Final Reflection

When looking at my Unit 3 – 6 portfolio, I see my greatest achievement has been…

I think my greatest achievement this unit was my reading of Heart of Darkness in Unit 4.  Heart of Darkness is easily one of my most challenging reads in my entire life — I spent hours agonizing over a few pages every night.  However, it is also one of the most rewarding.  In class, my group mates and I spent hours unpacking the symbolism, language, and narrative techniques in the book.  One of my favorite conversations was about whether or not Conrad could be considered racist.  Apart from the help of my peers, I also had access to the critical analyses at the end of the Norton edition, which served as a window into the academic interpretation of the classic.

Heart of Darkness encouraged me to read on a whole new level of complexity, something I would not have gained had I not challenged myself with reading it.  From Marlow’s credibility as a narrator down to the most specific symbols (rivets!), I tried to take everything I read past its face value and ask the question: Why did Conrad choose to include this?  Hopefully, I can maintain this rigor for books I read in the future.

When looking at my feedback on my work and Mastery Data (as found in Schoology), I noticed… 

My formative and summative work have consistently met the Exceeding Expectations standard on the rubric.  Almost all of my masteries are above 95%.

Considering most of second semester was virtual learning, I’d like to say… 

Virtual learning has definitely been a struggle for me, especially as a senior in the second semester.  Initially, virtual learning felt almost like an extended holiday, meaning I didn’t feel the pressure to keep on track with my formative and summative work.  Later on, as workload grew, it was very difficult to go back and finish old assignments.

I do think I was able to recover after quarantine had settled in.  I finished all my assignments from Unit 4 and Unit 3, and I eventually caught up with my Q1 rewrite and most recently, my original poem.  Although I didn’t make the most out of online learning, I believe I was able to recognize my mistakes and correct them as the semester progressed.

When reviewing my goal for Semester 2, I can say that I… 

I had two goals for semester 2: to write with more detail and specificity, and to improve my respect and responsibility.

My performance on analysis assignments shows that I was able to meet my academic goal for the semester.  My performance on timed in-class writing has improved substantially, from scoring in the 5 and 6 range (out of 9), to a consistent 6 out of 6 in the second semester.  My analysis in the Teaching Table and Novel Lecture assignments demonstrates my improved ability to use in-text evidence to support a claim or thesis about the text.  I think this is mainly because I started practicing more timed writing assignments in preparation for the AP exam, which allowed me to write faster and more precisely.

In regards to my work habits, like mentioned above, I didn’t completely meet my goal.  While I did spend more time on formative work as the semester went on, I still didn’t submit everything exactly on time.  Moreover, my two late summative assignments show that I still have a lot of work to do on this front.  Although this is partly because of virtual learning, I acknowledge that I could have adjusted better than I did.

EQ Reflection: How does literature get to the “heart of the matter?”

In sophomore year, we read “The Things They Carried.”  What stuck with me the most wasn’t any particular story O’Brien told, but what he concluded about storytelling.  In one chapter, after telling an intensely visceral and poignant story, O’Brien revealed that none of it was true.  In fact, although his book is based off his true experiences in Vietnam, almost all of the characters and stories in his book are inventions.

When I first read his confession, I didn’t understand why an author would reveal that his fraudulence.  After all, I wanted to believe these enthralling stories were real.  It was only later when I realized that although O’Brien wasn’t writing literal truths, it didn’t really matter.  In fact, sometimes the truest truths are better communicated through fiction.

To me, O’Brien’s principle is one reason why literature is so important.  Through fiction, good literature can often get at beliefs, values, and truths (in other words, the “heart of the matter”) better than facts or logic.

In the books I read for AP Lit this year, every author used their writing as a vehicle to communicate something about the world.  Conrad’s lengthy descriptions of the dense, ominous, and expansive African jungle whisked me into another world, which he used to explore the impacts of European colonialism.  The artful style in Song of Solomon, reminiscent of spoken word, helped me understand the ways slavery affected the psyche of individual African Americans.  Hamlet’s complex characters explore the suffering caused human appetites, developing ideas about betrayal and death.

Literature has the unique power to build emotional investments in its world and its characters, allowing us to better understand ourselves.  After all, the subject of literature is humanity — our morals and virtues, our desires, our emotions, our world — and literature is the mirror we hold up for self-examination.

Hamlet Shared Inquiry

Here are the questions I wrote in preparation for our shared inquiry:

  1. What purpose does Fortinbras serve in the play?
  2. Hamlet waits until the end of the play to kill Claudius, but kills Polonius in an instant. What is the function of this contrast?
  3. How does Yorick’s skull advance the theme of death in Hamlet?
  4. “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.” What does this quote reveal about Hamlet’s sanity?
  5. The spirit that I have seen may be a devil, and the devil hath power T’ assume a pleasing shape.” What does this quote reveal about Hamlet’s certainty?

