Students enroll in this course for a variety of reasons, but I hope that for each of you the love of literature is a central reason. I feel that I have worked out a good deal of who I am through reading. This process of finding my identity included (and includes): children's books, especially those with dark or mysterious underpinnings; Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, and the Three Investigators; comic books; fantasy and science fiction novels; coming-of-age novels; classic novels; newspaper, magazine, and Internet articles; essays; longer nonfiction works; plays; poems; short stories; and even works of literary criticism. Other media have been and continue to be influential, but the impact of, say, a two-hour movie may lessen after three days, whereas the impact of a novel may take three days to begin even to take hold! I also think about the places and circumstances in which I've read: lying in bed; under a Christmas tree; on car trips; at the dinner table; on porches; in airports; on planes; on the beach; at the pool; waiting in line; while my car is broken down; during storms; late at night when everyone is asleep and the merest sound downstairs struck a thrill up my spine; alone; lonely; happy; depressed; bored. You get the picture. You probably have your own list, but even if you don't you might recognize a photo of yourself with a book somewhere other than in a school desk. My sister, for example, was such an avid reader that when I once tried to get a pontoon boat unstuck from some weeds in a Wisconsin lake in 1986 and slipped under momentarily and unexpectedly, she didn't even move her head away from the book she was reading despite my parents' yells. Now that's a reader. (That may also exemplify a moral dilemma, but I digress….)
This course is built on the notion that literature is greater than the sum of its parts, but that knowing both the parts and the sum is crucial. Students of literature need to be conversant in the terms specific to its genres; they need to know something about the various critical approaches to literature; and they need to be familiar with the significant works of Western culture.
AP Lit will be challenging. You will read more than you probably ever have at one time in your life; you will write frequently, and many of the writing assignments will be complex, both conceptually and rhetorically; you will have to think and think hard about the world, yourself, and the nature of literature. As a result, you will at times feel frustrated, confused, or overwhelmed. But do not despair! I am convinced that as a result of your experiences in this class you will grow as a student of literature and as a human being.
The course will focus on the following broad, interconnected themes:
Unit One: Who Am I?The Search for Identity; Perception in Personal and Literary Contexts
A question every human faces it that of identity: one's self-definition encompassing values, interests, dreams, and perceptions. The shaping of a person's identity may happen in a burst, as when a leap in cognitive development occurs, a traumatic event imposes itself, or a profound changing experience happens. Additionally, a person's identity may change gradually, through conscious—and even unconscious—shaping. Then there is the rare individual whose identity is fixed at an early age and appears to be constant throughout his/her life. No matter the situation, most people spend some time searching, paradoxically, for themselves.
One vehicle facilitating the search for identity is literature. Authors experiment with point of view, style, and tone: elements in the quest for identity of characters within and also readers without. How to approach a text—how to discuss it, how to evaluate it, how to use it—are issues for any readers hoping to know both the text and themselves.
•Who and what gives us our identity?
•What happens when identities collide?
•How do different ways of seeing a text (i.e., critical lenses) affect one's sense of self?
•What role does language play in shaping and/or revealing identity?
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
Additional poems, short stories, and/or essays
Independent Reading Options One text is required each semester. You should read one book from either this list or the Unit Two Independent Reading Assignment (IRA) list by December 5. [Assignment sheet given separately.] Sherman Alexie. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Russell Banks. Rule of the Bone
T.C. Boyle. Drop City
Willa Cather. My Antonia
Michael Chabon. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
J. M. Coetzee. The Life and Times of Michael K or Elizabeth Costello
Douglas Coupland. Generation X
Phillip K. Dick. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Michael Dorris. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
William Faulkner. Light in August
Jonathan Safran Foer. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close or Everything is Illuminated
Thomas Hardy. Jude the Obscure
Robert Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land
Henrik Ibsen. A Doll's House
Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of the Day
Henry James. The Portrait of a Lady
Gish Jen. Typical American
Charles Johnson. Middle Passage
Milan Kundera. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Nella Larsen. Passing
Malcolm Lowry. Under the Volcano
Colum McCann. Zoli
Rick Moody. The Ice Storm
Toni Morrison. Sula or Tar Baby
V. S. Naipaul. Miguel Street
Gloria Naylor. The Women of Brewster Place
Tim O'Brien. Tomcat in Love
Kenzaburo Oe. The Silent Cry
Annie Proulx. The Shipping News
Thomas Pynchon. The Crying of Lot 49
Richard Rodriguez. Hunger of Memory
Amy Tan. The Joy Luck Club
David Foster Wallace. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Unit Two: What is Truth? Narrative Traditions; Illusion and Reality
"Truth" includes both metaphysical and narrative dimensions. How to live an authentic life is the central metaphysical concern; how to read a narrative in which past/present/future merge, retellings of the same event occur, and ambiguity reigns supreme, are its narrative concerns. Additionally, language can be used to hide truth as well as to illuminate it.
