I'm an AP Teacher and I'm looking to replace a few books that I've been teaching since I took over the class 5 years ago. I inherited the books that I currently teach, but am looking to replace two of them. I have been doing a Canon Project in which the kids pair up and read a classic and I'm hoping to use a couple of those books. I'd like to replace two dead white guy authors with two female authors or one male and one female author. One of the books that the kids have read is Wuthering Heights. I like it and the kids seem to like it, but I was wondering what people thought about that book and teaching it in the AP classroom. The other book that I have had them read is The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton, but I don't know if there's enough to analyze in that one. What do you think?
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Well, Wuthering Heights is one of the books that crops up most often in the AP Literature exam, so that would be an excellent one to go for. Interestingly I was just thinking about changing the books that are used for AP Literature and so I was having a look at the list of books that come up. Another one that emerges consistently year after year is Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Whilst there is definitely enough to discuss in The Custom of the Country, you might be wiser to study more "traditional" Edith Wharton texts such as The Age of Innocence or Ethan Frome, both of which pop up frequently.
Wuthering Heights is a great choice for your AP class. It is often included in the list of works for students to discuss in the AP lit exam because it offers so many literary elements for them to explain and interpret. Since you like it and you have had experience that shows students like it, sounds like a winner to me!
As for an Edith Wharton text, I vote for Ethan Frome. It is a lot shorter than many of the other novels, which helps with time constraints in an AP class when so many works and authors seem to demand presentation. Even though it is short, however, it is an excellent novel to study, especially in terms of structure and point of view. The symbolism, irony, and imagery also promote a lot of good class discussion.
Finally, I like using Ethan Frome in an AP class because it is a good springboard to introduce naturalism and determinism in American lit. I've seen some pretty spirited discussions about Ethan's fate--whether he determined his own life or it was determined for him by forces beyond his control. Lots for students to think about there.
I also vote for Wuthering Heights--always a great tool for the AP student's box of tricks since one never truly knows exactly what to expect for those questions on the AP exam. It's a classic, full of literary merit, lots of lit terms and themes that can be used for many of the different open response and constructed response questions that AP writers use.
Another female author I have used often for AP and Pre-AP classes is Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. Again, literary merit, lots of themes and useful AP jargon can be applied, and the kids like it. It is also not extremely long, and can be paired nicely with shorter works to get across certain ideas that you may be exploring with AP kiddos.
Great classics such as Wuthering Heights should never be ignored, and Kate Chopin's is well-liked by students from the South, especially. It is also good for students to be exposed to any of the worthy contemporary writers, as well. One that has written a most unorthodox, but worthy novel is Anne Proulx. The Shipping News is a black comedy of Quoyle, a"large lump of a man" who has an emotionally traumatic life. After his cruel, cheating wife dies, Quoyle and his children and old aunt move to Newfoundland, and inhabit the ancestral home. Quoyle is given a job at the local newspaper, The Shipping News. Afraid of water himself, the anti-hero Quoyle must overcome many of his own demons--darkly humorous at times--and become his own person. An unusual tale with instructions at the beginning of each chapter on nautical knots, Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel discusses many of the dilemmas of modern man. There is also something of the wild environment of Newfoundland that parallels that of Wuthering Heights, and, while Quoyle is not the Byronnic hero that Heathcliff is, he is certainly a unique main character and anti-hero.
I will throw my unconditional support for all of the novels suggested in the above posts. They are all rich in literary devices worthy of analysis, and yet are very assessible in an AP Literature class. I like teaching the shorter novels because there is so much good literature of all genres to cover, and I hate to get bogged down in long works. If you are trying to consider novels from "the canon" then I think you should also consider something by Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are fun reads, and even the boys don't groan too much, as long you keep a fast pace.
Why don't you have them read Wuthering Heights and look for a modern book of literary merit to compare it to? I am thinking maybe something with similarthemes. There are a lot of modern gothic love stories. I am thinking The Thirteenth Tale might be interesting to pair it with. The second book would not necessarily have to be AP-worthy, and it might be useful if it wasn't because then kids can see the difference between literary merit and popular literature.
I teach Wuthering Heights in my AP Lit classroom. It is great to teach the parallel settings and the idea of the gothic here. I also do a duality project with it. There are so many pairs in the book - the two houses, the two narrators, the two Cathys, the two lover of Catherine, the two generations, the two maids, etc. These provide for great discussions and writing material.
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