Hamlet Reduced Scene

For the reduced scene assignment, my group and I tackled Act 4 Scene 3.  Below is our reduced scene:

King: Hamlet is dangerous, but he’s popular. We must send him away.
Enter Rosencrantz, Guildenstern
King: So, what happened?
Rosencrantz: He won’t tell us where the body is.
King: Where is he? Bring him to me
They enter
King: Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
Hamlet: At supper.
King: What do you mean?
Hamlet: He’s not eating, he’s being eaten! A fat king and a lean beggar are equal on the worm’s table. That’s that.
King: I can’t believe you said that!
Hamlet speaks in more circular gibberish
King: Where is Polonius?
Hamlet: In heaven. Send someone to find him. If he isn’t there, you can go to hell to check. Though, if you can’t find him this month, you’ll probably smell him in the lobby.
King (addressing attendants): Go find him there.
Hamlet: Don’t worry, he won’t run away.
Attendants leave
King: This was a stupid move. I fear for your safety, so I’m sending you to England. The boat is ready.
Hamlet: England?
King: Yes.
Hamlet: “Farewell, dear Mother”
King: I’m your father!
Hamlet: “Man and wife is one flesh, and so, my mother”
Hamlet Exits
King addressing Rosencrantz, Guildenstern: Make him leave ASAP and follow him. Give the King of England this letter.
Everyone but King exits
King: I will ask the king of England to kill Hamlet. I won’t be happy until he’s dead!

Original Poem: Villanelle

Oh, how I despise writing villanelles!

Their pedantic rules really are a colossal pain;

Alas, these verses are like a prison cell.

My teacher tells me that villanelles are swell.

But what fun can come from repeating these refrains?

Oh, how I despise writing villanelles!

As I write, I begin to feel unwell.

This rhyme has drained my brain, giving me migraines.

Alas, these verses are like a prison cell.

All I want is for my writing to excel,

But this difficult structure remains my writing’s bane.

Oh, how I despise writing villanelles!

It’s become clear: this is a poem from hell.

No other words can capture the extent of my disdain.

Alas, these verses are like a prison cell.

At long last, I can bid this poem farewell.

I promise in the future from this form I will abstain.

Oh how I despise writing villanelles!

Alas, these verses are like a prison cell.

AP Q1 #2 Rewrite

In his poem “Plants,” Olive Senior presents a humorous characterization of plant life.  Hidden, however, is a profound conclusion about the grand design of plants, which will far outlast humanity.  Using a variety of literary devices, Senior overturns her readers’ perception of plant life by revealing their intricate reproductive process, leaving the reader awestruck at the beauty of nature.

Senior’s unique structure and use of pronouns creates a conversational tone.  The first, fourth, and last stanzas of “Plants” are self-contained, with a relatively structured rhyme scheme at the end of every other line.  This is where Senior states her main point.  However, Senior deviates from this structure in the rest of the poem, using enjambment within and between stanzas.  Doing this makes “Plants” sound more free-flowing and thus, conversational.  This is enhanced by Senior’s use of personal pronouns to address her intended audience.  Throughout the poem, Senior uses the pronoun “you” to refer to the audience.  As the poem progresses, Senior uses “my dear” and “Innocent,” implying that the poem is inspired by a conversation with a partner or child.  By directly relaying a conversation to the reader, the poem is perceived as more casual, a spontaneous collection of observations rather than a serious argument.  This makes it easier for the reader to enjoy the poem and accept Senior’s point.

To make this point, Senior uses personification and figurative language extensively.  In the poem, Senior regularly uses unusual metaphors when describing plant life.  For example, she equates bobbing nuts with surfers, burrs with hitchhikers, and flowers with special agents.  Doing this accomplishes two goals.  First, Senior introduces humor into the poem.  By using patently absurd and ludicrous imagery, Senior generates amusing images of “imperialistic” plants.  Humor enhances the casual, conversational tone mentioned above, drawing the reader’s attention.  Furthermore, personification helps Senior break down her reader’s perception of plant life.  As Senior accurately explains in the first stanza, most people believe plants are rooted in their places, far less sophisticated compared to sentient, mobile animals.  However, by drawing parallels between the reproductive process of plants and many distinctly human activities (which readers likely believe to be evolved and complex), Senior shows that in fact, plants do have an amazing amount of intricacy.

Finally, Senior employs a shift in tone near the end of his poem in order to convey her ultimate message: plant life might be more enduring than humanity.  She does this in three ways.  First, Senior changes her rhyme scheme in the last stanza.  In the four stanzas before it, the rhyme scheme is free, which helps build a conversational mood.  However, in the last stanza, Senior reverts back to an ABAB rhyme scheme.  The sudden change in rhyme scheme makes the shift in tone obvious.  Secondly, Senior switches pronouns from the second person “you” to the first person “us.”  This signals to the audience that his message in the last two stanzas applies to everyone, not only the characters in the poem.  Finally, Senior uses grand(?), poetic diction, like “profligate,” “extravagant,” and “improvident.”  This contributes to the shift in tone that accompanies Senior’s change in message.  Thus, when Senior finally states, “They’ll outlast us, they were always there / one step ahead of us: plants gone to seed,” the reader understands that Senior’s message is surprisingly profound.

Plants may seem less sentient, sophisticated, simply less alive than we are.  However, by creating a conversational tone, using humorous personification, and making rhetorically effective structural choices, Olive Senior warns us not to look down on our plant counterparts.


10 minute drill: Q3

Attached is my outline for a past Q3 prompt.  The prompt reads:  Many works of literature contain a character who intentionally deceives others. The character’s dishonesty may be intended either to help or to hurt. Such a character, for example, may choose to mislead others for personal safety, to spare someone’s feelings, or to carry out a crime. Choose a novel or play in which a character deceives others. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the motives for that character’s deception and discuss how the deception contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.