AP English Lit and Comp is unique among English courses in several ways. First and foremost, because the AP course is as much a test prep class as it is a traditional English class, you will be assessed in a particular and consistent format. There will be a unit test for each “master text” we cover, and those tests will always consist of three parts: 1. Analytical questions about the work itself, 2. Critical reading passages from related texts, and 3. Timed essay responses. Analytical questions will always be presented in a multiple choice format; critical reading passages may relate to the master work thematically, rhetorically, or historically (and may be excerpts of prose or full poems); and timed essays may require you to write critically about poetry or prose that you will have in front of you or to answer a thematic question by using the master work or another literary work to which the master work is thematically linked.
Moreover, the works included in this course and the activities in the syllabus are designed to emphasize analysis over simple discussions of content. Though it is a student’s responsibility to read independently and fully comprehend literary content, the class will focus strictly on how that content can be used to analyze the work, the author’s use of rhetoric, and larger themes and worldly implications. There will be two Spartan Period offerings available for students who would benefit from discussion of surface-level content.
In addition, more so than in any other English course, your technical literary vocabulary needs to be vast, sophisticated, and accurate. For AP English Lit, it is not enough to be able to identify a metaphor in a text; you must be able to talk specifically about how the use of that metaphor enhances the author’s rhetorical stance. Hyperbole, oxymoron, pathos, euphemism—these are the kinds of rhetorical devices you’ll be required to identify in literary and informational texts and talk and write about confidently.
That being said, such an approach to literature can be as fun as it is challenging, and, when the smoke has cleared and you’ve completed the course, you’ll be proud of all that you’ve accomplished and (perhaps even more importantly) you’ll be as prepared for the AP exam as any human being can be.
To read challenging prose from the literary canon actively and critically.
To identify and define poetic forms and devices and explicate highly rhetorical poetry.
To discuss and understand the implications of themes beyond their appearance in literature.
To develop technical vocabulary and apply to the critical analysis of prose and poetry.
To use technology and creativity to make literature an immersive experience.
To write with a mastery of diction, syntax, rhetoric, and critical voice.
To build a comprehensive list of titles (and themes) for the free-response essay on the AP test.
Because AP English Lit and Comp is the highest level literature course offered, you will be assessed through a variety of methods in order to help you review and polish the wide range of skills you’ve acquired throughout your education thus far. Writing assignments will be frequent and will include formal essay prompts structured to match the AP exam, reading journal assignments completed both at home and during class (to best offer students the opportunity to conference with teacher and classmates and work through rough drafts), and creative writing assignments designed to help students see the implications of a piece of literature in new, more worldly contexts. Creative Projects will be completed both individually and in group settings and will ask students to employ a variety of skills, including public speaking skills, use of technology, and artistic design. Tests will accompany each master text and be divided into three parts, similar to the AP exam. The first section will feature analytical multiple-choice questions that will force a sophisticated review of the completed text. That will be followed by a prose passage or poem that must be read and analyzed during the test in advance of a series of multiple-choice questions. The final portion of each test will consist of a timed essay based around a Free-Response prompt, a short passage, or a poem. Grades will be reported in three parts, isolating each separate skillset for future self-reflection and conferencing with teacher.
The Digital Portfolio Assignment:
(Final Exam Grade)
The best way to prepare for the AP test is to be as well-versed in literature and poetry as possible in the time you have leading up to the exam. However, you’ve already completed work that will help you to this end. In your high school English classes up to this point, you’ve been exposed to literally dozens of canonical works, including fiction, drama, and poetry. The purpose of the portfolio assignment is to tap into some of that previously encountered material to refresh your memory and start considering—very early on in the year—exactly how some of it might prove extremely valuable on the exam at the completion of the course.
For each critical theory we cover, you’ll be asked to select a work that you’ve studied that you feel is a strong representation of that particular critical theory. For example, if, after learning about Marxist criticism, you feel The Great Gatsby would benefit from a Marxist evaluation, you may select that book for the Marxist category of the digital portfolio slideshow (PPT, Keynote, Prezi, etc.) and proceed to explore the work in a series of slides that summarize character, plot, and other literary elements that illustrate the Marxist elements of that text. Thus, you’ll be well-versed in literature of this type should you see any related passages on the AP test or if the Free Response Question should focus on characters, themes, or rhetorical choices suggestive of one of these critical theories. Throughout the year, you’ll continue to select titles for your digital portfolio as you master the use of textual evidence to explore various critical theories (Feminist, Marxist, Psychoanalytic). At the end of the year, you’ll add one final slide, which will feature your “master text,” a work you love and know inside and out and that you feel could be used for a variety of topics on the Free-Response Essay Question.
