now we are reading Nathaniel Hawthorn’s The Scarlet Letter. However, I guess I have to read Their Eyes Were Watching God again! Hopefully I will like it better the second time around.
The options for English courses offered at Milton are great. After having a more generic experience in Class IV English, it is nice to branch out from what your peers are studying and find the books and classes that intrigue you. It is great to hear people talk about different books in the hallways or student center. Whatever course you take, the English courses and teachers at Milton continue to leave their marks through the books they assign.
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