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Welcome to the AP Literature and Composition class.


The objective of the course is to teach you how to read and write critically about literature.


You were assigned two books to read and mark-up over the summer: The Catcher in the Rye and Blood Meridian. We'll begin with Catcher in the Rye. What do I mean by “mark-up?” I mean read the books with a pen in hand, commenting in the margin, asking questions, underlining...etc. You should "mark" anything that looks confusing, interesting, shocking, funny, or moving. Or something that jogs your memory in a good or bad way. Every page or two should have some ink on it, even if it just a plus sign (+) that indicates you liked what you read. Don’t just passively watch the words go by. It’s not TV. The goal for the year is to get involved with the texts you're reading. So mark them up. Hug them if you feel like it. Kiss them. Yell at them. Throw them against the wall. Use them as pillows, Frisbees, door stoppers, umbrellas. Make them feel a part your life.


NOTE: In the second quarter we will be reading a novel TBA, The Dead by James Joyce, and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The last two are short and are both in the public domain. So you can print them. Maybe 40-60 pages each. Here are web sites:







There are some poems we will be discussing the first quarter as well. I'll ask you to print them as we go along. Sometimes we will mark them up beforehand and sometimes we will mark them up in class. Here are the first two. "First Death in Nova Scotia" by Elizabeth Bishop and "Janet Waking" by John Crowe Ransom. Bring them Wednesday of the first week. Don't mark them up. Note: you can usually find an analysis of a poem on the internet. Avoid reading those; you want to stay in the habit of approaching poems cold, as you will do in the AP exam next May.

If you want to be a step ahead of the game, print the following from the AP Lit Handout page: 001, 002, 003, 006, 009, 011, 202. They will help you enormously. If you can, I would like you to print 002 and 003 ASAP. We'll be refering to these pages for the rest of the year. They'll help guide you when you need to analyze prose or fiction. 

If you have any questions, please ask. Or e-mail me: mjrychlewski@cps.edu




During the course I want you to write to reflect, create, analyze, and evaluate. I want you to examine personal emotional reactions, imitate genres and styles, explore and articulate themes, and argue the importance of a work of literature to a society. In addition, I want you to write essays in which you demonstrate your ability to apply a theory to a text, to compare and contrast two or more texts, to render a close and well supported textual reading, to discover and articulate how a short passage in a work can embody the larger themes found in the book, and to examine your personal value systems as they compare with those of the writers studied.

I also want you to prepare for the AP exam by writing, criticizing, and rewriting AP essay prompts and by practicing and analyzing AP multiple-choice passages. These formative assessments will guide you in your development as readers, writers and thinkers. There will also be summative assessments at the end of each quarter--usually AP essay prompts and AP multiple-choice passages.

At the end of the course you should be able to:

·        explain the purposes of a given rhetorical or stylistic strategy in a particular literary or non-literary text and not simply its identification.

·        identify the use of voice, wit, tone, metaphor and irony as they apply to both the essay and multiple-choice portions of the AP exam.

·        realize that reading is not a uniform activity and that different texts have to be read in different ways, with each text requiring a specific focus and demanding a specific skill.

·        recognize a word definition in context, the purpose of an example, contrasting assumptions, referents for a modifying phrase, and inference as to the belief underlying a statement.

·        write a brief and incisive introductory paragraph on the AP essay exam that conveys an authority of thinking and an understanding of the parameters of the rhetorical situation and does not simply repeat the prompt.

·        develop body paragraphs that show a depth of thinking and a complexity of analysis and not just a demonstration of fluency and correct mechanics.

·        conclude an essay in a crisp, inventive and provocative manner and not simply restate the opening paragraph.

·        avoid paraphrase, clichés, platitudes and unsubstantiated generalizations.

·        demonstrate that you’re capable of reading, discussing and writing on great literature.


