AP Literature

Reading. Writing. Thinking.

AP Literature Review

Review important literary terms that may be useful on the AP exam. Go to quizlet.com and find Mrs. Causey's AP Literature Review. Join the class and add the literary terms you were assigned.

Open another internet tab, and go to literarydevices. net to find the definitions and examples of the terms.


A Modest Proposal

Written by Jonathan Swift, this satiric piece has delighted and horrified readers, as well as hopefully inspiring awareness.

What is Horation or Juvenalian satire? Click on the links to find out.

Read the essay and then answer the questions below.

Questions for considering satirical pieces:

1. What are the underlying assumptions or unwritten attitudes in the piece?

2. What foolish, flawed, or wrong human aspect of society is being lampooned?

3. What would the author’s argument look like stripped of its humor?

4. What resources of language (diction, syntax, figurative language) does the satirist use to skewer the target?

5. In what ways do these techniques (diction, syntax, figurative language) disarm the intended target or sweeten the criticism to make it acceptable to its target?

6. What is the goal of the satirist (i.e. how does the satirist wish society, the individual, the body politic, or an institution to change or amend itself)?

7. How effective are the methods of the particular satirist?

8. What is the persona of the narrator/author?

April is Poetry Month!

This is a link from Knopf, a publisher. Its called a Poem-a-Day, and they send you a poem everyday during the month of April. How cool is that?!

Ready for a challenge that will make you a better human being?* Then try out this link, which connects to NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month. The challenge is to write a poem EVERY day during the month of April. The blog will offer a prompt each day, but feel free to go rogue, and create your own unprompted piece.

*This statements have only been tested and proven in a case study of one individual, by that individual, also known as Mrs. Causey.

Etymology Essay

Here are a few final thoughts on the essay, and links you may find useful.

  1. The requirements of the assignment are here.
  2. An example of an etymology essay I wrote is here (still in rough draft form).
  3. Go to the Purdue Owl's sample paper in MLA format for additonal help.

Remember to have organization in your paper. You can use the headings Etymology/History, Meanings, Uses, and Misconceptions (if necessary).

Discussion and Essay Preparation for Grendel and Inferno

  • Two articles related to Grendel that may help to illuminate more of the story.
  • An extremely interesting site from one of my least favorite universities (Boomer Sooner!) that may shed more light on Dante and his little book.
  • Discussion questions:
    1. How can forces like love and compassion give rise to banishment to Hell? Do you see any traces of love or compassion in the sinners’ punishments?
    2. What are the three categories of sin, according to Dante? Why are the sins of the deeper circles morally worse than those of the higher?
    3. Why does Dante so highly admire Nature or anything natural? And if the natural is so good, why are the incontinent sinners – who only follow their natural instincts – condemned to Hell?
    4. Which sinners seem to be portrayed in a sympathetic light, highlighting their good attributes instead of their sins? Why do you think Dante tries to elicit our sympathy for them?
    5. Why is Dante’s sympathy for certain sinners so angrily rebuked by Virgil? Does Dante's maturation into a condemner make him morally superior?
    6. If Dante is devoted to honesty in his words, unlike these sinners, is he justified in lying (to say, Fra Alberigo-XXXIII) to carry out Divine Justice?
    7. To what extent does Dante’s personal and political life affect the Inferno’s content? What proportion of the sinners comes from Dante’s Florence?
    8. Which sinners come from Classical literature? Which are Biblical? What does this say about Dante’s conception of the Classics vs. the Christian?
    9. How does Dante honor the Classical tradition while adhering to the tenets of Christianity?
    10. How does Dante represent good and evil? What does this say about the power of evil in comparison to the power of virtue?
    11. Envy is the other capital sin not assigned a specific circle or region in Dante's hell. Do you see evidence of envy in the final circle of hell? In previous circles?
    12. Why do you think stelle--"stars"--is the last word of all three parts of the Divine Comedy?
    13. Changing Values: As a relatively privileged European man of the late Middle Ages, Dante certainly shares - despite his intellect and imagination - many views that we moderns might rightly consider unenlightened. These could include religious and ethnic intolerance, a reductive attitude toward women, and a heterosexist understanding of love and sexuality. In some respects - for instance, his advocacy of the empire (and opposition to more democratic, republican ideas) - he could be considered reactionary even for his own time and place. While we might think of ourselves as enlightened, open-minded people today, what might our descendants say about us a century or two from now? What specific issues or attitudes do you think will change so much in the future that our current views may come to be seen as "medieval"?

