The Fall Novel Project
Each team (two to four students) will select three books from the provided list, and I will make the final selection for the group. The final choices will ensure that no books have repeated and that the class has an array of styles.
You will have a total of five class days to work on the presentation with your group.
You will have approximately three weeks to read your book after it has been assigned, so it would be in your best interests to purchase your book as soon as possible. You also have the option of checking out the book from the school or public library. Remember that this independent reading is above and beyond what we will be reading and discussing in class, so plan your reading time wisely.
You must read the book carefully, directing particular attention to details that contribute to a coherent discussion of the items that follow. Book notes would definitely be helpful to you. If you have a library book, you can choose to use sticky notes.
Each individual student will turn in a paper. The paper will be six to eight pages in length, double-spaced, 12 Times New Roman font, one-inch margins and will include:
1. Introduction — This should include the novel's title, author, and date of original publication. If important to understanding the novel, please include historical background and/or information about the author. You may put a brief plot synopsis in the introduction, but it is not required. Please make sure that the introduction is not just a summary of the novel. (When writing a literary analysis, always assume that your reader has read the novel as well.) This section must end with a thesis statement, a definitive statement that reveals an attitude about the work and an opinion that the subsequent sections will support. (one page minimum)
2. Summary of a major critical article — This article should be as current as possible. You must use direct quotes from the article, in your paper. At the end of your summary, write a short paragraph showing your agreement or disagreement with the critic's analysis. Attach a photocopy of the critical article to your paper when you turn it in. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself to be used in the oral presentation. Start looking for the article early in case you run into problems. Each person in the group must use a different article. If you are working with a contemporary novel, it may be necessary to use one or two book reviews rather than critical articles. If this is the case, please bring the review to me before you use it. (one page minimum)
3. Author's Style — Approach the analysis and presentation on a somewhat mechanical level. Be sure to include an analysis of sentence structure and diction. Suggestions for further analysis: tone, figurative language, narrator, satire, dialogue, epigraphs, motifs, symbols, allusions, repetition, flashbacks, punctuation, letters, foreign language, sensory imagery, realism, fluency, stream of consciousness ... However, remember that you are not only listing stylistic devices. You are also analyzing those devices. You must use direct quotes from the novel as examples in this section. (two pages minimum)
4. Explication of the novel's theme — The theme may generalize about the human condition, the
individual's place in the universe, how people act under trying circumstance, or people's relationships with one another. You may wish to approach this section by considering the author's purpose in writing the novel and how the parts of the work support that purpose. Each member of the group must choose a different theme to discuss in his or her paper. You must use direct quotes from the novel in this section. The last sentence of this section must be a thematic statement. (one page minimum)
5. Conclusion — The ending must draw together all points of discussion. You may call notice to the work's universality or even to its literary excellence. At the conclusion of this section, please provide a succinct, yet insightful, thematic statement to close your discussion of the book as a whole. As a general rule, I often notice that students spend more time working on their introductions than on their conclusions. On the grading rubric, each section is worth the same amount of points. Hint: put some effort into the conclusion. (3/4 page minimum)
Note: The paper must have an original title (typed after the title of the book).
Note: You must have a works cited page. In the parenthetical documentation for the novel, the author's last name of the novel is not necessary after the first time you use it; however, the critic's name must be used for the critical article.
Don't even think about using Cliff’s Notes, Spark Notes, or similar commercially prepared material. I can spot them a mile away!
The final draft of your paper will be submitted to Turnitin.com to check for plagiarism.
How to Write an Effective Literary Analysis
- Always use present tense when writing about literature. You may write about the author in past tense, particularly if deceased.
- Be certain to introduce your critical article by title and author.
- Allow yourself ample time to find a relevant critical article. If you have to settle for a non-scholarly work, it will be evident in your paper. I understand that you may have to use book reviews or newspaper articles if you have a contemporary novel.
- Allow yourself ample time for writing, revising, and editing. Haste is always revealed through sloppy editing. Write a paper of which you are proud.
- Stay in formal tone (maintain formal syntax and diction). No contractions.
- Edit for awkward syntax. Read your paper out loud to check yourself.
- Do not use a cover page — heading goes on upper, left-hand corner.
- Compose an original title for your paper.
- Use style, narrative techniques, and tone handouts. (See attached)
While content, organization, and development of logical arguments are our primary focus, remember that I will be specifically looking for the following surface errors and will penalize your grade if they appear. My goal is to encourage and inspire you to spend a great deal of time proofreading for content, reading out loud for the rhythm of your paper, and editing for mechanical errors.
What I never want to see in your paper:
- indefinite pronouns for analysis (i.e. starting a sentence with "This shows" or "There are.")
- a lot (forget you ever knew this phrase)
- get, got, getting (forget you ever knew these words)
- thing (be specific when you write — tell me what the "thing" is)
- very (if your noun is strong enough, you will never need this adverb)
- you (particularly in the conclusion of your paper)
- direct quotes with no lead-ins (embed the quotes)
- referring to people as "that" or "which" rather than "who"
- ending sentences with prepositions
- misspelled words (this entitles you to a knot on your head — please remember that spell check does not always work)
- improper grammar or subject/verb agreement
AP Novel Project
Closing a Paper Using a Thematic Statement
The following are examples from student papers. Offering a lesson learned from the work:
Albee, like many of his contemporaries, uses the absurd with deft skill. He forces the reader to examine the absurdity of mainstream culture. Through this manipulation, the reader examines the futility of trying to meet someone else's definition of the American Dream. In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, Edward Albee exhibits an understanding of humanity in all of its faults and, by examining these faults, offers a remedy: man should not change to conform to the intangible; rather he should define the intangible in his own terms.
Focusing on the major conflict of the protagonist in the work:
In the face of tragedy, as he loses all faith in the institutions he once trusted, Hamlet is forced to evaluate himself, causing an inner conflict that overshadows the external conflict. Through his struggle, he comes to realize that he must create his own ideals, his own decisions, and ultimately his own destiny. Despite the institutions that influence our decisions, we must all face the existential responsibility of defining ourselves; it is the essence of our humanity.
Ending with a quote from the work itself as a thematic statement:
In his novel Light in August, William Faulkner manipulates the reader to first condemn Gail Hightower and then sympathize with the tormented minister. Through this manipulation, the reader becomes more aware of his own condition and his own world. As the reader journeys through the world of Hightower, the tortured man's world becomes his own. For the reader can look at his own life and muse, "Poor man, poor mankind."
Suggesting a solution to a conflict in the work:
The destruction of George and Martha's son is an act that serves as a catalyst to a new level of communication. Each comment about the fictional boy over the years has helped contribute to the barriers, both emotionally and psychologically, between the couple. The play ends on a note of hope for George and Martha's future; they have begun to conquer their insecurities and confront their failures. We all have demons, and it is only through dispelling these demons that we have a chance to move forward in relationships.
Novel Project Presentations
Your oral presentation to the class is valued at one-half of your total grade; your written paper is the other half. You will present together, and each group member will receive the same presentation grade. However, you may lose points individually if you do not appear to be as well prepared or as knowledgeable as your partner(s). Do not let one person in the group take control of the entire presentation. Be certain that all of you have completed reading the book because I will be asking you questions at the end of your presentation as part of your grade.
Remember that this project counts as one-third of the nine weeks' grade.
Each group should plan on taking at least one hour (an entire class period) to teach the class. You will lose points if the presentation is too short. Divide the time equally between team members. Be confident. Speak with authority. Make certain the audience realizes how well you have read and thought about your book. It is often painfully obvious when some members are less prepared than others.
Suggestions for teaching the class:
- Introduction — You must provide a handout for your fellow classmates which includes themain characters, setting, a brief plot summary, and historical background (if necessary). [25 Points]
- Author's Style — You must have a handout, PowerPoint slide, or camera-ready document with written examples of the author's style. [30 points]
- Themes — Discuss all major themes in the novel. This should be an analysis more than just a list. Using quotes or passages from the novel might be beneficial. [25 Points]
- Conclusion—A conclusion of some sort that discusses the novel's literary merit is necessary. A question/answer session will also be included as part of your grade. [10 Points]
- Creativity of the presentation—Your presentation should be creative, bold, original, or interesting. [10 Points]
Powerpoint presentation (nothing dull)Original quiz
Movie excerptsOriginal game
Visuals (posters, etc.)Original puzzle
DramaFood (if tied in with the presentation)
Warm-up exercise (before intro)
How to Write a Thematic Statement
Theme: consider theme as an abstract idea (see theme idea sheet) coupled with a comment or observation which addresses:
- Human motivation/ambition: What drives the characters? Is it faith, revenge, disillusionment, the need to search or complete a journey, a sense of alienation, or keeping up appearances, dreams, fantasies, or social status?
