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Advanced Placement/ECE English 2020-21

Summer Reading Assignment

Mr. Matthiessen
jmatthiessen@branfordschools.org

I. Please read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Crime and Punishment is a psychological novel that most students find absorbing. It is not only a classic of world literature but also a frequent option on the AP open-ended essay. The first few weeks of the course will be devoted to an intensive study of this work, along with articles on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, followed by a final essay and AP-style in-class assessments. Use Mortimer Adler’s method for annotating a novel.

Important: Crime and Punishment was originally written in Russian and published in 1866; it therefore exists in multiple editions and translations. It is essential we use a common edition of this work. Please be sure to use the Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Classics edition (ISBN number 978-1-58049-397-0).
Other online sources of this edition are Amazon and Alibris (used).

Also, please watch and take notes on this video on Dostoevsky’s life (About 55 minutes). The soundtrack is a little woozy, but it is substantive.


II. Please read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Again, follow Adler’s suggestions on annotations as you absorb the novel’s social commentary on racism, alienation, class structure, regional differences, cultural divides, and others you notice. Also look for foreshadowing, conflict, dialect, setting, irony, mood, tone, characterization, Kafkaesque elements (see the first video below), and other literary techniques.

Important: Please acquire the Vintage International edition (ISBN number 0-679-73276-4).
Other online sources of this edition are Amazon and Alibris (used).

In addition, please watch and take notes on these three videos.
What is Kafkaesque? (9 minutes)
Invisible Man: The Hero’s Journey (5 minutes)
Ralph Ellison: Renaissance Man (3 minutes)

Note: Invisible Man is narrated by an African-American during the Jim Crow era. It is a controversial book; a ban on it in a North Carolina school district was lifted as recently as last January. It contains violence, profanity, substance abuse, and hate speech, including the n-word. However, these elements all serve the important story the novel tells. Please contact me if you have any questions before you begin reading.


III. Please select one of the titles listed under “Correlative Reading” below. These are all works by women authors from a broad range of times and places. Complete the written assignment and submit it by the first day of fall classes in the attached document.

Correlative Reading

These particular books have been chosen for their potential usefulness on the AP exam and for their relevance to the core texts of the AP/ECE curriculum.

Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian 2013)
The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende (Chilean-American 1982)
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (English 1847)
My Antonia - Willa Cather (American 1918)
Rice Sprout Song (1955) or Rouge of the North (1967) - Eileen Chang (Chinese)
Nervous Conditions - Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwean 1988):
The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot (English 1860):
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston (American 1937)
Foxfire - Joyce Carol Oates (American 1993)
The Tiger’s Wife - Téa Obreht (Serbian-American 2011)
White Teeth - Zadie Smith (English 2000)
The Passion of Artemisia - Susan Vreeland (American 2001)
Sing, Unburied, Sing - Jesmyn Ward (American 2017)
The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton (American 1920)
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf (English 1927)

After you have read and annotated your choice book (see Adler), please select one of the following topics and write about it in a well-structured essay of at least three pages. You should have a clear thesis, supporting examples and details taken from the text that are correctly quoted and cited, and a conclusion that brings your essay to a satisfying close without repeating what you have already said. Please include a title that focuses the reader’s attention on your thesis. You need a “Works Cited” page for all work done in this class.

  1. American playwright Edward Albee declared in an interview, “The responsibility of a writer is to be a sort of social critic – to present the world and the people in it as he sees it and say, ‘Do you like it? If you don’t like it, change it.’” To what extent does the author of your choice book agree with Albee? What specific criticisms does she make about the society of her time and place, and what changes – directly or implicitly – does she suggest be made to mitigate or correct the situation?
  2. To what extent does the author of your choice novel present a universal picture of the human experience across time, place, and culture? What common situations does she present that we share with the characters; how are the lives and times in your book unique to its own location and historic period?
  3. American author, historian, and broadcaster Studs Terkel asserted, “Reading a book should not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation.” If you could initiate a “raucous conversation” with the writer of your choice novel, what would that conversation consist of? What excited, enraged, confused, annoyed, disturbed, elated, or deeply touched you about the book? What do you have to say to the author? How do you think she would answer you?
  4. Author Franz Kafka wrote, “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us…We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” To what extent is this true of your choice book?

This is a substantial amount of reading; my assumption is that students who sign up for this class like to read. Please email me any time with questions, but don’t wait until the last minute -- these are not books you can skim!