English 481: Popular Then/Classic Now: Advanced Study in American Authors, 1865-1940

Study Guide for Exam 1

Note: This is intended as a guide, but it may not cover everything. Material not listed here might appear on the exam. The notes you took in class should be your best guide.

Check the American Author pages at http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/aufram.html for other resources. Page numbers are available on the syllabus.

I. Format.  Exam I will consist of three parts: one section of short answer or multiple-choice questions; one section of either identification questions or a short passage for close reading; and one essay question from a choice of two or three questions. 

II. Works Covered (You should know title, author, main characters, and the significance of scenes and events)

Mark Twain, "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (104-108); "A True Story" (online); "A Visit to Niagara" (online); "The Petrified Man" (online); "The Whittier Birthday Dinner Speech" (online); "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences" (294-302); Letters from the Earth (307-318); "The War Prayer" (322-324)

Emily Dickinson, Read all but especially 67, 124, 185, 199, 258, 409, 479, 591, 764; General information from discussions about The Household Book of Poetry and critical contexts for Dickinson

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, "A New England Nun," "The Revolt of 'Mother,'" "Old Woman Magoun,""The Long Arm"

Charles W. Chesnutt, "The Goophered Grapevine," "Dave's Neckliss,""The Wife of His Youth," "The Passing of Grandison"

Joel Chandler Harris, "Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit" (read aloud in class and available on the PowerPoint for plantation fiction.

(Note: We did not discuss Dunbar's poetry in class, so it will not be covered officially, but you can use it in your essay.)

III. Terms and Concepts

  • Southwestern humor
  • Regionalism
  • Tricksters
  • Poetry terms (common meter and other information from the Emily Dickinson lecture)
  • Plantation fiction
  • Eye dialect
  • Frame story
  • Other material from lectures and discussions, including class presentations and reports
  • IV. Sample Essay Questions

    1. Compare Twain's view of religion with that of Emily Dickinson.

    2. In what ways do any two authors represent women who refuse to conform to nineteenth-century ideals of womanhood?

    3. Closely analyze and compare these two poems (example: Dickinson and a poem from Household Book of Poetry, which would be typed out as part of the exam).

    4. How does a particular author use or subvert the conventions of a genre or form (such as the detective story, the local color or regional story, the Southwestern humor sketch, the plantation fiction story, and so on)?

    5. How do any two authors represent the problem of racial injustice and slavery?

    6. Several of the works we've read involve identifying a character (or even the author's voice), through "clues" or significant information that may be hidden in the work. Analyze the work of any two authors who employ this technique.

    Other types of essay questions may ask you

  • To analyze a passage through close reading as it relates to the work as a whole
  • To address a larger theme or idea as it relates to the work
  • To analyze a particular pattern of imagery or symbolism in a work
  • To respond to a critic’s statement about the work.