•What is truth? Is it absolute or relative?
•What is the relationship between language and truth?
•How willing are we to embrace truth?
•What if a "truth" impels us to violate an essential element of our self-concept?
•Do texts present truths and also undermine them?
Choice of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
Additional poems, short stories, and/or essays
Independent Reading Options
Margaret Atwood. The Blind Assassin
John Barth. The Sot-Weed Factor
Italo Calvino. Invisible Cities or If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Truman Capote. In Cold Blood
Don DeLillo. Libra
E. L. Doctorow. Ragtime
William Faulkner. Absalom, Absalom or The Sound and the Fury
Ernest Gaines. A Gathering of Old Men
Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude; Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Dashiell Hammett. The Maltese Falcon
Herman Melville. Benito Cereno
Kazuo Ishiguro. An Artist of the Floating World or When We Were Orphans
Mario Vargas Llosa. The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta
Toni Morrison. Jazz; Beloved
Joyce Carol Oates. Expensive People
Tim O'Brien. In the Lake of the Woods
George Orwell. 1984
Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front
Jean Toomer. Cane
Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse Five
Virginia Woolf. To the Lighthouse
Unit Three: How do we make moral choices? The
Nature of Good and Evil and
What is the nature of a good life? Finding Purpose Beginning at the age of six or seven, people grapple with the issues of good and evil. The conscience—the moral sense—guides people in making judgments about actions, labeling some actions good and others evil. Historically, cultures have determined what is good and what is evil, codifying some of these decisions in laws or precepts. This unit will examine situations involving moral choices. It will challenge you to examine your own moral code.
Additionally, this unit will address the question all people face of how to live a meaningful existence. For some, "meaningful" means being financially secure; for others, it means adhering to family traditions and values; for still others, it means challenging the status quo or working within the system to enact change. For the existentialists, existence imposes the paradoxical burden of freedom: people have the challenge of creating their own meaning, apart from meanings prescribed for them by community, family, or country.
•What are good and evil? Is evil an intrinsic element of human nature?
•What happens when moral systems collide?
•What's the difference between sin and crime?
•How does narrative point of view affect the presentation of good and evil?
•What is a good life? What gives life meaning?
•What does your generation see as its mission, and what do you yourself see as yours?
The Inferno excerpts, Dante Aligheri
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
Joseph Heller's Catch-22 or Don DeLillo's White Noise
Independent Reading Options One text is required each semester. You should read one book from the following two lists by the end of the semester. (Details 2nd semester) Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart
John Irving. A Prayer for Owen Meany or The Cider House Rules
Mary Karr. The Liar's Club
Jack Kerouac. On the Road
Milan Kundera. The Joke or Life is Elsewhere
Bernard Malamud. The Fixer
W. Somerset Maugham. The Painted Veil
Jay McInerney. Bright Lights, Big City
Walker Percy. The Moviegoer or Lost in the Cosmos
Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar
Tom Robbins. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Jose Saramago. Blindness
Jonathon Swift. Gulliver's Travels
Course Objectives, Policies, and Assessments
AP English Literature is designed, in part, to prepare you to take the AP English Literature/Composition exam. This exam emphasizes the skills of close reading and style analysis. This course, then, will give you the opportunity to hone your skills of style analysis, make you more comfortable with poetry—both appreciation and analysis—and give you practice in writing both at-home and in-class responses to literature.
