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English Literature AP

ENG 401/402

English Literature AP

  • Course ID:ENG 401/402
  • Semesters:2
  • Department:English
  • Course Rank:Required, College Level
  • Teachers:Michael Ortiz

Description and Objectives

The purpose of this class is three-fold:

  • First, it is designed to offer seniors an opportunity to read several significant works in American or English literature. Our main focus on these works will be formalist in nature, i.e., we will be exploring texts primarily in regard to their compositional excellence. This will require a working knowledge of the elements that contribute to the aesthetic quality of a literary work. Concepts such as tone, imagery, diction, plot, prosody, irony, tragedy, comedy, point of view, and voice will receive particularly close attention as we explore how formal qualities shape literary works and literary history.
  • Secondly, we will study the humane values that such works often express. The rich interplay between the formal literary qualities of a work and its political, religious, or philosophical insights will be at the core of class discussion. Our emphasis on narrative structure will also ensure that the compelling nature of the texts we study will reach as many students as possible.
  • Thirdly, the writing assignments in this class will offer each student the opportunity to become a more fluent and insightful writer. Particular time will be given to the thesis statement, i.e., the central controlling judgment at the heart of a successful essay. In this way, the reading and writing parts of this course complement each other: close reading will facilitate compositions of depth and precision.

Writing assignments will be organized to facilitate the following goals: writing to understand a text, writing to evaluate the text according to generic, historical, and philosophical considerations, and writing to explain a text to the general reader with clarity and eloquence.

The seminar format of the class is extremely important to a mature study of literature. Attentive participation in the class discussion will be account for 10% of the student’s quarter grade each term. Students who fail to comport themselves with maturity in the seminar will be asked to leave.

Given the nature of our reading assignments, I hope each student in the seminar views the course as an introduction to the college-level study of literary texts that can enrich one’s life no matter what career one ultimately follows. Aesthetic beauty as found in literature is a subject that no single course can exhaustively study. The techniques of literary analysis we use this year are in fact a means to an end: the contemplation of works of verbal beauty that show forth luminously the dignity of the human person.


Short Stories by Faulkner, Hemingway, Wolff
Essays by T. S. Eliot, George Orwell
Old School, Tobias Wolff
Antigone, Sophocles
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Purgatorio, Dante (Ciardi trans.)
Hamlet, Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare
Peace, Richard Bausch
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Course Requirements

There will be a typed, formal essay due approximately every ten class days. Length will be 2 pages in the fall; and 4-5 pages starting in January.

Successful Students

“The purpose of literary study is to be able to discuss a work with its author without setting his teeth on edge.” –Robert Frost