ap english literature and composition

ap english literature and composition

Exploring the Key Concepts and Techniques in AP English Literature and Composition

1. Introduction to AP English Literature and Composition

The English Literature and Composition writing course, built and designed for the self-motivated student, focuses on essays with well-formed topic sentences, examples, and details taken from the text, and a solid conclusion. As an advanced placement student, you often find that the English Literature and Composition classroom tends to focus on the types of essay questions that appear on the AP exam. In this way, the AP classroom atmosphere stimulates the thinking and confidence of students, as well as their awareness of a work of literature in its entirety. The curriculum is demanding, and to many students, it is a significant change from existing AP coursework. Unlike specialized courses, AP English Literature and Composition focuses on the relationships of ideas rather than the historical or biographical economy of a work. Through the concurrent study of both works of literary merit and aspects of composition, it achieves a number of goals.

AP English Literature and Composition is a college-level advanced placement course for highly motivated high school students. Students in this year-long course read and analyze works of recognized literary merit and write essays of a critical nature. Throughout the English Literature and Composition course, students develop close reading skills and the ability to support ideas via careful attention to literary detail. Questions and topics are designed to be complex so that an individual piece or passage can support multiple plausible interpretations. Advanced placement students often complete each assigned work carefully and thoughtfully, considering all aspects of the work at hand.

2. Analyzing Literary Devices and Techniques

Section 1 provides a gentle, mostly practical introduction to the dreaded connotations of ambiguity and paradox, and the notion of fictional narrative or story. Then in Section 2.2, we show how an English teacher can interpret connotation in different ways that give far less confusion than the heralded “hidden moral.” We also discuss briefly the role of theme in Section 2.3. Sections 2.4 through 2.6 briefly describe the stuff of fictional narrative, namely the literary elements of plot, character, and setting. Details of various elements, and more literary devices and techniques, are left to the chapter supplements. Finally, we briefly look ahead to how to investigate form and style in Sections 2.7 through 2.9.

As with previous sections, this section is not a comprehensive review of all the literary devices and techniques useful in literary analysis. However, the introduction of the key concepts often solves the need for us to detail the devices themselves. In order to investigate form and style, we first have to know some of the main points of the form and style. Where the outline theory is incomplete, we list more devices and techniques. What follows is a guide to some basic concepts of literature that is functional, not exhaustive.

3. Writing Effective Essays in AP English Literature and Composition

To help students locate the potential of an essay, they should ask themselves a few very basic questions. First, what problem does the author present and what does the author want the reader to learn about the problem? Or, what claim is the author making about the problem presented? How has the author conflicted values and how has the author appealed to logos and pathos to support her or his contention or claim? In essays in rhetorical and literary merit, students should consider such literary devices as metaphors, similes, hyperbole, imagery, sound, versification and prosody, diction, syntax, tone, or irony employed by the author to create meaning and to sway the reader.

Writing about literature is one of the most demanding aspects of the student of literature’s job. Students are required to write five kinds of papers about literature. They are to demonstrate their ability to write critical essays analyzing poetry, prose, and drama from several different perspectives, for example, rhetorical and literary merit, characterization, style, conflicting values, and the philosophical assumptions each author presents. In addition, students are encouraged to work on expository essays to explain and compare different works; argumentative essays to take and support a particular stance; and persuasive essays in which they articulate a practical and workable solution to the question or problem their essay addresses.

4. Preparing for the AP Exam: Strategies and Tips

A common concern among teachers new to AP English Literature and Composition is how they will organize the AP Literature and AP Composition exams into the 135 minutes they are given to take both exams. It is actually fairly easy to keep everything straight. First, you will create two columns, a “2” column and a “3” column, and a row with the title and author of the works. The “2” column will contain the titles of the works your students would most likely respond to if they choose the first question, and the “3” column will contain the titles of the works they would respond to if they choose the second question. In the fourth row, you will have more columns which contain the titles of works your students have read from a list of books provided in a previous bullet.

Now that you have spent a year preparing for the AP English Literature and Composition exam, it is time to examine strategies for approaching the AP exam. The best AP teachers will have addressed many components of the exam throughout the year, including the in-depth reading and writing of critical essays on the literature discussed in class. At the end of the year, review will only be necessary in those areas where students need it most. In previous years, essays were more straightforward. However, since the May 2000 exam, the overall approach is to move away from the regimented prompt and to ask more unpredictable, open-ended questions, much like you would find in college.

5. Exploring Diverse Literary Works in AP English Literature and Composition

One of the strengths of this course is the variety of literary texts and time periods that can be studied. Indeed, one of the requirements of the course is that students read literature from several different time periods and genres so that they will be prepared for the free-response aspect of the AP English Literature examination, which has at least one question from each of the major time periods. To give the students an idea of what is available, have in the classroom one copy of a textbook that you might consider adopting. Once you have the book, use the table of contents for the students to identify time periods, regions, or genres that the class will be reading during the course. If you are not quite sure what you would like the class to read, try to simulate the process yourself by picking a chapter or representative section from each time period. Even in smaller school districts traditional “survey” courses have been moved around the high schools so that literature studies in one school may not resemble what is studied in another one. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the norm: a study of literature that focuses on only three genres or time frames will not satisfactorily prepare your students for the AP exam.

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