Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Summer Reading for AP English Literature and Composition students

Due: Friday of 1st week of school/worth 150 points

Read the novel Sophie’s World and complete the assignment.  Read all of these questions first to have a clearer purpose for reading.  Keep this paper and a notebook near you as you read, and work on this assignment as you read.  Trying to read the entire book first and then do this assignment will end in disaster, I assure you.  Please take my advice and work as you read.  Keep a reading journal, if you like, to try to help you sort out ideas and to keep your questions handy for you to answer as you read. Your discussions with your peers will help you to clarify your thinking.

Advice about reading: this book can be dense; that is, it can be hard to understand too much of it at one sitting. Give yourself a good four to five weeks* to read and complete this assignment. If you’d rather do it early in the summer, rather than later, please review the book and the assignment before the due date in order to refresh your memory. (*this estimate has been validated by AP students who have read this book before you).

Assignment rationale: No book is ever written in a void. All authors belong to their historical time (some to all time), and the beliefs and philosophies of their times often have an influence on their books. In order for us to have a more fully developed world view, we read this novel, in which Jostein Gaarder hopes to teach us something about basic Western philosophy. I believe that if we have a basic grasp of philosophers' questions, we will also have an understanding of artists' questions, for they are often the same. By improving our view of the history of thought, we will improve our view of literary history by default. Also, it is always a good idea to improve our view of history in order that we may have a more global, less solipsistic view of our own existence.

This book is our introduction to the world of ideas and to all the important questions. It is a perfect foundation to begin a year filled with great books and engaging ideas.

: e mail me if you ever need help or have a question or just want to discuss something. You should also use the AP_Lit_Talk discussion list to post questions and discuss ideas with your classmates. If you ask me a question that I think the entire class would benefit from knowing the answer to, I may post it there in addition to responding to your email (or you can simply post it there first).

The assignment (in three parts)

Part 1: project
Part 2: reflection questions
Part 3: active participation in list serv discussion

Part one: (done individually or with a partner)

Note on the project: This is worth about 1/3 of your grade. I expect quality work, but I don't expect that you sacrifice your whole summer for this part. The purpose of the project is to help you, through your creativity, remember the major philosophers of the major philosophic periods and their basic ideas/beliefs.

Create a project* in which you show

Do this for the major periods and philosophers. See note below.

*Examples of projects you can do are

Part two: (must be done individually; type and double space; it's a bagatelle!)

"Questions" on the novel; read carefully and follow directions.

1.   Choose one philosophy you disagree with and explain your reasoning in no fewer than three paragraphs. (Note: Choose something still debatable. In other words, it seems futile to disagree with something that has been disproved by science. It may seem easy to "disagree" with an idea from one of the earliest philosophers who preceded modern science, but it would be silly).

2.   Choose one philosophy you agree with and explain your reasoning in no fewer than three paragraphs.

3.   Of all the big questions philosophers attempt to answer, which are most controversial or difficult and why?  Be sure to fully explain why.

4.   Give five general facts you learned by reading this book—facts, not theories or suppositions.  Did any surprise you?  Explain.

5.   Connect the novel about Sophie to the study of philosophy in three ways: in other words, show how Gaarder illustrates his “lectures” on philosophy with the novel of Sophie and Alberto. What plot elements are used to illustrate the philosophy in other words. An example to get you started is this: after Alberto explains to Sophie that Aristotle was the first great organizer in that he attempted to classify things in the natural world, Sophie classifies and organizes her closet.

6.   How many realities are present in this book?  Sophie and Alberto are fictional. So are Hilde and Albert Knag, even though they are made to seem real. Show the layers of reality in an illustration if it is easier and label who “lives” there. Otherwise, explain in writing, in a coherent way, the various levels of reality. Where are you in these realities? Where is Gaarder?

7.   After Romantic Irony is defined (p. 354), examples of it arise in the novel several times.  Paraphrase the definition, then cite one example and discuss its effectiveness.

8.   Write a 2-3 paragraph reaction to your experience with this book. What did you like, not like, feel frustrated with, in awe of, etc.? Be specific. Make references to specific sections of the book or specific passages. (Your score on this one is based on how well developed and reasoned your paragraphs are and not on your opinions).

Part three:

Be an active participant in the list serv. You will need to check your email often (if not every day, then every other day). Read the directions for how to use a list serv and about list serv etiquette. Besides having a good discussion, using an online discussion list will prepare you for similar experiences in college.

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Major philosophic time periods:

I am mostly taking these from the table of contents, but not exactly so here is how I would break down the periods.

It's not that I'm ignoring the natural philosophers or the more recent ideas, it's just that I don't want this project to be so huge that you are overwhelmed. So, if you cover these six periods, you'll be doing fine.