Beyond the exigencies of AP preparation, however, the course is built on lifelong objectives. I want you to:
1. learn to love literature and encounter some texts that speak to you;
2. feel more comfortable about reading, writing, and speaking;
3. know where to obtain information and how to organize and synthesize that information;
4. work effectively in small and large groups;
5. explore your moral code and value system through reading, writing, and discussing;
6. understand others, especially those of a different race, gender, or background, through reading, writing, and discussing;
7. come to a clearer sense of your own identity and the meaning of your life.
1. Type all conference/final drafts.
2. Prepare conference drafts and revisions using MLA format for heading, title, and pagination.
3. You may request one one-day extension of a paper due date per semester, but the request must occur at least a day before the due date. I would prefer that you ask in class or in my office, but if necessary you may call or email me.
4. I will grade a number of the ten required conferenced papers using the 50-50 method: 50 points for the first draft, 50 points for the revision. I do not give a separate grade for conference attendance, but I will deduct 10 points for an unexcused missed conference from the final draft grade. Late first or final drafts lose 5 points per day late. Please avoid losing points by instead talking to me about problems with drafts, conference times, or other obligations. I can negotiate with you or understand your situation if you let me know!
5. Be sure to let me know at least one day in advance if you plan to meet with a college representative during this class period.
6. You must be responsible in general. Part of that responsibility means limiting your absences for any reason. If you plan to visit colleges, remember that your parent must write a letter to the principal requesting that privilege prior to making the visit. As a courtesy to your teachers, please give us advance notice as well.
7. The conference and final drafts of the author research paper will be due before winter break. I will give you an assignment sheet later. 8. Academic Honesty: I have zero tolerance for plagiarism, cheating, and other dishonest acts. I expect that the work you turn in, be it homework or a composition, is your own work. Any plagiarized work will result in an automatic zero grade with no makeup, plus notification of counselor, administrator, and parent. We will discuss the importance of academic integrity in class. (Please see attached "English Department Statement on Academic Integrity.")
Tentative Conferenced Writing Assignments (academic quarter in parens.)
1. College Essay (1st)
2. Thesis, Outline, and Working Bibliography for Research Paper (1st)
3. Style Analysis/Close Reading (2nd)
4. Research Paper (2nd)
5. Introduction to Research Author (3rd)
6. Parody of The Inferno/other alternative assignment (3rd)
7. AP Question—Poetry (3rd)
8. AP Question—Prose (4th)
9. Purposes of Satire (4th)
ADDITIONAL ASSIGNMENTS & ACTIVITIES
Expect daily homework, whether reading, writing, or a combination of the two.
(Always think.) Unless otherwise specified, homework assignments I check in class will be worth 5 points. Homework turned in up to one day late will be worth 2 points. Generally, I do not accept homework later than one day, and I’ll frown when I tell you so.
Tests and Quizzes
Tests will be worth various points, usually ranging from 50–90 points. Quizzes will be worth various points, usually ranging from 10-15 points.
In-Class Responses/In-Class Essays
You will write a number of responses to literature in class. These are generally worth 10–20 points. Some of these responses may be more expansive, detailed, or difficult. Let’s call these “in-class essays” and make them worth more points, shall we?
Discussion fuels this class. If you sit back and don’t take part long enough, we’ll all know. Jump in, give us your two bits. I’m not in the habit of grading discussions, but I might just get prickly and decide to start.
is not a dirty word and is a subject of our study. There.
Beginning in February and continuing into March, you will present (in pairs) analyses of two poems—one classic, the other post-WWII—to our class.
Research Author Introductory Composition
The goal of this essay is to provide us with the biography relevant to the development of your author as an artist and explore the significance of the artist and his/her works.
Expect a final exam at the end of first semester. If you take the AP Lit exam in May, you will be excused from the second-semester final exam.
The overall grading scale for the course is the following:
98-100 = A+ 88-89 = B+ 78-79 = C+ 68-69 = D+