Until They Become Conscious They Will Never Rebel: Dystopia Intro and Notes


Commissar Nikolai Yezhov with Stalin

George Orwell’s 1984 is, I would claim, THE seminal work of dystopia.   Ever hear of the phrase “big brother”?  How about thoughtcrime, or doublethink?  –All from 1984.  You know how we can’t do anything these days without someone recording it or putting it on social media?  You know all that data mining Wikileaks exposed?  Orwell called it.  Ever hear of a government falsifying reports and sugarcoating history?  Orwell called it: “Who controls the present controls the past; who controls the past controls the future” (Orwell, 1984)


Hey, where’d he go? #unperson

Or how about the fact that nations are always at war and always talking about another war, meanwhile the masses become xenophobic towards those peoples?  Orwell called that too.   What if we speak out?  Exiled.  Brainwashed.  Vaporized.  #Stalin

Beyond all the political commentary, however, there’s a great story in it too — love, sex, friendship, betrayal — truly one of the best books ever written.

The second option is Margaret Atwood’s dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale (which we were totally reading before it was cool, but now, thanks to Hulu, The Women’s March, and chauvinistic supreme court confirmation hearings, and more confirmations . . . it’s  super popular!) In The Handmaid’s Tale a totalitarian regime takes over America under the false guise of religion.  The problem: infertility.  The solution: a literal interpretation of the Rachel and Leah story in which potentially fertile females are employed as concubines, though termed handmaids.   There is a bit of a feminist edge, though Atwood does not embrace that term as it means so many different things to so many different people and can muddy the waters.  Instead, Atwood chooses to focus on the fact that she based everything in The Handmaid’s Tale on actual events in history . . .  and much of it has also happened since The Handmaid’s Tale’s original publication in 1986.

Click through the break for handouts, notes, and more . . .
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The Function of Setting, Character, and Symbol in the Short Story

cause-nobody-wants a charlie in the box

Charlie in the Box on the Island of Misfit Toys from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” 1964

Our next short story (Sep. 10 & 11) is Flannery O’Connor’s classic “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”  (or here as a doc) Again, use literary patterns, setting, and character to decode the symbolism and put together what moral, social, or spiritual experience this story represents.  How do we end up with misfits in our society and what are the consequences?  And what the heck does he mean “she would of been a good woman, [ . . . ] “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life” (O’Connor)? The Canvas assignment is here, and a supplemental reading is here: The Element of Suspense in A Good Man is Hard to Find  Enjoy!

banksy show me the monet

Banksy, “Show me the Monet” from CBS News

EXTRA CREDIT:  “Greasy Lake” by T. Coragessan Boyle.  Here you will need to use literary patterns and setting (like in “Hunters in the Snow”) along with tone and point of view to discern character: what are these boys really like?

Literary Patterns and “Hunters in the Snow”

As a way of introducing prose analysis (which is the second essay question on the AP exam) we’re applying Patterns in Literature (Note page to help you follow along: Patterns in Lit brainstorming) to Tobias Wolff’s “Hunters in the Snow.”  (or as a downloadable doc here)

Directions for your assignment on the short story can be found here: Hunters in the Snow, or after the page break.  You can write out your answers in a notebook or on a piece of paper, or type them into the assignment document or one like it. This should be included in your learning portfolio that we will review at the end of the quarter.

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The Function of Character and Narrative Style: “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall”


Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

We are using Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” (text can also be found after the page break) to look at the effects of character and narrative style.  Here are the Figurative Language and Characterization 2020 notes.  Read through them and/or go through the videos after the page break, then read and annotate the short story. You can do this on your own, but I highly recommend you watch the guided annotation video after the page break.

You can print and annotate the story, annotate it in a word processing program such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word, or you can just take notes in a notebook or separate document. Continue reading

Introduction to Literary Interpretation

AP English 12 focuses largely on the interpretation of literature.  In addition to analyzing poetry and prose on the multiple choice section, you’ll also have to write three essays, one of which is analyzing a poem, another of which is analyzing prose.

Check out this PowerPoint and/or this video for an introduction and some review on how to do that.

If I lose you, don’t worry, there are other ways to think about this approach and we’ll be practicing it a lot.

The prompt and poems used in the presentation can be found here: Icarus Prompt or after the page break: Continue reading

Bildungsroman Preview

Lost in the Maze Photo by Burst on Unsplash

For our upcoming bildungsroman unit, you’ll have the choice between three texts.

I do have some copies I can lend out — and if you need one please don’t be afraid to ask — but you should try to get your own copy so you can write in it.  Used is fine, so feel free to hit up McKay’s or thriftbooks.com .

The final project we are working towards will be a digital presentation of one of the characters in your novel complete with quotes from the novel and your own analysis.  Keep this in mind as you read so that you can select a character you’d like to present and pick out quotes that best portray that character.

Click below for the choices Continue reading