Close this search box.


Senior High English

The St. Ambrose English Curriculum, building upon the skills taught in Junior High, trains students to appreciate, analyze, and discuss timeless treasures of literature. Students learn not only how to discuss a work of literary art but how to specifically do literary analysis in a wide range of genres as they work through the cycles from Homer to Hemingway. These lively conversations are partnered with a robust writing curriculum that not only prepares students for college writing – essays, literary papers, and essay exams – but also composition in a variety of forms such as speech, editorial, poetry, and more. 

The program progresses from an emphasis on form in 9th and 10th grade to an emphasis on rhetoric, argumentation, and persuasion in 11th and 12th. By graduation, students should also have mastery of the MLA style guide and be able to write a full-length analysis paper using multiple works.

What are the Four Cycles?

Click here for a brief overview of the four cycles of our senior high curriculum!

Cycle I: Ancient

Cycle I immerses students in the worlds of Ancient Greece and Rome, reading the core texts of Homer and Vergil, along with a study of Greek Tragedy, and the use of Ancient themes/characters in Shakespeare. The focus of discussion is on the heroic traditions of Greece and Rome with a study of the literary techniques of each oral tradition. A study of Aristotle’s perspective on Greek Tragedy is also included. In English I, students practice writing an academic essay with an organized argument towards a thesis – for 9th graders it is a first introduction focusing on form, and for 10th graders a repetitio year focusing on persuasion and style.

Cycle II: Medieval/Renaissance

Cycle II takes students through some of the seminal documents of the medieval period in Western Europe and into the Renaissance. Students read and discuss such works as Beowulf, The Song of Roland, and portions of The Canterbury Tales, The Fairie Queene, and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Cycle II offers an opportunity to focus on allegory, irony, and figurative language, so rich during this period, along with the various genres of “Errant Knights” and “Courtly Love” and Christian epic poetry. In English II, students practice writing an academic essay with an organized argument towards a thesis – for 9th graders it is a first introduction with a focus on form, and for 10th graders a repetitio year working more on persuasion and style.

Cycle III: American Literature/Poetry

Though poetry, like Shakespeare, is included in every Cycle, students spend a more protracted time studying the form of poetry (meter and rhyme-scheme) as well as writing their own poetry in Cycle III. Cycle III is also a study of American literature, and the effects of American culture on the development of literary genres and themes. Students read authors such as Mark Twain, Harper Lee, Nathaniel Hawthorn, and Flannery O’Connor. American literature also offers an appropriate focus on the rhetoric of public speaking and the style of editorial. Students both read and present speeches of various forms and write their own editorials. Students continue to work on academic writing, advancing from the essay to the full-length thesis paper and beginning to examine and practice new rhetorical devices. Final paper requirements depend upon grade level.

Cycle IV: Enlightenment/Modern

English IV marks the passage from the pre-Enlightenment worldview to the post-Enlightenment struggle with the loss of meaning. Additional texts are chosen to offer a literary study of themes from Cycle IV Religion and History. There is a particular emphasis of the “loss of God” in the post-Enlightenment period and the various responses in literature, from Tennyson to C.S. Lewis to G.K. Chesterton and Solzhenitsyn. In Cycle IV, students break out of the rigors of the standard academic essay to study rhetoric more formally and write more complex and convincing papers. Final paper requirements depend upon grade level.

English Honors IV

English Electives


This English class is an elective that juniors or seniors can choose in addition to the core English class. Shakespeare will be worth .5 credits for the year.

Quick Links

Course of Study Overview

What are the Four Cycles?

Junior High Course of Study

Learning Services