E 316 K Masterworks of American Literature skip navigational links and go to contentCourse

The Final Examination

The Final Examination will be divided into two parts: The first part will consist of twenty, short quotations taken from the required (boldface) reading only (not including NYT editorials). You will be asked to identify the work from which the quotation is taken and its author. The quotations will be taken from highly significant moments in the texts and will be lines that I have read out loud in lecture. The purpose of this section is simply to make sure that you've been doing the reading and paying attention in lecture. If you have, you will do fine on this section. (2 points each; 40 points total)

The second section will consist of six, essay questions. You will be asked to choose three questions and write an essay (the rough equivalent of a two-page paper, or 700-1000 words in length) on each one. These questions will contain broad, general topics on which you can focus your responses.
These topics, however, need to be shaped into specific arguments in order for your response to be as successful as possible. The more interesting, and well-supported, the argument, the bettter the essay. The purpose of this section is to allow you to demonstrate the kind of reader, writer, and thinker you've become since the beginning of the semester. You can use any text that we've talked about during the semester (film clips, songs, and videos included). (20 points each; 60 points total)

The last week of classes, I will hand out a list of eight possible essay questions. Six of these will be on the exam. You will be asked to answer three of those six questions, and
you must discuss a total of at least six different author's works in your answers.

Here are the questions for Fall 2011:

E 316K Exam Questions: 2011-12

1. Robert Frost said that, “education by poetry is education by metaphor.” Explain what you think Frost means by this statement and discuss how it applies to two or three authors, works, or characters studied this term.

2. Kenneth Burke referred to History as an “unending conversation.” Imagine a conversation between two or three authors, works, or characters studied this term. How would that conversation go? What would they talk about and why?

3. Gregory Gibson believes that the problem of violence is "embedded in our culture, way beyond bad movies and cheap guns. It is as transparent as the air we breathe. It's in our history. It's in the myths we tell ourselves about ourselves." Violence seems to be everywhere in America, but is it an empty part of American culture, or can it be redemptive or honorable?

4. In “The Simple Art of Murder” Raymond Chandler describes the sort of hero that he creates in his fiction: “[D]own these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean. . . . He must be . . . a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.” What other sorts of definitions of a man have we come across this semester? Explore ideas of masculinity and manhood in two or three texts we’ve read.

5. Cultural critic Henry Louis Gates wrote that, “you can’t have a history unless you have a voice.” Using two or three texts that we have read this semester discuss how these texts, authors or characters have made their voices heard within an American history that traditionally did not include them.

6. Gilbert and Gubar write that, "a woman writer must examine, assimilate, and transcend the extreme images of 'angel' and 'monster' which male authors have generated for her." Discuss two or three texts we've studied this semester and explain how you think they support, expose, or combat the representation of women as "angels" and "monsters."

7. Both Vladimir Nabokov and David Foster Wallace have talked about the need to confront and “get outside of” our preconceived notions and our “default settings.” Using specific, detailed textual references, talk about two or three times during the semester that a text forced you to “get outside of yourself.”

8. Americo Paredes defines a border as "a sensitized area where two cultures . . . come face to face," often in conflict. But borders are more than just geographical spaces, borders can exist between people, between communities, or between concepts. Discuss two or three real or metaphorical borders that have appeared in or between texts studied this term and show how these borders have been maintained, overcome, or dissolved.

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