Saturday, June 24, 2017

AP Lit Summer Reading Guidance

I know it's long. Read the whole thing.

A Few Thoughts
Welcome to AP English Literature and Composition! This is the capstone class of your study of English (reading and writing) at Fife. It will attempt to bring together all that you've learned along the way, celebrating humanity's attempt to describe, explore, and chronicle what it means to be human. Of course, we'll also be prepping our skills for the AP test in May, but I trust that won't get in the way too much.

As in AP English Language and Composition, we will endeavor to reach and master the AP College Board standards. Those of you who've been in the program your first two years at FHS should be well on your way to doing so already. The summer assignment is simply a means to shake off the summer doldrums and re-sharpen our academic prowess. It's not a test. Don't obsess. Be thoughtful, but don't obsess.

Summer Assignment
Step one: read good books*
  • Re-read GatsbyHuck Finn, or a book you read for Pre-AP: Mockingbird, Great Expectations, Macbeth, Old Man and the Sea, Kite Runner/Power of One, or Lord of the Flies
  • Read one other book of literary merit. I suggest one from this list of books used on question 3 of the AP Lit exam: http://mseffie.com/AP/APtitles.html. The books we read in class this year will be taken from that list as well. If you happen to pick one we will read, no harm done. If you'd rather read something we won't, this is the likely list (subject to adjustment, and it is highly likely we won't get to all of these): The CrucibleHamletHeart of Darkness, Midsummer Night's DreamThe Scarlet LetterFrankensteinTheir Eyes Were Watching God, Things Fall ApartPride and PrejudiceOryx & CrakeDeath of a Salesman, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and 1984 or Brave New World. (If you're buying ahead of time, the books in bold type are the ones we actually got to last year. A Handmaid's Tale may be substituted for Oryx & Crake in the novel project this coming year, but after the class feedback, I think we'll stay with the current list.
Aside: I'm reading A Handmaid's Tale again right now -- it's been years -- and it's really interesting/disturbing. There's a series on Hulu, but I'm waiting to finish the book before I start it. It's only shown up on the exam twice, but it might be an interesting read if you like dystopias. It also fits in well with the issues surrounding women in the health care debate if you follow politics.
Step two: a) informally journal about the books as you read them, and b) write a more formal analysis piece (300 words +) about each book once you finish reading it.

Further details on step two: annotate in the margins, open yourself to the ideas of the book and elaborate on them in your own reading journals. If you would like more formal writing practice, try to break down a few of the key devices the author uses (symbolism, imagery, dialog, foreshadowing, narrative structure, etc) to convey certain themes (unrequited love, the inexorable passage of time, the simultaneous beauty and ugliness of human existence, etc). 
Don't stress about the details of "What does he want? Oh my gosh, what am I supposed to write? What does he mean when he says to write about the books?!" Just start a conversation with the book. Pretend the book is your buddy and you have some questions to ask it and comments to make to it. Nothing formal is required, but try not to be boring and waste everyone's time by making this writing portion busywork. Be evocative. If you'd like, you can be creative. You can "interview" one of the characters and make up the responses yourself. Write a poem inspired by the book and write about the connections you made. Ask yourself through writing why you chose this book and what you think of it as a piece of literature. How did the book impact you? What questions do the characters, situations, and themes raise in your mind? Did you like it? If you do not have anything to say in response to these or any other questions, you did not actually read the book. You may have run your eyes over the pages, and even experienced a bit of story, but you didn't read it.**

Further, further details about step two: For the re-read (Gatsby, Huck Finn, Mockingbird, Great Expectations, Macbeth, Old Man and the Sea, Kite Runner/Power of One, or Lord of the Flies), focus your journaling on your new understandings, noticings, and insights into the novel. Literature is greater than just a novel largely because they yield up additional rewards upon repeated reading. This is your opportunity to begin to experience that. This link may also help in reading literature well.

Step three:
  • If you did not take my AP Lang class last year, email a brief introduction of yourself that includes your full name, why you're taking this class, the books you're reading for the summer assignment, and a bit about yourself as a learner to agiddings@fifeschools.com  
  • If you did take my course last year, still write to me (I've missed you!). In your email, talk about why you're taking this course and what you hope to get from it. Talk about how you think you may have grown over this summer as a person and a learner. Also, let me know the books you're reading for the summer assignment. 
  • This email is DUE a week BEFORE school begins. For the calendar-challenged among you (you know who you are) that would be August 30th.
Highly Recommended: If you aren't very familiar with the biblical stories, you might want to take care of that. Biblical allusions are important to much of Western literature, of which we will read a fair bit. The good news is that it's pretty easy to shore that up. I highly recommend reading the books Genesis, Exodus, and one of the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) in the Bible. Some of you may have your favorite translation(s), but we aren't reading the Bible for devotional reasons, but academic ones. It would benefit you most to read those three books in the King James Version (not the New King James) in order to help you pick up the vocabulary and cadences of 16th/17th century language.

Deadline: Wednesday, 6 September 2017 bring your journals and your essays on the books to class. On the 2nd or 3rd day of class, you will be asked to share some of the insights you made in re-reading a novel you'd studied in a previous class. You may want a hard copy of your book for this.

Buying Books: Many of you will want to buy your own novels. The first book you should buy is The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature 8th Edition (ISBN # 978-0-312-47411-9). It's available through Amazon at the link above for very cheap (Starting at $0.49 plus $3.99 shipping!). Also, pick up a copy of The Scarlet Letter. We will begin with that and the school copies are literally falling apart.

We will use this beginning the first week of school, the second at the latest depending on what the first day is like this year (you ASB people probably know already--if it's like last year, maybe Monday of the the second week). This will be where most of our short stories and poetry come from, and maybe one of our plays time permitting. It also has a figurative ton of extra helps and explanations in it that many of you will find very useful. Any questions? Just want to chat about books? About the class? Email agiddings@fifeschools.com
No really, you can email me about (almost) anything you'd like. Fear not young padawan. ;)

See you in September!
As Fitzgerald once wrote,

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”


* Steps for the summer assignment adapted from my esteemed colleague Ms. Robison.
** Remember not to obsess. I know some of you just thought to yourselves, "Hmmm, I wonder if I should just do all of the suggestions just to be on the safe side." Stop it. Focus, but be thoughtful and just engage with the books.