AP Literature

December 11-15







Today. Peergrade The Death of Ivan Ilych essay draft.

Tonight. Work on The Death of Ivan Ilych essay.

Ongoing. The Death of Ivan Ilych essay due Thursday, December 14.









Today. Work on The Death of Ivan Ilych essay.

Tonight. Work on The Death of Ivan Ilych essay.

Ongoing. The Death of Ivan Ilych essay due Thursday, December 14.









Today. Work on The Death of Ivan Ilych essay.

Tonight. Work on The Death of Ivan Ilych essay.

Ongoing. The Death of Ivan Ilych essay due Thursday, December 14. .









Today. Work on The Death of Ivan Ilych essay due today by 15:30 to The Death of Ivan Ilych essay at Peegrade and turnitin.


Ongoing. Peergrde, The Death of Ivan Ilych essay, Sunday, December 17 by 22:00.








Today. For the remainder of the semester, we will practice prose analysis using AP prompts, writing practice essays. Bring your charged iPad to class daily.
     Task one is to revise The Death of Ivan Ilych prose analysis #1. You need a greater sense of how PA works and how to execute higher level essays. Revision is a fine teacher.


Ongoing. Peergrde, The Death of Ivan Ilych essay, Sunday, December 17 by 22:00.

Assignments due
read them in full



Monday, December 11. Full draft of The Death of Ivan Ilych essay ready to upload to Peergrade in class. We will spend Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday working on the essay in class. Take full advantage of the opportunity to craft your finest essay.

Thursday, December 14. The Death of Ivan Ilych essay. Details on this assignment page. Your final exam.

Sunday, December 17. Peergrade, The Death of Ivan Ilych essay by 22:00. A participation grade.



Have this exact edition of
The Age of Innocence ready
during Christmas break




Essay documents

Grading notes
Essay editing marks, with explanations
See writing page for tips, models, instruction, delight
LBH sentence crafting packet
LBH punctuation packet
Essay rubric, technical
Essay rubric, conceptual
Asking good questions
MLA style center
AP Q3 sample essays, Othello
Key AP prose analysis documents



Tolstoy and Dostoevsky


Andrew Kaufman, author of Understanding Tolstoy and Lecturer in Slavic Languages and Literature, University of Virginia.

"All mediocre novelists are alike; every great novelist is great in his own way. Which is why the choice between nineteenth-century Russia's two supreme prose writers ultimately boils down to the question of which kind of greatness resonates with a particular reader. My own sympathies are with Tolstoy, and even my criteria for judging a work of fiction, I admit, are relentlessly Tolstoyan.
     "'The goal of the artist,' Tolstoy wrote, 'is not to solve a question irrefutably, but to force people to love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations.' By this standard Tolstoy's novels succeed where Dostoevsky's fall short.
     "True, Dostoevsky saw and felt modern experience in all of its isolating, tragic depth. He showed the obsessive power of ideas and the psychological crises, cracks, and explosions of the soul that have become familiar in our modern world. What he doesn't do, however, is make you love life in all its manifestations. In fact, when he tries to do so, he reveals his deficiencies.
     "At the end of Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov flings himself at the feet of Sonya, who has followed him to Siberia where he is serving his sentence for double homicide. Sonya jumps up, looks at him and trembles. 'Infinite happiness lit up in her eyes; she understood, and for her there was no longer any doubt that he loved her, loved her infinitely, and that at last the moment had come'— If this smacks of modern soap opera or those maudlin French novels Dostoevsky was raised on, that's because it is melodrama. Sonya's infinite love is an ideal, the moment that has supposedly come, an abstraction.
     "What modern readers need, Tolstoy believed, is not more lurching after 'infinite happiness or the Great Idea,' as Stepan Trofimovich, near the end of The Demons, claims to have discovered, but the ability to embrace an imperfect reality. The author of Anna Karenina teaches us how to seek meaning not through grandiose romantic strivings, like Anna and Vronsky, but within the limits of imperfect social and family structures, like Kitty and Levin.
     "Tolstoy's novels depict the norms and continuities of human behavior by means of grand narratives that expand slowly over time and against the backdrop of vast natural tableaus. 'As is usually the case' and 'such as often occurs' are phrases you encounter frequently in Tolstoy. Dostoevsky's world, by contrast, is one in which you can come home one evening and 'suddenly' find an axe buried in your skull. Life is always on the verge of imploding on itself. Tragedy is just around the corner, or in your living room.
     "Tolstoy's living room is a place where people, well, live. It's where dark-eyed, voluble twelve-year old Natasha Rostova comes running with doll in hand, or where, a decade later, she enjoys with Pierre one of those endearingly mundane conversations between wife and husband about nothing and everything.
     "'I am a realist in a higher sense,' Dostoevsky rightfully claimed. But Tolstoy was a realist in the total sense. 'The hero of my tale is Truth,' he wrote. And that truth is one every generation recognizes as its own, not just those in a state of social crisis or existential despair. If Dostoevsky urges us to reach for the heavens, then Tolstoy teaches us by artistic example how we may touch the transcendent here and now in our messy, fleeting world."

