The objective of this course is to provide an intensive study of representative works such as those by authors cited by College Board in its AP English Course Description. Poetry and prose have been selected with consideration to works previously studied in the school’s English curriculum. Our studies will include multiple genres from multiple time periods and students are expected to engage in careful and deliberative reading that yields multiple meanings.
The class will provide frequent opportunities to write analysis both in and out of class. Writing will occur on three broad levels: to understand, to explain, and to evaluate. When interpreting literature, emphasis will be placed on the careful observation of textual details that take into consideration: style, structure, and themes; the reflected and embodied social and historical value; and literary elements such as the use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone. Students will receive feedback on both the content and style of all written work.
Distribution and discussion of course syllabus and expectations
AP Text Review Sheets
Introduction to Margin Notes (how to take them and why)
Billy Collins’ poem “Marginalia”
The purpose and value of literature in the present age:
*If possible, get an annotated version of this text, or one with explanatory notes.
** Make sure your version has the 21st chapter. Early American (pre-1985) versions of the text had only 20 chapters.
*** The last version of Coleridge’s poem (1834) is the one you want.
# Text is available free on-line.
Note: Purchasing novels for this course is NOT required, but it is highly recommended. Those who chose to borrow books will need to alter margin notes by keeping a separate journal.
What is AP Literature?AP Literature & Composition is an ‘advanced placement’ course sanctioned by College Board. The course is designed to replicate/replace an entry level collegiate humanities course. A comprehensive standardized test provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate skills pertaining to the explication and understanding of imaginative prose: fiction and poetry. This is to be distinguished from the AP Language & Composition course/test which places more emphasis on non-fiction. Many colleges and universities award college credit based upon a student’s score, enabling the student to waive an entry level humanities course. Scores that garner credit vary from school to school.
What is the AP curriculum? The AP curriculum is not a ‘set’ agenda instructed universally around the country. Students do not need to have specific knowledge of boundless novels and poems. However, all AP courses need to include literature, fiction and poetry, of a certain quality in order to prepare students for the broad possibilities on the exam itself. Subsequently, care must be taken to include the study of literature from a variety of genres and time periods. The priority is not what students might ‘like’ to read, but rather what they ‘should’ read in order to develop the requisite skills.
What is the AP exam? The AP exam is given each May. Scores on the test range from one to five, with five being the highest. The test is divided into two sections. Section I is multiple choice, with specific questions about poems and passages of fiction provided in the exam. There are 55 questions in this section with an allowance of 60 minutes to complete those questions. Section I represents 45% of the test’s value. The second section consists of 3 essays. One essay involves the explication of a poem, a second is the assessment of a prose passage(s), and a third ‘open’ essay prompt allows students to demonstrate their knowledge about a specific work with which they are intimately familiar. Section II is 55% of the exam’s value and 120 unbroken minutes are given for the completion of the responses. The efficacy of the exam hinges on statistical validity that dates back over 50 years, as it is one of the oldest AP exams. The format of the exam has changed very little over that time, though new prose, poetry, and novels are added to the body of the exam’s content. Needless to say, it is a difficult exam. The good news is that SHHS students have historically performed well on the exam since the course was modified to the full year format.
How the course be instructed? As a philogist, I want to avoid sucking the soul out of great poetry and prose by ‘teaching to the test.’ Nonetheless, by teaching the skills necessary to grapple with challenging literature, I am in fact preparing you for the exam. I will teach the course under the ‘assumption’ that you intend to take the exam, though I cannot enforce this. All of our novels have been represented in past AP exams, as have the authors of our poetry and short fiction.
How will you be evaluated?Your ability to analyze and explicate are critical to your success in the class. You will write frequently both formally and informally. Reading tests will be given. There will be both formal, out of class essays and in class, hand-written responses composed under timed conditions. Old AP prompts will be used for this purpose. Students will not know the prompts ahead of time. Responses will be graded using AP guidelines. These guidelines will be detailed for you explicitly.
What are the in class behavior expectations at SHHS? All members of the school community are expected to be respectful of each other. Negative comments about anyone’s race, nationality, religion, physical appearance or ability, intellectual capacity, gender identity, sexual orientation, work ethic or character are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Students are encouraged to discuss any concerns with me or a preferred school official. In short, treat others the way you want to be treated.
How should you handle the reading of our novels? I will provide all students with novels; however, I strongly recommend that students purchase our novels so that they can write in them. Margin notes are a vital, NON-optional part of studying literature in this course, and those students who do not have their own copies will have to resort to sticky notes as an alternative to writing in school books. As intensively as we will study literature, your own critical reading (as opposed to casual reading) will make an enormous difference in your ability to answer essay prompts with specific analysis as opposed to broad summary. Novels will be read independently in this class, as would occur in a college course. This necessitates that students be extremely self-disciplined with reading to meet deadlines. In short, your reading in this class will involve much more than just reading.
How should you organize? Organization is vitally important, and you will refer back to old materials for both the AP exam in May and my final exam. You will need a three ring binder. I will three hole punch the various materials I present to you during the semester. You should create sections for each novel and have additional subdivisions for poetry and short fiction. Have loose leaf readily available so that you can take notes and write journal entries. I may periodically collect and grade journal entries. Anything you do in the course should be readily retrievable. Some assignments will involve you finding information on the internet and these items should be kept in the binder as well.
How will late work and absence be handled? Students are responsible for all missed work, even with legitimate, excused absence. Computer problems are not a legitimate excuse for late work. Any written work turned in late results in a penalty the equivalent of one letter grade a day. This includes invalid absences. Students receive no credit for in class work or essays missed due to invalid absence. If you are legitimately absent during an in class AP essay, you may have a different prompt to complete after school upon the day of your return unless we agree to schedule for another day by mutual consent.
Why do you need a good dictionary? You will encounter many challenging words in the reading for this class. Everyone needs to read with a quality dictionary, minimally 100,000 entries. There are many excellent electronic dictionaries available that offer the convenience of portability. Just as you are to take margin notes when you read, keep a dictionary handy for use at all times. I personally never read difficult prose without a dictionary in tow. Make this a reading habit. Write definitions in your book to build vocabulary.
INTEGRITY: Notice it is not posed as a question. You are expected to have it. Unless an assignment is designated as a collaborative one, you are required to work on it individually. Using Cliff’s Notes, Sparks Notes, and other such summaries cannot get you through this course. I do not want to see them in class. I will be checking for margin notes and test using specific passages from our literature. If you use uncited sources in your writing, it is considered fraud. Remember, if you can find it on the internet, so can I. Plagiarism will be dealt with according to the student hand book (zero on the assignment). Do not lose my trust or jeopardize your admission to college with poor judgment. We will also use turnitin.com for certain submissions in the class. Participation in this not optional.
What are the keys to success in AP English?The primary goal of this course is to broaden and deepen your knowledge of literature and your critical and analytical thinking and writing skills. Keep up with your reading. PLAN. Keep good margin notes and use a dictionary. Communicate with me after school or via email about problems and concerns. Actively think about and react to literature each day in class and in your own reading. Consciously work on your writing skills by learning from your mistakes and successes. AP English will be a lot of work, but I hope it will be enjoyable in the short term and meaningful for the duration.
Postscript: I understand senior year is an important and busy time in your life. Regardless, this class is serious business. You enter with knowledge of the expectations and challenges it presents. ANTICIPATE problems with deadlines, this includes scheduled college visitations. I do not do ‘telepathy’ and it is difficult to empathize with students who wait until or after deadlines to beg clemency. See me 5th block when appropriate.