Welcome to AP English, a course using American Literature to cultivate deeper reading and insightful writing. By the end of this school year, each of you will have discovered the varied art of writing, reading, and interpretation. You will learn to see beyond a text and into authors’ hearts, discovering their worldview and how the writers, composers, and artists of the Western tradition have shaped our perspectives of the world.
“An unexamined life is not worth living . . .”
Besides interpretation, we will examine novels, essays, speeches, and paintings to help sharpen our own personal worldviews and work to use our personal perspectives as a starting point for developing your voice as a reader, writer, and thinker. In addition, we will explore this literature with the intent of self-discovery. In my classes, I teach according to three themes:
Who Are You?
Why Are you Here?
Where Are You Going?
Socrates, a famous philosopher who serves at the foundation for this particular course, sums up everything we are trying to do here: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” In this class, we will not only look at the great literature, speeches, and philosophies of our culture, we will as the most important question of it all: “What is the moral of the story?” We ask the question because every great civilization needs to have a moral grounding. Some people find it through God, some people find it through law, some people find it through ethics and philosophy, and some don’t find it at all. This class puts you face to face with all of them, asks you to examine their voices, and demands that you enter into a conversation with them. It’s, potentially, the most dangerous task in the world — opening your mind to another — happening in the safest of all places: in a classroom, among friends, with absolutely no obligation to you other than to have an opinion that you can communicate clearly. In short, it’s practice for life.
“Be renewed by the transforming of your mind . . .”
Make no mistake: the literature, poems, movies, and pictures we encounter in this class are not the lessons. Whether you leave here able to identify the Toulmin Model or differentiate between Ethos, Logos, Pathos, the skills are only practice for a lifetime of negotiation. Whether you become the President of the United States or a homeless bum, you cannot avoid other people’s voices or other people’s expectations. Being a Christian does not absolve us from conflict, nor does it keep us from engaging unwanted conversations, and it certainly does not allow us to live our lives in neutral. Quite the opposite; in fact, as the Apostle Paul tells the Romans, we are to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
This transformation takes place in community, and it begins with acknowledging that our voice is not the only one that matters. In fact, if Jesus knew what he was talking about, our voice should be the last one that matters. And so we begin a process of transformation. We write, we read, we view, and we communicate so that we can engage God’s word, test our views (safely) against other’s, and slowly make the transforming journey into who we are, what we are doing here and where we are going.