The Death of Ivan Ilych
reading links


Satire by David Mikics
Parody, Satire by Edward Hirsch
Realism by David Mikics
Comedy by David Mikics
Study questions
Tolstoy, searching for meaning in life
Tolstoy, greatest writer ever?
Five curious facts about Tolstoy
See Yasnaya Polyana, Tostoy's estate
Seneca, Asthma, a Stoic take on death
Montaigne on how to live
Montaigne and death



Point of view lesson



Nabokov on Tolstoy's style





"You may have seen, you must have seen, some of those awful text books written not by educators but by educationalists—by people who talk about books instead of talking within books. You may have been told by them that the chief aim of a great writer, and indeed the main clue to his greatness, is 'simplicity.' Traitors, not teachers. In reading exam papers written by misled students, of both sexes, about this or that author, I have often come across such phrases—probably recollections from more tender years of schooling—as 'his style is simple' or 'his style is clear and simple' or 'his style is beautiful and simple' or 'his style is quite beautiful and simple.' But rememberthat 'simplicity' is buncombe. No major writer is simple. The Saturday Evening Post is simple. Journalese is simple. Upton Lewis is simple. Mom is simple. Digests are simple. Damnation is simple. But Tolstoys and Melvilles are not simple.
     "One peculiar feature of Tolstoy's style is what I shall term the 'groping purist.' In describing a meditation, emotion, or tangible object, Tolstoy follows the contours of the thought, the emotion, or the object until he is perfectly satisfied with his re-creation, his rendering. This involves what we might call creative repetitions, a compact series of repetitive statements, coming one immediately after the other, each more expressive, each closer to Tolstoy's meaning. He gropes, he unwraps the verbal parcel for its inner sense, he peels the apple of the phrase, he tries to say it one way, then a better way, he gropes, he stalls, he toys, he Tolstoys with words.
     "Another feature of his style is his manner of weaving striking details into the story, the freshness of the descriptions of physical states. Nobody in the eighties in Russia wrote like that. The story was a forerunner of Russian modernism just before the dull and conventional Soviet era. If there is the fable noted, there is too a tender, poetical intonation here and there, and there is the tense mental monologue, the stream of consciousness technique that he had already invented for the description of Anna's last journey."



The changing nature of satire
(watch the video here)

"Donald Trump's presidency is ushering in a new era in American politics, and with it a new era in political satire: the age of post-truth. With Trump railing against the press on a seemingly daily basis (and tweeting his own facts), satire is poised to play an important role during his presidency, but what will post-truth satire look like in Trump's America?
"Though it is relatively young, satirizing presidential politics has undergone a radical shift in its roughly fifty-year history. Many of the earliest presidential satirists sought to illuminate the absurd within the real. Through the latter half of the 20th century, presidential satirists mainly worked to amplify their targets, making them more extreme, more out of touch, more absurd. The truth these satirists sought was not found in the real, but in the absurd amplification of the real.
     "Chevy Chase's Gerald Ford on Christmas Eve is a prime example. In the sketch, Ford's clumsiness and general buffoonery are amplified—he starts his fireside address early, cuts ornaments off the tree, hangs stockings upside down, and of course, falls over trying to put the star on the tree. Similarly, Phil Hartman's Bill Clinton voraciously eats all the McDonald's he can get his hands on. His one-on-one charm and policy knowledge are on full display, as is his uncontrollable appetite (and not just for food). Both of these examples push absurdity in order to reveal truths about the two men.
     "After 9/11 and during George W. Bush's presidency satire began to shift. The truth became harder to find, thanks in part to the secrecy of the Bush White House and the patriotically correct— reporting of the media, who seemed tentative to question lest they be seen as unpatriotic. Cable news went all in, often sensationalizing the news rather than reporting it. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report stepped into this truth vacuum."