Changes Afoot to English Course Requirements


All LS students are aware that in order to graduate, one must gain two credits worth of an American or British literature course, two credits of a world literature course, and two credits of a writing course. These requirements have been consistent for the past 40 years, but changes are coming in the 2022-2023 school year.

An interview with Mr. Conti, a member of the English faculty, who helped create the new requirements, brought insight into the upcoming changes. The English department has long required students to take both an American or British class and a “world literature” class. Mr. Conti explains that the requirement was structured in this manner to push students to explore topics they likely did not already know. “The concern was not that students wouldn’t take American literature,” he said. “It was that they wouldn’t move from what they know, and are familiar with, to literary traditions they weren’t familiar with.” The requirement for students to take a world literature class came from the English department wanting to ensure students branched out beyond what they already knew. 

The English department was ahead of it’s time when creating these prerequisites. Not only did they want students to have the opportunity to take a world literature class, but also they allowed students to choose from many options. This arrangement worked for years, Mr. Conti said, until the English Department took a look at “the unintended consequence” of the requirement. “[It] was not on anyone’s radar 40 years ago, as [it] is today—there’s American literature and British literature, and then there’s the rest of the world. This implies that American literature and British literature aren’t part of the world.” Mr. Conti also explained that it treats the rest of the world as a singular tradition, which it isn’t.  

With this issue now in mind, Mr. Conti explained, the department “decided [to] stop distinguishing between American literature and British literature, and the rest of the world.” In effect, this change places the US and UK alongside other countries rather than creating an artificial separation from the rest of world literature. 

There is no large shift in course selection envisioned, Mr. Conti states. Some have voiced the concern “that suddenly students wouldn’t read American literature, or American literature would just go away.” However, he does not anticipate this happening. What will happen is that if a student is taking a course that is traditionally focused on American or British literature, such as Analysis of Literature and Film, for example, Mr. Conti says, “they will now have a piece of world [literature or] cinema amidst the other American or British films that they study.”

The L-S School Committee approved this change last month, as its policies require any changes to graduation requirements be approved by a formal vote.  

Thanks to Mr. Conti, who took the time to speak with The Forum about the changes.