Ap english Literature and Composition Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences Mr. Pletsch Syllabus

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AP English Literature and Composition

Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences

Mr. Pletsch

The AP English Literature and Composition course is designed with one intention: to develop you as a both a critical reader and writer. There will be a composition every two weeks guided by grammar and vocabulary instruction. You will also have the chance to engage in college application writing as well as creative pieces. We will gain perspective using the Socratic method, exploring every possible avenue and making every possible connection for various texts. There will be a Poetry Project in which you will write five two-page essays in a two-week span, ending your poetic journey with one 10 page essay. All of these essays will be on single poems by an author of your choice. The final three weeks will be extensively going over old AP Exams so that you will be prepared for the one in early May.
Less lengthy writing assignments will be written on a daily basis as a tool to drive discussion, and will mainly focus on plot, characterization, and theme. Papers will be evaluated for effective word choice, creative sentence structure, overall organization, clear emphasis, and stellar persuasive argument technique; this essentially will include use of supporting evidence and the ability to clearly connect and transition this evidence to your overall argument.
You will also maintain a notebook for vocabulary, grammar, journals, and notes from Socratic Seminars. You will be asked to read regularly outside of class and guide the class in a Socratic discussion. Ultimately, the class will broaden you reading and writing skills, and hopefully, your horizons.
Elements of the Course

1. Drafts will be submitted to the instructor and/or peers for constructive criticism. Essays will be revised at least once (twice at least for the Poetry Project) before editing.

2. No late work will be accepted.

  • Weekly vocabulary and grammar quizzes (when necessary)

  • Periodic quizzes on reading

  • Socratic Seminar, one taught by you each semester using AP questions

  • AP Literature and Composition Exam questions

  • College application essay practice


  • Homework/Classwork: 25%

  • Essay Assignments: 25%

  • Tests/Quizzes: 25%

  • Participation: 25%


  • 2 spiral notebooks (you may need more, depending on the size of them)

  • Notebook paper

  • Pens (blue or black ink)

  • Pencils

Summer Reading

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The course will begin with quite possibly the most ambiguous literary work of all-time. We will discuss not only how James creates this ambiguity, but also the ramifications his technique has on the overall themes found within the novella.
Unit 1: Look Closely Now

August 17-Sept. 4

from Plato's Apology and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Most of the works of Plato are dialogues, and that will be the focus of the unit: dialogue. We will use the piece to explore Socratic reasoning. We will then compare and contrast Plato's work with Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, exploring the value of living the examined life. In doing so, we will lay the foundation for the course.
Unit 2: Mother, or, Isn’t It Ironic?

Sept. 7-Oct. 16

Oedipus the King by Sophocles
Oedipus the King is one of the greatest examples of dramatic irony. We will explore the definition of irony, irony in characters, speaker's voice, and generally what makes the piece ironic. We will annotate with emphasis on irony, author's point of view, and analysis of character. Does Oedipus deserve what happens to him, or is he a victim of fate? How would you compare and contrast the characters of Oedipus and Tiresias? How would you describe the role of the chorus in the play? How does their attitude change as the play progresses?
Discussion of genre: What is gained by telling this story as a play rather than a novel?
You will choose your own paper topic. The paper must support its argument with a exuberant amount of quotations, carefully connecting them into the discussion. Topics include the following:

  • Why do you believe Sophocles uses the technique of dramatic irony?

  • How much control do you think people actually have over their own lives? How much control do you believe Sophocles believed we had over our lives?

  • What events in the play evoke the deepest sympathy? How so?

  • What does Sophocles gain as a dramatist by having certain events take place offstage rather than onstage?

  • What is the Oedipus' tragic flaw?

  • Compare and contrast Oedipus and Tiresias.

  • What does the play teach us about the cultural and social values of Greek society? Are these values universal or are some of them bound to the historical context of the play?

Unit 3: He's Got Style

Oct. 19-Nov. 20

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
After reading the first page, free-write on the following ideas: What do you notice about Hemingway's use of language, his syntax? Anything unique about character? Any possible symbols, foreshadowing? Tone? Mood?
We will periodically reference literary criticism on Hemingway's style, one by the great F. Scott Fitzgerald included.
After a closer reading of the text, we will continue to examine the use of poetic devices, metaphor, imagery, and symbolism used in his prose. What is gained by Hemingway's technique and voice? Based on what you know about the life of Ernest Hemingway, is this a story about him as an individual, or something more?
Select one of the following paper topics for and extended process essay:

  • Analyze one of the literary devices Hemingway employs in the novel. How does it contribute to the novel as a whole?

  • One passage in the book that unmistakably alludes to Christ on the Cross. What does such symbolism add to the novel? Do you find any other passages that may be reinforcing the Christ imagery? Can you be sure that they are doing so? The old man is sometimes taken as a symbol of Christ on the Cross. How do you reconcile this notion with the old man's own comment on page 64, "I am not religious," which he follows up with a numerous "Our Father’s" and "Hail Mary’s"?

  • How much convincing evidence do you find for regarding the old man as a symbol of man in general?

  • Hemingway is famous for his ability to pack meaning into a few simple words, creating "iceberg" sentences. Examine and comment on the following examples. Then find and discuss three more.

a. "He was beautiful, the old man remembered, and he had stayed." (p. 50)

b. "It jumped again and again in the acrobatics of its fear." (p. 72)

c. "Then the fish came alive, with his death in him." (p. 94)

d. "'You're tired, old man,' he said. 'You're tired inside.'" (p. 112)

e. "He had to sit down five times before he reached his shack." (p. 121)

  • Hemingway might have written The Old Man and the Sea as a much longer novel, taking Santiago from his early childhood to his final dreams of the lions. What would have been lost if he had done this? What gained?