I think that the best way to teach literature is to illuminate a central work with selections from other texts, to create a dialogue, if you will, between the texts. If we were studying Moby Dick, we might examine Wordsworth (The Prelude Part 6), Conrad (selections from Heart of Darkness), Faulkner (The Bear, chapter 1), Thoreau (Walden, chapter 2), Shakespeare (scenes of Lear and the Fool), Donne (selections from Holy Sonnets), Whitman (“Song of Myself” part 15), Twain (Huckleberry Finn, chapter 15) and discuss how each of these texts illuminates Moby-Dick in a different way and how each text deepens the understanding of the other. The goal of this course is only to grapple with a great work of literature, but to discover other writers whose moral imperatives, aesthetic concerns and literary strategies not only reflect the social, economic, spiritual and philosophical questions of their time but also shine a keener light on the central text in question. With that in mind, expect that fully half the course (second and third quarters) will be devoted to this approach. Finally, we should read, discuss and write to examine our values. I want this course to be more than a preparation for an AP exam. I want it to be a place where we can think about who we are and what we want to make of our lives. I want you to re-read these works of literature throughout your lives, visiting them again and again, as one returns a sacred place.


NOTE: I should mention here that the specifics of the class--week to week homework, for example, will not be found here but on the page marked HOMEWORK. I would say that what I have written here is a general examination of the class and my philosophy and methods of teaching.


The Homework pages will not necessarily follow this one according to the letter of the law. But great education lives and thrives under the spirit of the law.




All take-home essays and in-class essay exams will be graded on a 1-9 AP scale and converted into the CPS grading scale.


9 = 110! Break out the champagne! 10 points applied to any other grade

8/9 = 100

8 = 95

7/8 = 90

7 = 85

6/7 = 80

6 = 75

5/6 = 70

5 = 65

4/5 = 60

4 = 55

3/4 = 50

3 = 45

Below 3 = 40

One day late = minus one grade.

Not handed in = 0


All multiple-choice exams with be graded with percentages.


90 = A

80 = B

70 = C

60 = D

59 = F





1. Why Study Literature? So you can retrun to these books as one returns to a sacred place (51%)...and...get good grade in AP Exam. (49%) And...you'll be witty at parties.

2. Wallace Stevens "The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm" as an antidote to ISIS. The good humanity can produice.

3. We screwed it up; you gotta fix it. Sorry.

4. Two poems about coming to terms with death: "For Janet Waking" and "First Death in Nova Scotia." Look at words, parentheses, title, POV, shift, plot, tone, figurative language

5. Give me the opening line of your C/C essay on Monday 9/14

6. A chance to live 9/11 vicariously...though the videos. Was it worth it?

7. Your thoughts? Volunteers?





1. We disucss your opening sentences.

2. We introduce our transition friends: "the most salient feature" and "another integral element." 

3. We go deeper into focus, especially POV

4. We write the C/C essay on "First Death in Nova Scotia" and "For Janet Waking" or "The Chimney Sweeper" and "We Are Seven"

5 Our first AP poetry analysis: "My Mother Would be a Falconress" and "Daddy."

7. The Catcher in the Rye is read and ready by the beginning of week.






NOTE: Everything from this point on needs to be re-edited. ...So...relax. No need to read beyond this point...though there are many interesting things that follow. For instance, this great WWI photogaph! We are, as you should know, "commemorating" the 100th anniversary of WWI. 1914-1918 ...More on that later.





a poem from the movie The History Boys

Drummer Hodge

by Thomas Hardy

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined -- just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around:
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the drummer never knew --
Fresh from his Wessex home --
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally. 





What follows are plans and lessons from previous years. I change every year, so don't expect reading this will give you a head start. I will post try to the plans for the each month at the beginnning of that month





QUARTER ONE: Close reading of poetry and discussion and analysis of A Visit from the Good Squad



If you can't understand a text, it's impossible to write on it. With that in mind, we will spend much of the first quarter practicing close readings of texts. The majority of the focus will be on poetry since poetry comprises 40% of the AP exam. If you can understand poems, you'll probably do well on the AP test. We will study the basic elements of poems (language, sight, sound, movement, shape and voice) and the various forms (ballad, haiku, ode, sonnet, villanelle, sestina, blank verse, free verse, field poetry) throughout the 10-week quarter. But we will also delve into Jennifer Egan's exciting novel.


