AP English Literature and Composition Syllabus
Professor: David Balty, Ph. D.
Class Schedule: M-F, 2nd Period

Course DescriptionEdit

This Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition course not only teaches students the rudiments of rhetorical theory as is normally applied to non-fiction, but also engages learners in the close reading and critical analysis of fiction that fulfill the requirements for AP English Literature as described in the AP English Course Description. The class will discuss essential aspects of writing – argumentation, structure and style – and will eventually produce excellent writing.

The opportunities for analysis and composition will be numerous and varied as students have opportunities to write and re-write both formal analyses and in-class responses. The writing assignments will fall under three broad headings: writing to understand, writing to explain, and writing to evaluate. Logically, before one can evaluate the effectiveness of a text, he or she must read the text. Therefore, students should be prepared to read and write extensively, ultimately producing a portfolio that will demonstrate both progress and proficiency.

In order for the class to function as a reading and writing laboratory, students will receive clear guidelines, constructive encouragement, and timely evaluation from the instructor. Learners will understand that excellent writing is produced by conscious diction, clear and varied syntax, logical organization, and a firm control of rhetorical processes. Students will emerge from this course with a sense of fulfillment that is the fruit of thoughtful and thorough effort.

Reading AssignmentsEdit

The most important reading requirement for the course is that students read every assignment carefully and on time. Don’t be fooled by short books, because they are not necessarily easy. Novels require planning and can almost never be read adequately the night before they are due. Poetry, although often short, is compact and complicated. Plan to read poems more than once. If students manage their time wisely, the course will be much more enjoyable.

Writing AssignmentsEdit

Students will write several creative documents which will enhance their assignments in and understanding of critical analysis and rhetorical structure. The creative assignments will be numerous: a sonnet which will accompany the study of 16th-17th Century poetry; a song which will accompany the study of lyrical poetry; a single-act drama which will accompany the study of drama; a letter to the editor and a short biography juxtaposed with the study of rhetorical strategies. Students will write at least one journal entry per week which will usually take the form of an initial response to a work of literature.

Each student will write several short critical papers which explicate both fiction and non-fiction. These essays will closely analyze textual structure and style and will interpret select pieces of literature in light of the socio-historical values of the time period in which the work was created. Although a high standard of excellence is anticipated for all drafts of work, some class periods will be spent workshopping essays until they meet the predetermined assessment criteria. During some classes, students will be asked to synthesize their knowledge and technique. These assessments will take the form of responses to literary questions, quizzes, and practice AP-style exams.

Vocabulary AssignmentsEdit

Every other Wednesday students will take a test over vocabulary words they have studied from the textbook, Vocabulary for the College Bound Student. Most chapters are from 10-15 pages, with a few lengthy exceptions.

Poetry AssignmentsEdit

On the Wednesdays when students are not taking vocabulary tests, they will be taking poetry quizzes. Note the schedule of the poetry quizzes in the “Course Schedule” that follows. At the end of this syllabus students will find a copy of each of the poems.

Assessment and GradingEdit

Tests: 50% • Vocabulary tests • Assigned reading tests • Summer reading project • Essays • AP-style tests

Quizzes: 30% • Poetry quizzes • Journals • Extensive homework assignments

Daily Work: 20% • Participation • Vocabulary assignments in textbook • Short, written responses that occur in class


During the year, we will work from teacher-created materials as well as this preliminary list of novels, drama, anthologized material, and texts dealing with writing style and literary criticism:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Booth, Allison, J. Paul Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays. The Norton Introduction to Literature, 9th ed.

New York: Norton, 2005. 

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Buck, Pearl. The Good Earth Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness Elliot, T. S. Murder in the Cathedral. Guerin, Wilfred L., et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, 4th ed. New York:

Oxford, 1999. 

Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. Potok, Chaim. The Chosen. Roberts, Edgar and Henry Jacobs. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, 6th ed.

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001. 

