Study Guide for Mid-Term Exam—American Literature 2130


List of Authors and Texts:


Puritan Writings: Anne Bradstreet’s “On the Burning of My House” and Edward Taylor’s “Huswifery” (and anonymous Puritan writers)

Benjamin Franklin: Parts 1 and 2 of The Autobiography

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Ralph Waldo Emerson, excerpt from “Self-Reliance”

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s Little Miss Sunshine


Literary Movements:



                        Age of Reason / Enlightenment


                        Transcendentalism & Romanticism


  1. Multiple Choice and Identification: (30 points)


Example: All of the following are characteristics of Transcendentalism EXCEPT:

a)       An intimate connection between man and nature

b)      The sanctity of the individual

c)       Self-reliance and independence of spirit

d)      A rejection of the existence of God


Example: Emerson appeals to all these romantic notions in his essay EXCEPT:

a)       A view that man is inherently capable of doing good and should trust the intuition to determine wrong and right.

b)      Individualism over conformity

c)       The exaltation of passion and emotion over reason and stoicism (not showing emotion)

d)      A view that it is better to conform to past traditions because we can learn from the wisdom of our ancestors.


  1. Short Answer: Application of Terminology (i.e., literary periods): 50 points



a)       List one of the characteristics of American transcendentalism, and give a specific example that identifies this feature in Emerson’s essay.

b)      List one of the tenets of the Enlightenment/Age of Reason and cite a specific example that identifies this feature in The Autobiography.

c)       List two characteristics of Puritanism. Cite an example that identifies this feature in our Puritan writings.

d)      List two characteristics of literary modernism. Cite one textual example from The Great Gatsby that identifies this feature.


In answering these questions, you may be brief (a full sentence isn’t required); however, you may at times need to justify your reasoning, so explain briefly when necessary how you come to your conclusions.


  1. Explication and Quotations: (20 points)


You will be given a series of significant passages from each of the literary works. You are to identify the text and author of the quotation, and convey the significance of each passage to the individual work in approximately 1-2 paragraphs. Be as detailed and specific as possible. Out of 6, you choose 2—for ten points apiece, you should devote most of your time to this portion of the test; all responses should be generally well thought out and written in clear, precise prose. In general, you should have a good understanding of how the passage represents trends in American literature; you should examine recurring concepts, ideas, ideals; its historical and literary importance; and/or its relationship to the work overall. Don’t just summarize plot or rephrase the idea in the question. Be sure you stress the significance of the excerpts you discuss.



o   Read the entire text carefully; there is generally one or two sentences that contain the heart of the passage; so don’t skim.

o   Minor and local concerns: pay attention to the nuances of language and how meaning is conveyed; explicate the importance of tone/attitude, tensions, ambiguities, irony, paradox, significant images, double meaning, etc.

o   Don’t reiterate the “what.” Avoid statements like “This quotation is showing” that lead to summary. Instead, focus on interpreting the passage, addressing those hard “why” and “so what” questions.

o   Use specific language; don’t generalize or preach (i.e., “I agree with Emerson that we should just be true to ourselves!”)

o   Draw conclusions and develop interpretations. If you say, for example, “This text shows the narrator’s ambivalence toward Hester,” develop interpretations as to why. Remember, writing tons of paragraphs do not necessarily equal solid analytical content.

o   Those who summarize and merely restate the obvious will receive less than half of the total 10 points per passage/explication (see below).

o   Points may also be deducted for inattention to the conventions of grammar and syntax.



            Analysis Section:  (10 points each)

    1-4 points: too brief; doesn’t discuss significance in detail; not complete sentences; author either not identified or not correctly identified

    5-6 points: correct identification of author and text but deficient in analysis; too much plot summary and not precise or developed enough on thematic, literary, historical significances

    7 points: analysis is sufficient in terms the passage’s thematic relevance, its language and imagery, and the overall import of this passage to its historical and literary contexts

    8-10 points: analysis is precise, persuasive, insightful on how the passage relates to the work’s themes, main characters or overall plot, as well as the literary/historical period of the work