Exam confusion, begone!

For the third part of the exam, the essay question, I will provide you with FOUR prompts/themes. Choose ONE, choose TWO texts, and then go to town.

Speak about plot (a little is okay), structure, style, genre, point of view, memorable diction, crucial literary elements, relevant scenes, ideas from class, etc. Verbatim quotation is not necessarily required, but it would behoove you to know that Bartleby says, “I would prefer not to,” and not, “No thanks.” The details matter, of course, of course, of course.

Jonathan

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The exam format

Section I: Identification
30 minutes (worth 20%)
Choose 4 out of 6
Authors who may show up: anyone from Hawthorne to Twain

Section II: Close reading
40 minutes (worth 40%)
Choose 2 out of 4
Authors who will show up: Dickinson, Zitkala-Ša, Norris, Gilman

Section III: Essay
50 minutes (worth 40%)
Choose a text from Column A and a text from Column B, and write one comparative essay
Column A:  3/4 of the longer prose works (Poe, Douglass, Fern, or Twain)
Column B: “Circumstance,” “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Leaves of Grass

For the whole exam, you won’t need to know Irving and Apess.

Jonathan

PS: Your essays will be left in a box outside Watson 403 later this week, if you care to nab them. I’ll also have them at the exam.

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Dickinson, pt 3: ask yourself

•Who is speaking?
•Who is being addressed?
•Are there commands? In “The soul selects”: “Present no more” (line 4).
•What are the nouns?
•How is the poem organized? How does it begin, proceed, and end?
•Is the poem symmetrical in its images? In other words, how does the end match up with the beginning? “Shadows” call back to “certain Slant of light.”
•What do you find ambiguous, jarring, or paradoxical?
•Is there rhyme? Slant rhyme?
•Anaphora? Alliteration?
•Simile? (There’s always metaphor.)

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Dickinson, pt 2: poem as image

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Dickinson poems

Handouts will be available in a box in front of my office door until 5pm today in case anyone missed them. I am working on getting them up on the blog, but apparently converting a jpg into a pdf is arcane alchemy to me. The poems we will be looking at are #214, 249, 258, 303, 341, 435, and 754 (according to the Johnson numbering system). Happy weekend, everyone.

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Second essay: form & content

Always write about form & content:
what is their relationship
how do they interact
when are they complementary
when are they opposed
how are they dynamic

ie.
What happens when Whitman writes a short line?
How does the haunted house influence the mood or genre of Pudd’nhead?
What is the role of the parody at the end of Douglass’ Narrative?
Why do so many letters get reproduced in Ruth Hall?

and of course:
simile
metaphor
metonymy
synecdoche
irony
understatement
hyperbole
apostrophe
personification
diction

How would the word “regal” affect my talking about a doughnut?
If I addressed the doughnut, “O noble doughnut!”?

Jonathan

PS:
Click on “Filed under: Essay writing” for previous posts.

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Second essay: quotations

What not to do:

The narrator introduces himself, “I am a rather elderly man” (641), and then sets up his tale of Bartleby. “I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man” (641). The narrator is prone to speaking around his subject, as “But this is by the way” (642). It is difficult to bring Bartleby into focus.

–> These sentences move on too quickly and assume that a quotation speaks for itself. The second quotation is neither set up by nor integrated into your own sentence; it has been left hanging in space.

–> Below is a more effective way to set up, integrate, and comment on quotations. Notice that right after the long first quotation, I return to the actual words of that quotation, and interpret what I see there.

What to do:

The narrator begins by declaring that his age goes hand in hand with his wisdom and special knowledge: “I am a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners” (641). His “more than ordinary contact” with this “singular set of men” doubles the exceptional nature of his tale because both he and his subjects are beyond the ordinary and the common. Bartleby, then, triples the exceptionalism, but also introduces uncertainty into the narrator’s set up: “I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man” (641). The lawyer, then, goes on to trade an empty biography for a “satisfactory” one—his own.

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