1)      personal emotional reaction to a poem, prose passage or dramatic selection

2)      close textual analysis of poem, prose passage or dramatic selection

3)      argument for an antecedent scenario

4)      application of critical theory to a poem

5)      reflective essay on problems with interpretation

6)      AP poetry analysis with re-writes



Weeks 1-4:  Close reading of poetry

American poets: Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Hart Crane, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Langston Hughes, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Richard Wilbur, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery.

British poets: William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, Andrew Marvell, John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Gerard Manley Hopkins, W. H. Auden, Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney, and Eavan Boland.

Poetry in Translation: Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Neruda, Charles Baudelaire, Wislawa Szymbroksa, Rainer Maria Rilke, Francisco Garcia Lorca, Jacques Prévert, Czeslaw Milosz.


Weeks 5-6: The A Visit from the Goon Squad. (summer reading). Discussion questions TBA.




Weeks 7-9: Review of critical readings on poetic theory.

Ion by Plato,

A Defense of Poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley

An Apology for Poetry by Sir Philip Sydney

Preface to the Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth

The Nature of Proof in the Interpretation of Poetry by Lawrence Perrine

Good Readers and Good Writers by Vladamir Nabakov

Preface to Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

The Decay of Lying by Oscar Wilde

From Projected Verse by Charles Olsen

Some Notes on Organic Form by Denise Levertov



QUARTER TWO: Literature that examines the concept of the love.



The quarter will be devoted to "love." What is it? Where does it come from? What did the great thinker's say? How does it change us" How long can we wait for it? We will examine poems  that deal with love and use those to illuminate Love in the Time of Cholera.

We will extrapolate the theme of love from characterization, plot, setting, conflict and tone. We will do close textual readings from many works.



1)      personal emotional reaction to the work

2)      imitation of a work

3)      close textual analysis of a passage

4)      discussion of how a short passage relates to the large theme

5)      comparison and contrast with supplementary works

6)      AP prose passage analysis (re-writes will be expected)

7)      AP open-essay question. (re-writes will be expected)






All through the year we will work individually and in teams deconstructing the AP multiple choice tests. Possible assignments may include

1)      making marginal notes on texts followed by class discussions

2)      triaging the difficulty of both questions and answers and then sharing strategies with fellow students

3)      working in pairs and groups to arrive a correct answers

4)      earning and quizzing for correct identification and use of literary terms

5)      taking simulated tests

6)      imitating the writing style of certain periods.



The Odyssey by Homer (Fitzgerald translation)

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

The Inferno by Dante (Ciardi translation)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Richard  III by William Shakespeare

The Misanthrope by Moliere

Candide by Voltaire

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stern

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

The Three Sisters by Anton Chekov

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

As I Lay Dying by William Fauklner

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

All My Sons by Arthur Miller

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

The Leopard by Giuseppe de Lampadusa

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee

A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul

Master Harold…and the Boys by Athol Fugard

…If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvina

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Shame by Salman Rushdie

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Fences by August Wilson

Wit by Margaret Edson

Crabwalk by Gunter Grass

The History Boys by Alan Bennett

Waiting by Ha Jin

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz




The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

The Dead by James Joyces

The Bear by William Faulkner

Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Billy Budd by Herman Melville

Short stories from You Gotta Read This (an anthology)

Text: You Gotta Read This,  Edited by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard. Perennial/Hareper Collins. NY, NY, 1994


William Shakespeare, John Donne, Andrew Marvell, John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Gerald Manley Hopkins. Christina Rossetti, A. E. Housman, Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, William Bulter Yeats, W. H. Auden, Langston Hughes, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Sylvia Plath, Richard Wilbur, Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Anthony Hecht, Richard Wilbur, Derrick Walcott, Eavan Boland, Denise Levertov, Anne Sexton, Adrienne, John Ashbery as well as translations from Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Neruda, Charles Baudelaire, Wislawa Szymbroksa, Rainer Maria Rilke, Francisco Garcia Lorca, Jacques Prévert, Czeslaw  Milosz.


Text: The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Fifth Edition (Paperback)
by Margaret Ferguson (Editor), Mary Jo Salter (Editor), Jon Stallworthy (Editor), W. W. Norton & Company; 5th edition (December 30, 2004)




Poetics by Aristotle

On the Sublime by Joseph Addison

The American Scholar by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Art of Fiction Henry James

The Critic as Artist by Oscar Wilde

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Tradition and the Individual Talent by T. S. Eliot

Criticism Inc. by John Crow Ransom

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin

Kinds of Criticism by Kenneth Burke

What is Literature? by Jean Paul Sartre

The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes

What is an Author? by Michel Foucault

Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body by Susan Bordo

Talking Black, Critical Signs of the Times by Henry Louis Gates

English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick


Text: The Norton Anthology of Theory of Criticism, Vincent B. Leitch, General Editor, W. W. Noton and Company, 2001





Knowledge:  describe (the party Gatsby gives), define (The Jazz Age) Describe the 1920’s: Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Al Capone, Black Sox Scandal, Prohibition, The Charleston, Flagpole sitters, Sacco and Vanzetti,  The Stock Market Crash, WWI. The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought which typifies and influences the culture of a period. Which events capture the Zeitgeist?

Comprehension: distinguishe (Gatsby’s money versus Tom’s money), gives example of (Gatsby’s possible mob connection)

Application:  predict (the marriage of Tom and Daisy), discover (something about these characters on a second reading)

Analysis: differentiate (Feminist versus Marxist criticism), contrast (the 20’s with the 60’s)

Synthesis: design (a pie chart proportioning the influences of Nick: WWI, the Midwest upbringing, his age, his family fortune, the wildness of the Jazz age) reorganize (the way the Daisy might tell the story, Tom, Jordon = opening line.

Evaluation: defend (the importance of this book), critique (the feminist and Marxist views) Evaluate this quote: “Is it sadder to find the past again, and find it inadequate to the present than to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Four more quotes:

Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy.

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.






What follows are some additional  ideas/remarks.exmaples--mostly about poetry--that might be implemented and/or referred to throughout the year. In addition there is a teacher's guide to the AP



I want you to start this year by working with poems and we’re going to approach them from two different directions. We’re going to read some in isolation--this means without considering the poet’s biography or the aesthetic, moral or philosophical concerns of either the poet or the era the poem was written in. We’ll look at the shape of a poem, the choice of words, the structure of lines and sentences, the tone, the rhythm, the imagery, the shifts, the implicit or explicit arguments, the intended audience, the antecedent scenario. In short, we’ll engage in what is called “a close reading.” It will be a slow and fruitful process. The second approach will be broader. We’ll read and discuss theories of poetry throughout history and consider selected poems to see if they support or refute these theories. I’m taking these two approaches for three reasons: 1) I want you to be able to read a poem for it’s intrinsic beauty and power but also to see how it fits into larger historical and aesthetic concerns. 2) I want to introduce you to poems and essays from various eras and acquaint you with the language of those eras because you will encounter those types of texts on the AP exam. 3) I want to instill in you a love for poetry and a confidence for understanding it. At the end of this unit I would like you to come to some appreciation of poetry and maybe even think of it as I do: as a sublime and revolutionary art.

I’ll hand out the poems we’ll read in isolation all during the quarter. Expect an average of one every other day. We’ll mark it up for 10/15 minutes, then discuss it and/or write on it. Some of the poems will be selections from previous AP prompts so we’ll get to write in a simulated AP atmosphere, compare sample AP student essays with ours, and internalize a rubric for what constitutes good writing about poetry. We’ll also take the opportunity to read poems and then answer AP multiple-choice questions about them so we can practice for that aspect of the exam.

I have selected six texts; each offers a “philosophy” of poetry. The texts begin with the ancient Greeks and continue to our day. None of these texts are exceptionally long, but some are more difficult to understand. All of the texts are on the Internet and you can read them there. If you wish to print them, please do. At font size twelve they should run around 100 pages. Be warned: some of this reading will be difficult. You have to learn how to read texts like these in college so start now. Have a dictionary next to you. Re-read, re-read, re-read.