- Human condition: Does the plot, character, or setting comment on society, the limits it places on its citizens, the rituals that explain its beliefs, or the conflicts individuals have with the precepts of the society? Does the human condition reflect what is good and what is bad in the society, the role of women, the end of innocence, one’s duty, or what ethics and laws guide behavior?
- Human nature: Does the work focus on qualities of people, their pride, fear, alienation, or the past? Or does the focus seem to be on a single person or unit: the family, the child, or the adolescent?
Be sure that the observation:
- avoids too terse an observation: Express the complexity of the human experience.
- avoids moralizing: Delete words like should and ought and any words that express judgment; instead, simply, observe, weigh, and consider.
- avoids specific reference to plot and characters:Speak now of mankind and the human experience as perceived by the author. Theme drops character names and uses more general terms like “parents,” “leaders,” “society,” or “adolescents” in a general observation about the human experience.
- avoids absolute words like anyone, all, none, everything, everyone: Terms like “we,” “often,” and “sometimes” suggest a more realistic view of the variety of human experiences.
*Abstract ideas to use to form thematic statements.Alienation
Appearance vs. reality
Custom / tradition
Courage / cowardice
Women / feminism
Cruelty / violence
Defeat / failure
Chance / fate / luck
Domination / suppression
Dreams / fantasies
Education / school
Exile / Faith / loss of faith
Falsity / pretense
Family / parenthood
Free will / will power
Heaven / paradise / utopia
Heart vs. reason
Illusion / innocence
Law / justice
Loneliness / alones
Materialism / Memory / the past
Music / dance
Mysterious stranger Persistence / perseverance
Resistance / rebellion
Revenge / retribution
Ritual / ceremony
Scapegoat / victim
Search for identity
Writing about Style
Style is the manner of writing (how something is written rather than what is written). Style is determined by the author’s choice of words, his arrangement of those words into sentences, and the relationship of those sentences to each other.
In a novel or short story, the author must consider two distinct needs when it comes to word choice. He will need to provide language for his characters to use (dialogue) and language for the narrator to use (narration). Both his dialogue and narration must be worded carefully. When considering dialogue, for instance, each character must be given a manner of speaking which is appropriate for a person of his background, education, attitude, and so on. This is the level of language and is generally described using one or more of the terms in the list below. Likewise, narration must be consistent with the subject being described.
archaiccommon or technical
artificialconnotative or denotative
colloquialconversational or stilted
slangfigurative or literal
standardplain or poetic
vulgarsimple or bombastic
- Sentence Patterns
The author’s method of arranging his chosen words into sentences. When assessing sentence patterns, we must consider such things as their simplicity or complexity, their balance and emphasis, and their variety. You might use some of the words listed below in your description of an author’s style.
inversionloose, periodic, balancedbeginnings-varied
- Sensory Details
The author’s attempt to build colorful, yet meaningful, thought groups. The use of sensory details is extremely important in building effective description.
vivid verbscolorful detailscompelling
concrete nounsevocativeillusion of reality
- Figurative Language
Can also be used by the author to add color and meaning. The figurative meaning is often deeper and more important that the literal meaning of the words that compose it. A figure of speech can help convey an idea or an emotion that is so complex and elusive that our language has no exact term for it. They are also used for economy or emphasis.
Figures of Speech
The next task is to coordinate the words, sentences, and passages so that they move smoothly and forcefully. The movement, or “flowing of ideas,” is often called fluency.
flows well/smoothlygood symmetry/ordersense of rhythm
awkwardloss of focusimbalanced
choppy/sluggishdeadwooddistractions (sub-plots, punctuation)
All writing must be clear and logical. Writing which is clear and understandable is said to have clarity.
Lack of Clarity
The author’s attitude (tone) is an important consideration when attempting to elevate style. For instance, if an author is being sarcastic or satiric, his word choice will be greatly affected. An author’s attitude can be discussed just as anyone else’s.