Senior AP English Literature
Course Description: The purpose of this class is two-fold: first, it is designed to offer seniors an opportunity to read several significant works in American or English literature. Our main focus on these works will be formalist in nature, i.e., we will be exploring texts primarily in regard to their compositional excellence. This will require a working knowledge of the elements that contribute to the aesthetic quality of a literary work. Concepts such as tone, imagery, diction, plot, prosody, irony, tragedy, comedy, point of view, and voice will receive particularly close attention as we explore how formal qualities shape literary works and literary history.
We will also study the humane values that such works often express. The rich interplay between the formal literary qualities of a work and its political, religious, or philosophical insights will be at the core of class discussion. Our emphasis on narrative structure will also insure that the compelling nature of the texts we study will reach as many students as possible.
The writing assignments in this class will offer each student the opportunity to become a more fluent and insightful writer. Particular time will be given to the thesis statement, i.e., the central controlling judgment at the heart of a successful essay. In this way, the reading and writing parts of this course complement each other: close reading will facilitate compositions of depth and precision. Writing assignments not turned in on the due date (excluding illness or emergencies) will receive a failing grade with no chance of a make-up for that paper.
Students will also keep a Literary Journal that they will be required to write in three times a week. Some entries will be in-class assignments, free-writing periods, annotations of a passage or chapter, brain-storming, and other methods of exploring the composition process. This will allow students to write without some of the pressures of immediate evaluation, and foster a sense that the writing process is a fluid, dynamic activity that should be creative and supple.
Writing assignments will be organized to facilitate three goals: writing to understand a text, writing to explain a text to the reader, and writing to evaluate the text according to generic, historical, and philosophical considerations.
The seminar format of the class is extremely important to a mature study of literature. Attentive participation in the class discussion will be account for 15% of the student’s quarter grade each term. Students who fail to comport themselves with maturity in the seminar will be asked to leave.
Given the nature of our reading assignments, I hope each student in the seminar views the course as an introduction to the college-level study of literary texts that can enrich one’s life no matter what career one ultimately follows. Aesthetic beauty as found in literature is a subject that no single course can exhaustively study. The techniques of literary analysis we use this year are in fact a means to an end: the contemplation of works of verbal beauty that show forth luminously the dignity of the human person.
Selected Short Stories by Faulkner, Hemingway, Wolff
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Code of the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Old School, Tobias Wolff
Peace, Richard Bausch
The Cellist of Sarajevo, Steven Galloway
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Weekly Assignment Schedule: There will be a typed, formal essay due approximately every Friday. Length will be 2 pages in the fall; and 4-5 pages starting in January.
Monday: Discussion of work studied in seminar setting. AP terminology handout for incorporation into student writing.
Tuesday: Timed in-class essay on topics discussed in class and on readings assigned for homework
Wednesday: Peer Evaluation of in-class essays based on controlling thesis, on tone, logical development, use of supporting detail from text, and command of the basic elements of effective composition (with direct reference to Ellsworth’s English Simplified). Evaluation of papers that demonstrate a wide-ranging, effectively used vocabulary—both critical and literary—will also be a part of this process.
Thursday: Discussion of work studied in seminar setting; rewrites due for both in class essays and formal written papers.
Friday: Reading aloud of formal written papers, and defense of those papers based on critiques in class from peers and teacher.
Our reading, writing, and discussion of each work will focus on:
1. How do details of tone, metaphor, imagery create characterization?
2. How is the story told? What is theme, and how do narratives develop them?
3. How do stylistic concerns shape the meaning of themes?
4. How do symbolism and other textual details reflect values and embody historical/literary/philosophical judgments?
5. How does diction in the work change the meaning of characters, action, and themes?
6. Does the work employ irony? How? On the level of dialog, scene, chapter, or act?
7. How does the issue of voice shape the work? Are there competing voices? Is there a main narrative voice? Is that narrator reliable? If not, how do we know he or she is not? What are the thematic implications of an unreliable narrator?
8. Does the work use allusion as a major structuring device?
9. Does the work employ flashbacks or other narrative devices? What are the implications of such devices?
10. In what way does the beginning and ending of a work change the meaning of the whole piece?