  • Hemingway might also have written The Old Man and the Sea as a short story, concentrating on the struggle with the fish, with the sea, and with the sharks--and probably telescoping or omitting the scenes before and after the struggle. What would have been lost or gained?

Unit 4: You Won’t See Me

Dec. 7- Jan. 15

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Ellison may have written the greatest American novel, which is ironic, being that the novel focuses on an America he is "invisible" to. Our focus will be to: a) discover if/how the novel serves as a cultural mirror, and b) if/how Ellison uses first person point of view to effectively communicate the ills of a society. What is the ultimate theme of the novel? How do the motifs of blindness and invisibility serve the novel? Are they effective? Paper topics include:

  • How does the division between how the narrator perceives himself and how others perceive him relate to the motifs of blindness and invisibility? Consider the role of racial stereotypes in the novel.

  • What is the relationship between individual identity and community identity? Is it possible to remain true to both? Must the two always conflict? How does the narrator fail or succeed to assert his individuality amid communities such as the college, the Brotherhood, and Harlem?

  • Would the no vel be as effective if told from a different point of view?

  • Explain the title of the novel.

  • Does this novel capture the culture of the time period?

Unit 5: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Jan. 18-Feb-19

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "It is the duty of men to judge men only by their actions." However, we will judge a man by his inactions and how Shakespeare creates character by this. Also, we examine how foils (a person who contrasts with another character in order to highlight various features of the main character's personality) operate within the play. We will also discuss if the genre is a fitting vehicle for the story, as study one of the greatest artistic time periods: the Renaissance. Is Hamlet the definitive Renaissance play? It's your decision...Paper topics include:

  • Analyze a trope used within the play, and how it contributes to the piece as a whole.

  • Who is Hamlet? Define his character.

  • Analyze Hamlet's internal and external conflict. Which is more pertinent?

  • Analyze Hamlet's antic disposition.

We will then focus on the use of foil and continue genre study using Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard as a tool. Topics include:

  • Analyze Shakespeare's use of a "play within a play" in Hamlet.

  • Is The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare really a comedy? Use Stoppard's play to craft your argument.

  • Analyze how Shakespeare adds depth to Hamlet's character with the use of foil.

Unit 6: Break on Through

Feb. 22-26

I can't think about writing without envisioning the scene from Pink Floyd's The Wall where Pink is caught by his teacher writing poems. The teacher mockingly says, "What have we here, laddie? Mysterious scribblings? A secret code? No! Poems, no less! Poems, everybody! The laddie reckons himself a poet!" We will take some time to write some creative pieces: poetry, fiction, personal narratives, etc. in hopes of finding the "road" according to Stephen King. "Fear" is the "root of all bad writing" also according to King, and hopefully, it will be conquered.

Unit 7: Poetry Project

March 1-26

We will study the poetic works by such authors as Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Bradstreet, Browning, Tennyson, Dickinson, Plath, Sexton, Yeats, Eliot, Frost, Rich, Stevens, and Dove. This will be an extensive exploration of poetic technique, from denotation and connotation to imagery, metaphor, simile, symbolism, paradox, allusion, tone, and mood. We will use music to discover such devices such as alliteration, rhyme, and rhythm. More importantly, we will attempt to explain how each technique contributes to the purpose of the poem. You will choose individual poets and write a series of six papers on the following assignments:

  • Select three poems by this poet and discuss in a 2-3 page processed paper what poetic techniques the author uses consistently.

  • Using the same poems above, compare and contrast the author's themes.

  • Using the same poems above, analyze the historical, cultural, or social setting of their construction. Has the meaning changed for readers today?

  • Analyze one additional poem by this author in the context of the three papers above. What techniques does the author use; what are the themes; what is the social, historical, or cultural context?

  • Using and revising material from the papers already completed, add research about the poet's life to complete a 10-page processed paper on the style, themes, and importance of this poet and this poet's works.

Unit 8: Everything is Connected

March 29-April 12

Leonardo DaVinci once said ''Everything is connected to everything else.'' For this unit, you will create an artistic piece to encapsulate this idea, as well as be able to choose the text you will use along with the method you will employ. You can create a collage, drawing, musical piece, video, play, etc. to do so. You will present your work to the class, and analyze the connection you made to one literary element in the text in a short written piece. An AP style multiple choice test will also be given on the text you select. Texts include:

  • Selected Cantos from The Inferno by Dante Allegheri

  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin

  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Unit 9: Innocence Lost, Revisited

April 13-23

Turn of the Screw by Henry James
In this unit, we will explore the nineteenth century in terms of syntax, vocabulary, and other literary techniques, focusing on narration. What is gained by the frame narration, or stories within a story? What is foreshadowing about the governess's character? Who is the speaker? What do we learn about the children as the story progresses? Is the narrator reliable?
I will use an old AP exam question which you will respond to with no books, in class, in 40 minutes:
Choose a distinguished novel or play in which some of the most significant events are mental or psychological: for example, awakenings, discoveries, changes in consciousness. In a well-organized essay, describe how the author manages to give these internal events the sense of excitement, suspense, and climax usually associated with external action. Do not merely summarize the plot.

We will extend and process the essay to address the following question: How does James's style contribute to the work's artistry and quality?

Unit 10: The Home Stretch

April 26-May 5

Extensive review for the AP Exam, which includes genre, movement, and time period, as well as texts covered. We will use multiple-choice and essay questions to practice with essays written every night or two with commentary from me. Students will be afforded the opportunity to rewrite their essay. Each subsequent essay much incorporate practice in specific skills in which students have demonstrated weakness.

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