Examining composition and literature: Advanced placement and the ends of English
AuthorJones, Joseph Gray
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation offers a comprehensive rhetorical analysis and theoretical critique of Advanced Placement English. AP English is identified and explored throughout as a site that instantiates most of the controversies that have arisen over the past several generations regarding rhetoric, composition, and the teaching of English. Chapter 1 focuses on the AP English Language and AP English Literature exams to probe the tensions between expanded notions of writing and reading processes against the demands of large-scale testing. It is argued that the exams valorize a problematic formalist approach to literary texts and undercut and attenuate the writing process. Some of the exams' flaws are considered as a means of demonstrating ways their validity can be challenged. In Chapter 2 the College Board's two AP English course descriptions are examined in detail. While explicitly acknowledging contemporary theoretical reconsiderations for the teaching of English, each course's "explicit curriculum" is subverted by an "implicit curriculum" rooted in New Criticism and current-traditional rhetoric that are fostered by the demands of the AP exams. In Chapter 3 the development of the AP Program is situated within its earliest historical, political, and ideological contexts by linking it to the values and methodologies of the first College Board entrance exams of the early 1900s, key aspects of which were later resurrected in the AP Program. The historical consideration continues in Chapter 4 through an analysis of the specific impetuses that created the AP program in the 1950s. Particular attention is paid to the often confused and contrary relationship between high school and college English as well as the often unstable and undefined position of the first-year college English course. Chapter 5 concludes with a personal explanation and interpretation of what it means to teach AP and its version of college English.
Degree ProgramGraduate College