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What Does it Take to Succeed in AP English Literature?

Students are interested in literature mostly because it is one of the artful ways by which students can both appreciate past literary masterpieces and add their own analysis and interpretation of these texts to the body of knowledge about the subject.

As such, AP English Literature will aim to aid students to prepare them for college courses in English Literature, because it not only requires memorization or theoretical knowledge, but also a wide range of reading background in literature.

What Is AP English Literature?

AP English Literature is concerned with the careful reading and critical analysis of literature and the ability to interpret, evaluate, and write this understanding as a critical response to the literary piece. Students will have to do close reading of the assigned text so that they would understand not only the essence of the poem or the thesis of the story, but also to appreciate and assimilate the methods and techniques that the authors have used for their works.

This will include appreciation for the style, structure, themes, language, imagery, and tone used. Because of this, the two main focus points of the course—reading and writing—have particular goals that have to be achieved to fully benefit the students.\

  • Reading.
  • This part is more concerned with honing the student’s ability and willingness to look at the literary piece in a critical way since it will be an intensive study of several generations worth of literature. It is only in a successive, continuous, and expanding way of reading that a student can do in-depth training. They will encounter genres and cultures through the pages, from the sixteenth to the more contemporary twenty-first century.

    Studying the meaning and symbolisms of these pieces are also a must. This is the way by which students can develop their critical perspectives and appreciation for literature.

  • Writing.
  • AP English Literature is not just about reading selected pieces but also about having a critical approach to analysis and the ability to write reaction papers to communicate these analysis and evaluations and add to the artistry and cultural value of the students’ interpretation.

    Writing assignments will always be part of this AP course, and basic writing skills like coherence, vocabulary, and writing style are also examined.

Sources and Readings Used in AP English Literature

Unlike other AP courses, wherein there are different textbooks that teach students the theoretical knowledge for that specific course, AP English Literature is more unique in the sense of its reading materials.

The reading list of AP English Literature is more concerned with building a student’s literature horizon and broadening their literary resources bank. This will enable them to have an edge in terms of knowledge about works in drama, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, or expository prose.

It is best for students to find these books and literary pieces even before they become assigned readings because they will be taken for their college subjects anyway, especially those who are planning to receive a major in English as their college course.

  • Drama.
  • For drama, College Board recommends a wide range of readings, from William Shakespeare’s masterpieces like Othello and King Lear to Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. Tennessee Williams also tops the list, with works such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire.

  • Fiction.
  • AP English Literature also tackles works of fiction, particularly novels and short stories. This part is probably the most expansive and varied of the four categories, particularly because of the two divisions that fall under it. Students should expect the works of various authors like Fyodor Dostoevky, John Fowles, William Faulkner, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov, Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, Albert Camus, Joyce Carol Oates, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name a few.

  • Poetry
  • Collections of poetry from different poets will also be part of the AP English Literature curriculum. From old favorites like William Shakespeare’s sonnets, Robert Frost, and William Blake to more contemporary poets like W. H. Auden, Seamus Heaney, and William Wordsworth. You will also encounter collected poems from John Keats, George Herbert, Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, William Butler Yeats, and Edgar Allan Poe.

  • Expository prose
  • Students will also take up the works of writers of this genre, which include The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman, Best American Essays of the Century compiled by Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan, A Collection of Essays by George Orwell, The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing by Norman Mailer, Moment of Being: Unpublished Autobiographical Writings by Virginia Wolf, and Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Samuel Johnson.

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