Literature 101

Imaginary Worlds

Fall 2009


Section One: The Elements of Fiction

The first exam for this class, worth 25% of your final grade, will be on Monday, October 5.  There will be three sections to the exam: true-false questions (worth 15%); short-answer questions (worth 30%); and one essay question (worth 55%).  Altogether, you will have an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the exam (75 minutes).   

Bring two bluebooks with you, as well as whatever writing utensils that you feel most comfortable using.  Bluebooks are available at the campus bookstore, as well as (on occasion) at the café downstairs in Pray Harrold. 


Section I

The true-false questions will simply reflect whether or not you have read the short stories closely enough to remember them.  These questions will not be difficult, but they will relate to all of the stories that we have read so far:

1.     Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”

2.     Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal”

3.     Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”

4.     Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”

5.     Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Yellow Wallpaper”


Section II

For the short-answer questions, I will give you a passage from a short story and ask you to identify some of the literary devices that we have covered so far in the class (e.g. symbols, irony, allegory, imagery, motifs, different types of point of view, and the like).  I may also ask you to identify the narrator of the story, to analyze a complex passage closely, or to discuss the theme of that passage.  All of the short-answer questions will relate to the five stories listed above.  Literary concepts and terminology will be drawn from the following handouts (available in the Electronic Reserves), focusing especially on concepts covered in class:

a.      “Elements of Fiction: Part I”

b.     “Elements of Fiction: Part II”

c.      “Elements of Fiction: Part III”

d.     “Comparison: An Analytic Tool”

e.      “Analyzing Fiction”

f.       “Writing about Literature”

g.      “Taking Essay Examinations”


Section III

For the final section, the essay section, you will be able to refer to an outline, which you will need to prepare before the exam.  Altogether, the outline should comprise no more than one side of one page, handwritten or typed.  

You can write your thesis out in full (the sentence expressing your main argument), but the rest of the outline must be a true outline containing only brief clauses and memory-triggering expressions; that is, a loose sketch of topics listed in the order that you will discuss them, not an essay already started with any of the sentences or the paragraphs pre-written.  You can also write down brief quotations from the stories that you will be using to help support your argument if you like.  Everything on the outline must relate exclusively to the third section of the exam.  For example, do not write down the definitions of terms that you will be tested on in Section I. 

If your outline is over one page, has complete ideas or sentences (other than the thesis or quotations), or contains information unrelated to Section Three, you will not be able to use it.  You will also not receive the credit for the outline (15 points). 

You will not need to write a completely polished essay: the goal is to communicate as much meaning and cover as much material as possible in the time that you have.  In other words, demonstrate what you know relevant to the topic of the essay question in as much as you can, using specific details from the texts to support your argument and presenting ideas in the order that will be most persuasive. 



Essay Question:

Few of the characters in the five short stories listed above (in Section One) know who they really are or regard themselves as genuinely happy.  Discuss the obstacles that characters in at least three of these short stories encounter—whether social, familial, environmental, psychological, or political—and the capacity of the characters to either manage or overcome those obstacles.  What holds the characters back from understanding, confronting, and changing themselves and their circumstances?  What makes some characters fail or other characters succeed in avoiding defeat or surmounting difficulty?  To what degree should we expect the characters to succeed given the unique positions in which they are placed?  You might take into consideration minor characters in addition to the main characters for added detail and support.