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. - - -. Hamlet. - - -. The Taming of the Shrew. Sophocles. Oedipus the King Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. Williams, Joseph M. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. 5th Ed. New York: Longman, 1997.

Course ScheduleEdit

First SemesterEdit

Week 1Edit

Course Introduction Read “Thinking Critically About Literature,” Norton Introduction to Literature pp. 1-9. Discussion of summer reading: Jane Eyre (Bronte) and Safely Home (Randy Alcorn)

Getting ready to write: Discussion of the nature of writing assignments in AP Literature Discussion of rhetorical situations and strategies; Discussion of Joseph Williams’ Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace

Writing Assignment: Students will write a 2-page biography of a fellow student. The assignment will emphasize usage of rhetorical strategies and style. The rough draft will be due on the first class period of week 2, but opportunities for revision will be extended until week 4. The assignment will be graded according to a class-created rubric.

Week 2Edit


Poetry: The Basics (Tone, Speaker: The Norton Introduction to Literature, p. 810-81) In-class reading aloud of poetry with discussion of tone and speaker

In-class writing: converting words and photography into a “poem” – a study of diction and vocabulary using newspaper articles and photos from the National Geographic magazine.

Week 3Edit


Poetry: The Basics (Language, Imagery, and Symbolism: The Norton Introduction to Literature p. 914-69). In class reading of poetry with discussion of precision, ambiguity, metaphor, simile, and symbols. We will discuss the relationship between terminology as concept and as poetic choice: clothing, presentation, persona, narratives, etc.

In-class writing: timed critical analysis of a poem using reader-response theory

Week 4Edit

Poetry Poetry: The Basics (Style – rhythm and sound: The Norton Introduction to Literature p. 969-96.)

In-class reading aloud of poetry with discussion of sounds, from Shakespeare to Seuss and  
from Dickinson to Dylan. 

Writing assignment – construct and analyze an argument based on the significance or close  
analysis of text (New Critical theory) and write a critical/analytic essay (A Handbook of  

Critical Approaches to Literature pp. 70-124; Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing pp.681-85). We will create a group-based rubric: 9-point, holistic rubric (diction, syntax, structure, specificity and generalizations, and rhetorical techniques). Essays will be due next week, but students will have additional time for revisions.

Week 5-6Edit

Poetry Poetry: Structure (sonnet, epigram, villanelle, sestina, ode, and elegy: The Norton Introduction to

Literature p. 997-1060. 
Browning, “How Do I Love Thee?”; Chasin, “Joy Sonnet in a Random Universe”;  
Coleridge, “What is an Epigram?; Gay, “My Own Epitaph”; Johnson, “Epitaph on  
Elizabeth, L. H.”; Shelley, “Ozymandias”; Donne, “Epigrams”;  Auden, “Stop all the  
Clocks”; Bishop, “Sestina,” Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”; Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle in  
That Good Night”; Billy Joel, “Ballad of Billy the Kid”; James Taylor, “Traffic Jam”; 
Arnold, “Dover Beach”; Hardy, “The Convergence of the Twain”; and others. 

Writing assignments: Week 5: Critical analysis essay due. You may continue to revise, based upon feedback from teacher and peers, until the first day of week 9.

Sonnet assignment explanation in Literature p. 931-36; due week 6. 

Week 6: Sonnet assignment due. The class will develop a rubric based on analysis of several rubrics used for both critical and creative writings, and will assign points based on diction, syntax, organization, specificity and generality.

Week 7Edit

Poetry Poetry: Epic (handouts and The Norton Introduction to Literature)

Elliot, from “The Wasteland”; Whitman, from Song of Myself; Wordsworth, The Prelude;  
Milton, “I” from Paradise Lost; Chaucer, portions of The Canterbury Tales. 

Writing Assignment: Final draft of sonnet assignment due

Week 8Edit

Poetry Poetry: Allusion

Dickinson, “The Bible is an antique volume”; Harrison, “A Kumquat for John Keats”;  
Watts, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”; Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”;  
and Norton Introduction p. 1131-38; Literature  p. 936-68. 

