Wednesday, August 20, 2008

2008-2009 Syllabus


The overall goal of the AP Literature and Composition class is to engage students in careful reading and critical analysis of imaginative literature and to prepare the students to take the AP Test in May. As this is a college level course, students are expected to work more independently than in a typical high school course and to participate in classroom discussion. Be warned that the class is very small and therefore it will be noticed by both the teacher and the other students if you haven’t done your reading and writing homework (and if this is the case I may ask you to stop by after school for a talk). You, the student, are responsible for your own learning. In college, no-one will ask—they will expect.

FOCUS (restated): A.P. is designed to be a challenging, engaging exploration of literature as ART. Through critical reading, discussion, and written analysis of novels, plays, and poetry from various periods and perspectives, students will develop the reading, thinking and composition skills necessary for success in a college literature class. Students carry considerable intellectual responsibility for course preparation. This is a joint venture between teacher and students not a “teacher-driven” monologue. Therefore there will be times when students will direct the class and lead, and times when students will actually teach the class activities.

Student progress will be evaluated in many ways including essays (both in class and out of class), short answer tests, homework assignments, timed-impromptu writing, dialectical journals, and quizzes.


• To analyze literature by explaining how writers use the techniques of their art (craft) such as structure, style, theme, figurative language to communicate ideas
• To look at the social and historical values displayed in the literature we read
• To develop effective written and oral arguments by looking at logical organization, use of details, generalizations, sentence structure and vocabulary
• To develop effective research skills
• To think about how people live ethical and moral lives and how this is reflected in literature
• To explore and apply different theories of literary criticism. Some theories we will investigate include: Historical, Moral-Philosophical, Mimetic, Formalist, Psychological, Symbolical or Mythological, Feminist, Reader-Response, Structuralism and Deconstruction.

We will be reading work from the following texts, in part and whole:

 Arp, Thomas R. and Greg Johnson, Editors. Perrine’s Literature, Structure, Sound,

and Sense, 8th Edition. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 2002.

 Othello Shakespeare
 The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood
 The Trial, Kafka
 The Aeneid, Virgil
 Beloved, Morrison
 Bleak House, Dickens
 Their Eyes Where Watching God, Hurston
 The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway
 Walden, Thoreau
 Moby-Dick, Melville
 Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
 Selections from Paradise Lost
 Selected poetry from various periods
 Selected short stories by writers such as Joyce, Orwell, Hawthorne, Baldwin, Fitzgerald, Twain, Faulkner, including: “The Dead”, “Sonny’s Blues”, “Babylon Revisited”, “The Hanging”, etc.

Outside reading requirement: 1000 pages per semester from a list of approved AP titles.

Writing: Six In-Class essays (40 minutes) per semester to give practice to the constraint of the AP test. Other writing assignments will focus on critical analysis and writing in different literary theories, including an analytical-expository essay explaining how textual details (theme, tone, symbolism, structure) create meaning and an argumentative essay relating textual evidence to social or cultural values. Students are expected to participate in peer response (both in small groups and as a class), rewriting and 1-on-1 teacher-student conferences. Teacher conferences will be prearranged and students are expected to have one per unit. Conferences will focus on structure, organization, use of details to back up arguments, and sentence structure.

Blog: You will keep a daily blog of your reading. This blog will act as dialectical journal (see handout on dialectical journals) and your writing should include notes, quotations and comments on the text – things that you see such as stylistic devices, motifs, symbols, character quirks and insights– as well as questions the text brings up. This blog will be visible to other students, as a reference, but no two blogs should be alike. Beware – this blog is part of daily grade.

Discussion: According to the College Board (the people who oversee AP courses), “Reading should be accompanied by thoughtful discussion…in the company of one’s fellow students.” Discussions are activities intended to aid the understanding of a work. Students must interact intellectually with their peers. Translation: You must come to class prepared to talk about what you read. This means take notes at home.

You will have one outside reading project per semester. It will be based on a book of your choice (one that you have not read before and comes from a list of approved AP titles).

Vocabulary and Literary Terms: there will be new vocabulary every two weeks and a list of literary terms (the specialized language use to analyze literature) that students need to know and recognized. Students are expected to choose one literary term per week, look up and post a definition with an example from their current reading.

Resources: Students will be creating and compiling a list of on-line resources on texts and criticism that will help other students and future AP classes. This will be a part of a final grade.


Poetry, Exploration of Themes, and Literary Theories

Unit 1: Introduction to Poetry (4 weeks)

All pages refer to Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense

Week 1: Literary Terms Specific to Poetry
Imagery: Pages 771-774, “After Apple-Picking” – Questions & Journal
Symbol/Allegory: 807-817, “The Road Not Taken” – Questions, Journal
Paradox, Irony, Satire: 829-839, “My Last Duchess” – Journal
Tone: 880-885, “The Man He Killed” – Questions and Journal
Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance: 899-907, various poems

Week 2: Forms of Poetry

Sonnet, Stanza, Ballad, Haiku, Villanelle, Pantoum, Blues, Blank Verse, Quatrain, Couplet, Ode, Blank Verse, Dramatic Monologue, Prose Poem, Epic Poem

In Journals – students will need to explain how each form works and how form = idea

Week 3: Great Poets (focus on Modernism)
Theme: The Individual’s Place in Society

Frost – “Death of the Hired-Man”, “Home Burial”
Eliot – “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “Wastelands”
Brooke- “The Dead”
Wilfred Owen – “Dulce et Decorum Est”
Hughes – “Theme for English B”
Bishop – “The Fish”
Jarrell – “Death of Ball-Turret Gunner”
Forche – “The Colonel”
Clifton – “Good Times”
Plath – “Mad Girl’s Love Song”

And perhaps Berryman and Dylan Thomas.

Week 4: In-Class essay, student’s poetry, poetry projects

Students will practice their hand at writing their own poems and exploring literary devices and poetic form. These will be read out loud.

Students will also choose one poem from “Poems for Further Reading” and teach what the poem means and how it creates meaning by discussing form, literary devices and perhaps social context

1st In-class essay.
Personal or Exploratory Essay 2-3 pages.

Unit 2: “The Search for Identity” –Prose: Creative Non-fiction, Short Story, Novel. – Six Weeks

Walden – Thoreau
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Hurston
The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway
“Babylon Revisited” – Fitzgerald, “The Yellow Wallpaper” – Perkins, “The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore” – Alexie

During this unit we will review (from last year) the structure of the short story and novel particularly looking at plot, character, theme, tone, symbolism, motif, imagery, allusion, types of irony. These books and stories are classics of American Literature and we will reflect upon the experience of the narrator or protagonist (vs. what the author wants the reader to take away) and discuss how the experience exemplifies an idea of American Culture. We will also compare and contrast the experiences presented in these stories.


Blogs/Journals – daily entries
In-Class Essays – 1 per book or novel
Expository Essay – 3-5 pages. An essay explaining how one literary element creates meaning in any of the novels/stories.

Unit 3: Literary Theory and Moby-Dick (7 weeks plus Christmas Break)

As we read Moby-Dick (what has been called the greatest American Novel ever written and an epic prose poem) we will look at different theories of literary criticism and how they might apply, or be applied, to Moby-Dick. Different theories have been listed above under “Some Goals”.


Blogs/Journals – Daily exploring lit devices, characters and different crit theories.
In-Class Essays – 2.
Every two weeks students will choose a theory and write a 2-3-page essay trying to utilize the guiding principal of the theory to explore the meaning of novel. The student will meet 1-1 with the instructor and the best of the three essays will be revised and expanded (5-10 pages) for a final grade.


Drama, Classical Literature, the social and historical world of Dickens, the AP Test

Unit 4: Drama, Classical Literature and the Tragic Hero (7 weeks)

Othello – Shakespeare
Oedipus Rex – Sophocles
The Trial – Kafka
Selections from The Aeneid (Vergil) and Paradise Lost (Milton).

During this unit we will explore the meaning of the tragic hero in both drama, prose and poetry. We will look at the origins of tragedy and why tragedy was such an important art form.


Blog/Journal: Daily entries
In-class essays: 3
Project – Drama Interpretation and presentation to class

Unit 5: Dickens (7 weeks)

Bleak House

During this unit we will explore the social and historical world of Charles Dickens, noted as one of England’s greatest authors. We will look at how characters, settings, symbols, motifs, and other literary devices create or give meaning to the social and historical world of the 1800s England. What was Dickens trying to say about this world?


Blog/Journal – Daily
In-Class Essays – 3
Argumentative Essay – students will write an essay exploring the textual details of Bleak House and make an argument about what Dickens was trying to say about the social life and culture of the time. This essay (5-10 pages) will be revise and posted on student’s blogs.

Unit 6: AP Test

We will spend 2-3 weeks reviewing strategies for the test – both the essay and multiple-choice selections.

AP TEST: Thursday, May 7th.

Summer reading for Juniors: The Handmaid’s Tale and Beloved

Final Notes:

Plagiarism: Please do not copy or directly quote without giving proper citation (or acknowledgement) someone else writing. This is intellectual theft and writers and critics take this seriously. This also means do not copy from each other. This classroom cannot be a “group mind” but must be a group of individual minds working to support each other’s ideas. A plagiarized assignment will receive a zero with no chance for make-up. Repeated offenses will result in conferences with parents and administration and a probable “F” in the course. It is okay to check sites like but don’t let these sites do your thinking. For one thing, the sites are too general, for success in AP you need to analysis beyond sparknotes and further I sometimes check these sites before I read your assignments. I expect assignments to be free of these sites just as I don’t expect to see anyone referencing wikipedia in an argumentative essay.


Tests, essays, projects: 50% of total grade
Quizzes 25% of total grade
Homework, class work 15% of total grade
Blogs/journals 10% of total grade


100- 93 = A
92.49- 90 = A-
89.49- 87 = B+
86.49-83.00 = B
82.49- 80.00 = B-
79.49-77.00 = C+
76.49- 73 = C
72.49-70.00 = C-
69.49-67.00 = D+
66.49- 63.00 = D
62.49- 60 = D-
Below 60 = F

LATE WORK: This is a college course therefore no late work will be accepted without talking with the instructor beforehand.