How do you write an argument for AP English Literature?
November 20, 2010 12:46 AM   Subscribe

How do you go about the thought process to make an argument (as opposed to a theme, statement, or observation) about a work of literature for AP English Literature?

Tell me about how you annotate, what you pay attention to, how you put everything together, any helpful resources you know of, or anything that you think may help.

posted by elaine to Education (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you a student or a teacher? Is this for the AP exam or for class work? AP Central has a lot of advice and sample responses, and there's a world of excellent resources just a Google search away. Despite their inherent evil, AP prep books are rather good, as long as you read the reviews and choose wisely.

Some might say an argument can be an idea that would not be universally accepted, but I don't think that's a useful perspective to take when you're trying to write an AP essay. AP questions are generally quite clear about what type of argument you should make. For example, they'll often suggest that you discuss several literary techniques. So my strategy was to know how to recognize literary techniques. Then you just need to put your 3 or 4 top observations together in a coherent thesis statement.

It also helps to answer questions such as:
Why is this important?
Why did the author do that?
How does that word, line, or technique affect the text as a whole?
What is the reader's experience?
Why is that thing I just wrote true? <-- on the AP, always prove it!

Especially for the short literature questions, try to understand the progression of tone or theme throughout the work.

It would help if you mentioned which particular type of question you're struggling with (1, 2, or 3) and how your teacher, the College Board, or commercial resources have confused you.
posted by acidic at 1:52 AM on November 20, 2010

There's coming up with an argument, and then there's writing the essay arguing it. It sounds like you're asking about the first part. When I wrote essays for high school lit classes, including AP, I would try to think of what bothered me or seemed weird about the text. Teasing that thought out generally got me an interesting claim, and then I'd go back to the text and try to find strange or odd moments that worked with the resonance I was feeling.

Mr. Hatch used to tell us: Claim, Link, Evidence. Make a clear claim, provide evidence from the text, and show the link between what you found and what you think it proves. I did this once or twice a paragraph.
posted by brainwane at 6:09 AM on November 20, 2010

As a generalization, it helps to pick a thesis that is very focused and specific to the text you're writing on.

It can make your essay more readable and engaging, and will also help tighten up the evidence/examples you use to support your argument.
posted by forkisbetter at 7:01 AM on November 20, 2010

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