Writing Assignment: Brainstorm with a partner to answer a question of your choice from Literature

p. 967-68.  Then you and your partner will create 5 New Critical questions that you will  
apply to a poem of your choice.  We will use A Handbook of Critical Approaches to  
Literature pp.80-134 to understand the key concepts, terms, and devices of this critical  
approach.  After creating questions, the answers will be formed and discussed  
independently in an essay and will be due the last class period of week 9. 

Week 9Edit

Poetry Poetry: Myth and Imitation (Literature p. 969-1001 and handouts)

Read “Mythology as an explanation of the way things are” and ‘Mythology and Literature,”  
p. 969-73 in Literature; 15 poems related to the myths of Odysseus, Icarus, the Phoeniz, and  
Oedipus; Donnely, “Eve Names the Animals”; Hollander, “Adam’s Task”; St. Vincent  
Millay, “An Ancient Gesture”; and Tennyson, “Ulysses.”  We will read the inter-textual  
banter of Marlowe, “The passionate Shepherd to His Love,” Raleigh, “The Nymph’s Reply  
to the Shepherd,” and Williams, “Raleigh was Right.” 

Writing Assignment Final draft of Critical Evaluation essay due on day 1 of week 9. Students will write 10 multiple choice, analytical questions about a poem of their choice. During week 9, students will write an in-class, timed explication of an AP-level question. On the final day of week 9, students will bring their portfolio to a conference with the teacher for an assessment of the degree of progress for the first quarter of the school year.

Week 10Edit

Drama Drama: An Introduction

Read Literature, p. 1223-44: “The Dramatic Vision: An Overview.”   

Read p. 1277-85: “Writing about the Elements of Drama.”

Read Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, in Literature, p. 1243-54. 

Writing Assignment: The class will receive an explanation of the formal analysis assignment comparing and contrasting the tragic fate of Oedipus, Macbeth, and Hamlet. The essay will be expository and analytical in nature. Students will write, edit, and re-write. The essay will emphasize imagery and dramatic irony and will work with incorporating quotes, word choice, syntax and understanding of the dialogue and details presented as support to writing. Students will collaborate on a scoring rubric. The first draft will be due in week 16.

Students will write a single-act drama that will be due during week 17.

Week 11Edit

Drama Drama: The Tragic Tradition

Read “The Tragic Vision: Affirmation Through Loss,” Literature, p. 1286-1303. 
Read Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex in Literature, p. 1304-1344. (Read the first act of Oedipus  
the King prior to our first class in week 11). 

In-class writing assignment: Timed writing on question regarding tragedy

Week 12-13Edit

Drama Drama: The Tragic Vision in Shakespearean Tragedy

Read Macbeth. 
Compare/contrast Macbeth with the male-female roles in Oedipus. 
Students will respond to a handout with several essay questions which will guide their  
reading and understanding of Macbeth. 

Writing Assignment;

Timed writing on AP-level question. 

Week 14-15Edit

Drama Drama: The Tragic Vision in Shakespearean Revenge Tragedy

Read Hamlet 
Compare/contrast Hamlet with the male/female roles in Macbeth and Oedipus. 

Writing Assignment

Students will be assigned 28 essay questions which will guide their reading  

(Literature p. 1451-53). They may collaborate with a peer. Timed writing on AP-level question.

Week 16-18Edit

Drama Drama: Comedy – The Critique of Social Determination

Read The Norton Introduction to Literature, p. 1838-40. 
Read The Importance of Being Earnest.   

Writing Assignment:

Tragic fate essay (assigned in week 10) due in week 16.  At least one class period will be  
spent in peer assessment and revision based upon a class-generated rubric.  The  
penultimate, revised draft will be submitted for teacher critique in week 17.  The final draft  
will be submitted during two class periods before final exams. 

On the final day of week 17, students will bring their portfolio to a conference with the teacher for an assessment of the degree of progress for the first half of the school year.

Student-written drama due week 17. 