You’ll build your portfolio throughout the school year, both on your own time and during class time, and you’ll be able to conference with your teacher and classmates to best identify key elements in texts you’ve covered in years past and receive feedback on your current draft of the slide show.
Each of the following units (subsequent to the Introduction) consists of two master texts—one British, one American—that are linked thematically, rhetorically, or historically (or some combination of the three). Though these are the primary texts for the unit, they are merely tools for the study of a larger idea, and, as such, we will explore other tools as well. Each unit will also consist of related poetic forms and devices, short fiction, informational articles, and critical reading passages. We will also, ideally, complete at least one creative research or presentation-based project for each unit and many collaborative activities to broaden our discussion beyond the scope of the works themselves.
Unit 1: An Introduction to AP English Lit and Comp
Analysis, Rhetoric, and Theme
(Approximately 3 weeks)
- Do Themes exist because writers write about them or do writers write about themes because they exist?
- How do authors use claims and rhetorical devices to suggest larger ideas?
- How can active reading effectively decode a text?
- What is literature? (Canon vs. Non-canon)
Skills to Develop:
Analytical voice in writing
Application of rhetorical terms to explication of text
Reading critically for theme and rhetoric
Film Review Analysis: Reading Journal
-students read and respond to voice and use of rhetorical terms in three film
reviews by Roger Ebert
Analytic Film Review of The Tree of Life
-students craft original film reviews of the highly rhetorical Terence Malick film
Summer Reading Test (analysis of content, critical reading passages):
Required Texts (Feminist and Marxist Criticism):
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Summer Reading Essay (AP-style Free-Response Question):
Pick any one (Psychoanalytic Criticism):
A Farewell to Arms
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
We Were The Mulvaneys
The Things They Carried
Unit 2: Coming-Of-Age: Monomyth, The Hero’s Journey, and Bildungsroman
Heroism Throughout Time
(approximately 8 weeks)
1. How is the definition of “heroism” affected by time period and culture?
2. What common elements do all “heroes” and mythical stories share?
3. How do personal, cultural, and familial factors influence one’s coming of age?
4. In what ways can an author use clichés and elements of pulp fiction to develop canonical literature?
5. How do a poem’s form, devices, and rhetoric affect the poet’s message?
Master Texts: Beowulf and All the Pretty Horses
Supporting Prose and Nonfiction: The Hero With a Thousand Faces (excerpt), “Lessons From the Monomyth of Lance Armstrong,” “How the Western Was Lost (and Why It Matters)”
Supporting Poetry: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; “The Ballad of William Sycamore”; assorted modern ballads, including “The Ballad of Billy the Kid,” “A Boy Named Sue,” and “Hurricane”; “O Captain! My Captain” and assorted elegies; “The Solitary Reaper” and assorted odes; “The Empty Quatrain” and assorted quatrains; “Sailing to Byzantium”
Authors/Poets Include: Cormac McCarthy, Joseph Campbell, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Stephen Vincent Benét, Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, W.B. Yeats
Skills to Develop:
Transferring content and theme of a literary work to broader interpretations
How to read and explicate poetry
Identifying characteristics of a specific poetic form:
-epic, ballad, elegy, ode, idyll, quatrain
“Measuring” meter and rhythm in poetry
Periodic Reading Quizzes
-analysis, critical reading passage from master text
Critical Reading Exercises (supporting nonfiction)
-silent reading, discussion of claims and rhetoric, reader responses/opinions, some
multiple choice questions
Modern Ballad Explication: Reading Journal
-identifying the characteristics of the ballad in modern application
Heroism Throughout Time: Presentation
-analysis of the cultural stimuli surrounding a fictional or factual hero from a
particular time period; application of Campbell’s monomyth
-analytical multiple-choice questions
-prose fiction passage or poem (with multiple choice questions)
-AP-style Free-Response Essay Question
Advance Organizer: Diary Entry for All the Pretty Horses
-role-play based on protagonist’s plight as the novel opens
The Collected Poems of John Grady Cole: Reading Journal
-researching particular poetic forms, explicating in relationship to master text
The Adventures of John Grady Cole: Collaborative Creative Project
-crafting of an original ballad, game board, or theme park map based on content,
themes, and rhetoric of All the Pretty Horses
All the Pretty Horses Test
-analytical multiple-choice questions
-prose fiction passage or poem (with multiple-choice questions)
-AP-style prose passage essay question