Rice University Logo
Rice University Logo
Glasscock School of Continuing Studies

AP English Literature Academy

Participants will engage with faculty from Rice and other universities in an in-depth discussion of topics and documents commonly taught in AP English Literature. They will explore the connections between AP and college-level courses and examine new research in the field. Required readings are listed below; that list, along with emailed to participants before the start of the course, and other readings and documents will be provided during class.

Novel/Play to purchase and read before the start of the course:

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (various editions available at various booksellers, ISBN-13:9780307278449 or other editions)
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Short Fiction to be read before the start of the course:

  • Cantos 1-3 of Dante’s Inferno. Recommendation: John Ciardi’s translation is readable and easily found at booksellers or online.  It is the Signet Classic edition (ISBN13: 978-0451531391 or older editions).
  • A short packet of information on Romanticism including Keats’ “La Belle Dame sans Merci” will be emailed to participants (in pdf format) before the start of the academy.

What participants should bring:

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  • Inferno Cantos 1-3 by Dante
  • Packet of information on Romanticism.
  • Sticky notes, highlighters, pens

Register

Lead Instructor

Robert Wofford is a retired teacher of AP English Literature at Las Cruces High School in New Mexico, where he was also a facilitator for gifted and talented students.  A College Board endorsed AP English Literature Consultant, he has presented at numerous conferences and Advanced Placement Summer Institutes in the Southwestern region of the College Board and has presented at national Advanced Placement Annual Conferences (including this July in Washington DC); he also serves on the College Board’s Consultant Advisory Panel.  He has participated in the National Endowment for the Humanities’ summer seminars for secondary school teachers, studying Henry Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts, and Dante in Siena, Italy, and he taught for one year in Canada as a Fulbright exchange teacher.  Mr. Wofford has been a reader for the AP English Literature exam and he holds a BA in English education and an MA in English with a focus on rhetoric and the teaching of writing from New Mexico State University.  
Scheduled topics and faculty presentations: 
(Topics and presentations are subject to change) 

TUESDAY MORNING
What’s Tragedy?: Shakespeare and Beyond

    
We’re often in the position of wondering just what a tragedy is. Often the answer is quite technical and refers to Aristotle and a series of terms like hamartia, anagnorisis, and catharsis. But authors and philosophers in the wake of Aristotle have been asking the questions “what’s tragedy” or “what counts as a tragedy” for centuries. For some, this is a question of theatrical genre, and many have claimed that tragedy is not only on the wane but no longer possible. But when we ask such questions, we’re often also posing some very profound questions about the nature of suffering, fortune, or evil. Given how commonly we use the term “tragedy” and the “tragic,” our students too many wonder what counts as a tragedy in 2017. Natural disaster? Economic upheaval? War? Terrorism? Is it an individual experience or can a culture or community experience tragedy? In this session, we’ll think about these questions by looking at various theories of tragedy, from Aristotle forward, and by looking at a series of passages from Shakespeare’s tragedies to ask what makes a tragedy and how useful is the lens of tragedy for approaching pain and disaster. We’ll draw on your knowledge of the major tragedies as well as excerpts from some of the lesser known tragedies. The session will combine lecture, discussion, and even a writing exercise. Macbeth will serve as both a case study for tragedy and the focus of the afternoon session, but we may also test out the language of tragedy for the 20th-21st century drama we teach.

Joseph Campana, PhD: Joseph Campana is an award-winning poet, arts critic, and scholar of Renaissance literature. He is the author of The Pain of Reformation: Spenser, Vulnerability, and the Ethics of Masculinity (Fordham UP, 2012), and three collections of poetry, The Book of Faces (Graywolf, 2005), Natural Selections (2012), which received the Iowa Poetry Prize, and The Book of Life (Tupelo, 2018). He’s currently writing a book about child figures in the works of Shakespeare called The Child’s Two Bodies. His reviews of books, theater, dance, opera, and visual art appear in The Houston Chronicle, Culture Map, The Kenyon Review and elsewhere. Campana holds a PhD from Cornell University and serves as the Alan Dugald McKillop Chair and Associate Professor at Rice University where he teaches Renaissance literature, poetry, and creative writing in the Department of English and in the Master of Liberal Studies program.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON
The Case of Macbeth: Tragedy, Adaptation, and Shakespeare for Kids

For many reasons, Macbeth remains one of the most teachable of Shakespeare’s plays. Some would say it’s brevity makes this possible. For others, it’s the allure of witches or violence or the psychological drama that produces visions of floating daggers and bloody hands. Our purpose in this session is to continue conversations from the morning about tragedy while taking advantage of the accessibility of Macbeth. We’ll consider ways of enlivening classroom conversation by focusing on several avenues for teaching the play. First, we’ll consider the translation of Macbeth into a variety of arts and media forms—film, television, fiction, ballet, graphic novel, etc. From these translations, many questions arise: what’s essentially “Shakespeare” especially in versions without words? What resources do various arts and media provide? What’s a way of managing these in a classroom? We’ll parlay this focus on different versions on Macbeth into a conversation about child figures in that work. In a play that features haunting visions of children (the bloody babe, the crowned child), Lady Macbeth’s childlessness, and the grim end faced by Macduff’s children, clearly the play wants us to think about the role of children in the world of tragedy, and numerous adaptations of Macbeth intensely on this question. 

Joseph Campana, PhD: See instructor bio Tuesday morning.

WEDNESDAY MORNING 
Race and America: Reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

Speaking of the role and work that race and racism performs in the world, Toni Morrison once wrote, “race magnifies the matter that matters.” Arguably, her writing for the last four decades offers a testament to the multiple terrains and registers through which race has, and continues to, shape the lived lives of black Americans in the United States.  In this session we turn to Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, a text frequently taught in high schools and colleges across the United States, to examine how race in fact “magnifies the matter that matters.” Framing her novel around a young black girl whose name—Pecola—riffs on Fannie Hurst’s Peola from the best selling The Imitation of Life (1933) (a name that subsequently circulated in black communities as tantamount to a racial slur), Morrison underscores how culture reproduces particular understandings of race that place the psychological well being of children at risk. Like the educational “Dick and Jane” primers first introduced in the American classroom in the 1930s, The Bluest Eye is first and foremost a primer on racial literacy. With Morrison’s novel as our workbook, we will study several of the films, icons, consumer products, and children’s books from the 1920s-1950s that provide the rich cultural landscape she uses to discuss race in this novel, in addition to considering Max Fleisher’s Betty Boop cartoons and the doll studies conducted by psychologists Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark that helped sway the court in Brown v. Board of Education. 

Primarily structured as a discussion seminar, our session will model critical approaches and questions that may be used in your own classrooms to discuss this novel, and race and literature more generally. 

Nicole A. Waligora-Davis, PhD, is an Associate Professor of English at Rice University. Her research interests include late nineteenth and twentieth century African American and American literary and cultural criticism. She is the author of Sanctuary: African Americans and Empire (Oxford University Press, 2011).  An associate editor of the award winning Remembering Jim Crow (New Press, 2001), Waligora-Davis’s essays have appeared in numerous publications including the Cambridge History of African American Literature, the Cambridge Companion to American Literature after 1945, Archipelagic American Studies, Centennial Review, African American Review, Modern Fiction Studies, and the Mississippi Quarterly.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON
In the Footsteps of Dante
Part One: The Music of the Spheres: Dante’s Pre-Copernican Universe

Dante's Divine Comedy presents a perfectly ordered, innately poetic cosmos of exquisite beauty, balance, and harmony.  Come join us as we journey, along with Dante, from Hell to Purgatory to Paradise.
Part Two: Where Athens and Jerusalem Meet: Why Dante Chose Virgil as his Guide
For Dante and his fellow Medievals, Virgil was not only the greatest epic poet; he was the exemplar of human reason and classical virtue and a proto-Christian whom God used to prepare the ancient world for Christ’s coming.
Participants should read the first three cantos of Dante’s Inferno in advance and bring their copies of these cantos to the workshop.

Louis Markos holds a BA in English and History from Colgate University and an MA and PhD in English from the University of Michigan. He is a Professor of English and Scholar in Residence at Houston Baptist University, where he teaches courses on Romantic and Victorian Poetry, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and Film and Art; he also lectures on Ancient Greece and Rome, Middle Ages and Renaissance, and Romanticism for HBU’s Honors College. 
He is the author of over 130 essays and 13 books, including From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics, On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis, Apologetics for the 21st Century, and The Dreaming Stone (a children’s novel in which his children become part of Greek mythology). He has also given over 300 public lectures in Rome, Oxford, British Columbia, and some 25 states. He is committed to the concept of the Professor as Public Educator and believes that knowledge must not be walled up in the Academy

THURSDAY MORNING
Touchstones of Romantic Poetry 

The morning session will offer an overview of British Romantic poetry, placing this literary movement in the context of the history of aesthetics and ideas. The major thesis will be that Romanticism is a revolutionary form of art that mirrors the social and political revolutions of the era. More specifically, it represents a literary response to a crisis in culture that also constitutes the beginnings of the modern world. The main topics will include the new Romantic concept of the poet and of art, particularly the concept of the imagination, Romantic internalization of older literary tropes such as the romance, Romanticism as a set of values, and the task of the Romantics: finding and affirming meaning in an increasingly secular world. 

    
James Pipkin is Professor of English at the University of Houston where he teaches nineteenth and early twentieth-century British literature, British Romantic poetry, autobiography, contemporary American memoir, and sports literature and popular culture. He received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Harvard University. He is the author of Sporting Lives: Metaphor and Myth in American Sports Autobiographies (2008) and the editor of the collection, English and German Romanticism: Cross-Currents and Controversies (1985). He has also published essays on the poetry of William Wordsworth, the short stories of Daniel Stern, contemporary American memoir, sports fiction, and issues in the humanities.
    

THURSDAY AFTERNOON
Touchstones of Romantic Poetry Part II

The afternoon session will give participants an opportunity to test some of these general ideas in a close analysis of a John Keats poem. Drawing upon some key concepts in Keats’s letters, the participants will explore what is Romantic about “Ode to a Nightingale.”

James Pipkin, PhD: See instructor bio Thursday morning.

FRIDAY MORNING
TBD

FRIDAY AFTERNOON
Putting Things Together for AP

    
Building on the ideas and techniques presented throughout the week, this session will relate the information learned to the AP English Literature curriculum.

Robert Wofford: See instructor bio at beginning of course description.