    John Gardner’s Grendel Discussion Questions

    1. What parts confused or delighted or repulsed or intrigued you?

    2. Patrick Galloway, who as a B.A. in English Literature from San Francisco State University, said, “As much as I enjoyed reading the exploits of the great Geat, I must say that Grendel resonated at a deeper level for me. In the title character’s first-person narrative I found a personal corollary: Gardner’s Grendel, though man-eating beast, is a thinker, an intellectual trapped (isolated) in a world without peers. As strange as it might sound to say that I identified with a monster, that is exactly how I felt reading this novel. To experience acutely the scorn and/or fear of a world with which one feels no affinity, and yet, at the same time to perceive the vapidity and obviousness of that world; to feel ostracized by a race of beings whose own fatuity and turpitude makes one ashamed for having relished the thought of acceptance; to be lonely. This, to me, is the crux of the matter regarding Grendel. Loneliness can drive an individual to monstrous extremes. Eating Danes, for instance.”

    a. What was your personal reaction to reading Grendel? Comment on Galloway’s quote and how much his reaction to Grendel resonated with your own experience with the novel as well as the idea of being “an intellectual trapped (isolated) in a world without peers.”

    3. Take one of the following topics and trace its presence in Grendel:

    a. Grendel’s attitude toward language

    b. Choose an astrological sign and follow it through its associated chapter. Look at its relevance and what it comes to signify in Grendel as a whole.

    c. Trace Gardner’s use of “cartoon imagery” throughout the novel. Why is the use of grotesque, exaggerated humor appropriate in the novel?

Dante's Inferno, translated by John Ciardi

The closest online match to the book used in class.

Dante's Inferno, translated by John Ciardi

AP Practice Writing Exam

We will write one practice essay in class on Monday related to the Pardoner's Tale. You can find a rubric on this website and see how it relates to a letter grade in class. You can look at some advice on writing for the exam here.

Compare/Contrast Tragedy and Comedy

From the Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab:

“Compare and Contrast”

This classic writing prompt can be quite challenging because it sounds almost as if you are being asked to compile a list of similarities and differences. While a list might be of use in the planning stage, this prompt asks you to use what you discover to arrive at a conclusion about the two works under discussion.

Example: “Compare and contrast the two endings for Dickens’ Great Expectations paying special attention to the situation of Stella at the close of the novel.”


1. Find three or four elements from the texts upon which to base your comparison.

2. Examine possible connections and determine a thesis.

3. Base your outline around the elements you’ve chosen, remembering to give equal coverage to each side.

The goal of this writing assignment is to increase students’ ability to explain clearly, cogently, and even elegantly, what they understand about literary works and modes and how to formulate an opinion and connect these works with others from various cultures, periods, and even genres.

  • This website from Harvard has some additional types for writing comparison/contrast essays.
  • This webpage, from UCLA's Anthropoetics, contains an interesting critical analysis of Poetics you may find useful.

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Independent Reading- Greek comedy

Choose one of the following three plays to read over the next two weeks. You will illustrate your understanding of the play by participating in an in-class conference with me at the end of the two weeks. Additionally, you will use this play and Oedipus Rex to write a comparison/contrast essay about tragedy and comedy.


A man has incurred tremendous debts and believes that by sending his son to university, his son can learn enough to get the man's debts excused.



Lysistrata has planned a meeting between all of the women of Greece to discuss the plan to end the Peloponnesian War. As Lysistrata waits for the women of Sparta, Thebes, and other areas to meet her she curses the weakness of women.



Dionysis wants to be celebrated, but believes all great playwrights like Sophocles are dead, so he decides to do the unthinkable and bring an ancient great playwright back to life.


Our Agenda

This is a rough outline of upcoming events and assignments. It is a supplement to what will be discussed in class.

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