Semester Exam on reading and explicating drama

Second SemesterEdit

Week 1Edit

Re-Visiting Critical Approaches The Basics Emphasis on the Text: New Criticism, Structuralism, Poststructuralism, and Deconstruction; Emphasis on Source: Biographical Criticism and Psychoanalytic Criticism; Emphasis on the Receiver: Reader-Response Criticism Emphasis on History or Ideology: New Historical Criticism, Marxist Criticism, Feminist


We will spend the week applying literary theory to three short stories: James Joyce’s “Eveline,” William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” and Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral.”

Students will read these three short stories prior to our first class.

Writing Assignment:

Students will work in pairs to write 5 questions per story for each family of critical  

approaches (4) for the first class period of week 2; Students don’t have to answer the questions, just ask questions that display an understanding of literary criticism.

Students will write an essay/analysis which explicates one of the short selections from  
weeks 2-6 and will employ one of the critical approaches that has been discussed in week 1.   
The first draft is due in week 4.  Following the submission of the first draft, students will 
have an additional 3 weeks for editing and revision.  The final draft is due the last class  
period of week 7.  Grading will be based upon teacher guidelines and student rubrics. 

Weeks 2-6Edit

Short Fiction and Non-fiction The Basics (Theme, Structure, Setting, Character, Plot, Dialogue, Point-of-View, Rhetorical

Strategies and appeals) 
Short stories, essays, journals, and satire will be read during this 5-week period: Paley, “A  
Conversation with My Father”; Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”; Wharton, “Roman Fever”; Poe,  
“The Cask of Amontillado”; Hemingway, “Hills like White Elephants”; Welty, “Why I Live  
at the P. O.”; Lessing, “Our Friend Judith”; O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”; Tan, 
“A Pair of Tickets”; Chekhov, “The Lady with the Dog”; Hawthorne, “Young Goodman 
Brown”; Kafka, “A Hunger Artist”; Joyce, “Araby”; Williams, “The Use of Force”;  

Fitzgerald, “Babylon Revisited”; Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”; Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”; Mason, “Shiloh”; King, “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” and “I Have a Dream”; Wiesel, “Why I Write”; Swift, “A Modest Proposal”; Douglas, “Learning to Read”; Baron, “Don’t Make English Official”; E. B. White essays.

Writing Assignments

Students will identify a current, hotly debated issue in the country, state, town, or school.   
They will propose an outlandish solution for the problem and provide a plausible, if ironic,  
argument for the solution.  This assignment will take the form of a letter to the editor.  The  
assignment will be peer assessed and graded according to a student-generated rubric. 

Students will write 3, timed, in-class, AP-level essays. 
Examination on reading short fiction. 

Weeks 7-16Edit

The Novel The Basics (Style, Artistry, Structure, Theme, Historical Context)

Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart  

Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre

Jane Bronte – Wuthering Heights  

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

T. S. Elliot – Murder in the Cathedral 

Chaim Potok – The Chosen Pearl Buck – The Good Earth John Knowles – A Separate Peace Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart

Writing Assignments: 
Part 1:  Students will read at least one of these novels as a basis for an analytical,  
argumentative  essay in which they draw upon textual details to make and explain judgments  
about artistry, quality, and social and historical values.  The assignment begins in week 7.  
Although the first draft is due by the end of week 13, students will have ample opportunity  
to revise based on peer and teacher feedback.  The teacher will provide the basic guidelines,  
but students will collaborate on the scoring rubric.  Final draft will be due by the end of  
week 16. 
Part 2:  Students will choose a short portion of each of the novels (30-50) lines, copy that  
portion of the novel, and create 10 multiple-choice questions to accompany each text.   
Questions are due by the end of week 15. 

Weeks 17-18Edit

Preparation for AP Exam and Semester Exams

The final exam will be a full-fledged AP-style exam drawn from exam questions from a  
previous year.  The final portfolio is due the last day of week 17. 

Notes AvailableEdit

2008-2009 Poetry

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