Below are eight poems that we might apply the philosophical ideas to. All the poems are on the Internet. Students should print all these poems as well.


“Loving in Truth, and Fair in Verse My Love to Show” by Sir Philip Sydney

“Lovers and Madmen Have Such Seething Brains” by William Shakespeare

“Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“The Poets Light But Lamps” by Emily Dickenson

“Had I the Choice” by Walt Whitman

“The Idea of Order at Key West” by Wallace Stevens

“Black Rook in Rainy Weather” by Sylvia Plath

“Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow” by Robert Duncan

Since we’ll be doing a lot of writing, you should also print the “Active Verbs List” from the “Handouts AP” section of my website: www.thelearningcurve.net. It’s important that we broaden our expressive vocabulary as soon as possible. Also print out any handouts there that pertain to the reading or analyzing of poetry.


Please note: my official description of this course (listed above) is the one I have at the College Board, which certifies my class as an accredited AP course. While I generally follow the curriculum described above, I do vary slightly from year to year. So you may consider the assessments for this class to be a selection/combination of what is listed on the official page above and what I have proposed here. I like to offer lots of assessments and let student pick and choose what they feel they need to work on. I’m sure between the two lists, we’ll come up with something fair and reasonable.

  1. I want you to react in your Writer’s Journal to the various poems and poetic theories you are encountering. You can react intellectually or emotionally. I may also ask you to summarize or paraphrase a section of a poem or essay in your journal.
  2. You may work in groups outside of class to distill the essence of these poetic ideas. This means reading the text carefully at home, making copious marginal notes and coming prepared. Students who come to these group efforts unprepared should be ready to work alone.
  3. You might be asked to individually build a Venn diagram comparing and contracting three different “philosophies.”
  4. During the unit I will give you several poems in prose blocks and ask you to put them into “poetic” form. This will include punctuating them and breaking them into lines and stanzas. I’m doing this because I believe it’s important to inhabit a poem from the inside, to be an organic part of the creative process. In short, to force your self to “think” like a poet. You may wish to supply these for your fellow students.
  5. Each of you should probably analyze two poems in a three-stage process. First, write an extended paragraph in which you discuss a single salient feature from a poem and how that feature helps the poet make her point. Then repeat this process with your second poem, writing three paragraphs on three salient features where you try to create interesting and smooth transitions between paragraphs. Lastly, write an essay comparing and contrasting two poems. As you write these essays you will start to develop an individual style and gradually wean yourself from the traditional five-paragraph essay. All essays will be typed.
  6. I might ask you to choose a poetic theory that you find most “interesting” and apply that theory to a particular poem. It may be written or oral.

We will return to poetry in each of the other three quarters, for two or three weeks per quarter, each time addressing another theme. I have some themes (and poems) in mind--love, childhood, war—but I’m willing to listen to your suggestions.

Mr. Michael Rychlewski

AP Literature and Composition

Schurz High School

Chicago Il.


I will hand out several poems to begin the year; the rest you have to print yourself.

10 poems to print and write on for the first quarter:

“The Portrait” by Stanley Kunitz

“Three Songs for the End of Summer” by Jane Kenyon

“Janet Waking” by John Crowe Ransom

“Daddy,” by Sylvia Plath,

“My Mother Would Be a Falconress,” by Robert Duncan,

“We Are Seven” by William Wordsworth

“The Chimney Sweeper,” by William Blake

“Fern Hill, “ by Dylan Thomas

“The Picnic” by John Logan

“On the Death of Friends in Childhood” by Donald Hall.

NOTE: Also begin reading  Laurence Perrine’s “The Nature of Proof in the Interpretation of Poetry” and Vladimir Nabokov’s “Good Readers and Good Writers.” (to read these texts see thelearningcurve.net under “Fine Arts”)


If you want to look at the AP course from the teacher's point of view here is the 99 pages teacher's guide:






Some works of literature use the element of time in a distinct way.

The chronological sequence of events may be altered, or time may be suspended or accelerated.

Choose a novel, an epic, or a play of recognized literary merit and show how

the author's manipulation of time contributes to the effectiveness of the work as a whole.

Do not merely summarize the plot