English Honors American Literature and Composition
Honors American Literature and Composition

Download the assignment information or read the identical information below.

Text for Required Summer Reading:

A Thousand Acres (ISBN10: 9781400033836) by Jane Smiley

Thousand Acres.jpg


General Information: Summer reading is a requirement; it is not an optionYou must obtain a copy of this text.  As you read, you will perform a careful textual analysis, which requires underlining, highlighting, and taking notes in the margins You can also use Post It Notes or something similar if you would prefer not to write in the book.  If you have any questions about how to annotate, please contact Mr. Morrill.  

 Literary Criticism: You may want to consult literary criticism about the text to broaden and enrich your understanding.  There is a bevy of literary criticism on JSTOR, for instance.  JSTOR can be accessed by logging into MackinVia using the same credentials you used to login to Infinite Camps and clicking on the JSTOR icon.

Avoid Plagiarism: If you are going to use a web site like Spark Notes or Shmoop, please do so only after you have read and cite all sources you summarize, paraphrase, or quote.  We will be submitting notes to a site that checks for plagiarism at the beginning of the year.

Due Date: You need to read these works and complete the requisite assignments by the first day of class. 


What to do during and after you read:        

You must complete typed "book notes," the guidelines for which are presented below.  This is not an essay. Be concise.  Ensure that what you produce is your own work.  It is ok to collaborate, but present all information in your own words. 


What is required to be in your book notes?

1) Title of the book:  

What is the title's significance?  How does the title influence your reading of the text? How would you title the text?


2) Author: 

A few sentences of biographical info. You will likely need to go to an outside source for this information.  DO NOT CUT AND PASTE INFORMATION, AND CITE YOUR SOURCE(S) IN MLA 8.  Consider whether your understanding of the author’s life changes your understanding of the text.


3) Writing Style: 

What is distinctive about the use or manipulation of diction and syntax (You should look up these terms.)? How does the author’s word choice (not the same thing as diction) and sentence structure contribute to the development of the characters, setting, and plot?  How would you characterize his/her use of sentence structure? How does the author utilize irony as a devise? Does the author employ hyperbole or other methods of distortion? How prevalently does the author use figurative language?  How do all of these ingredients affect the way you make meaning from the text?  How would you characterize his/her style?


4) Settings:  

Does the author use the settings symbolically?  How so?  In what ways does the setting expand your understanding/restrict it? When was the book set? How did historical and or cultural context shape this text?  You may need to do a little research here too.


5) Character Analysis 

List the characters and establish their dominant characteristics and motives. Try to dig as deeply as you can into their psyches.  More important than what they do is why they do it.  Explain their relationship to the other characters and their main purpose in the text.  Are they round/flat?  Dynamic/static?  Be sure to include both your conclusions and quotes that best helped you to reach these conclusions.


6) Symbols

Identify any symbols within the text, and using quotes from the book make assertions about what you think they might represent.


7) Tone: 

What is the dominant tone of the text?  How does it or does it change over the course of the book?  How is the tone created/maintained?

8) Conflicts: 

What are the primary conflicts that drive the text:  person vs. person, person vs. society, person vs. cosmos, person vs nature, person vs. self, etc.  What do these conflicts reveal about the characters and/or humanity in general? 


9) Theme:  

What are the major themes in this work?  Make sure you understand the meaning of the word. Themes generally relate to what a text reveals to us about what it means to be human.  Make sure you come up with your own, and include both your reasoning and the evidence, quotes, that best supports this position.  Remember that a theme is not the same thing as a subject.   

Guides for Annotation

Useful Links: