English 362
British Literature 1798-1890

Fall 2011

Study Guide for Midterm Exam


Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Ferrum College

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General Guidelines

  • Review all readings, putting emphasis on being most familiar with works and concepts that received the most attention in class discussions.

  • You may bring the Norton anthology of British Literature to the exam.

  • Be sure all your answers make reference to one or more specific works of literature.

  • Write all answers in complete sentences and standard English. Test answers aren’t expected to be as polished stylistically or mechanically as out-of-class papers, but college-level writing skills must be used to make your answers clear to the reader who evaluates them.

  • You should have a good understanding of how the works we have studied for this test represent the Romantic period in British literature, or nonsense and fantasy in Victorian literature. Also think about comparisons among different works by different authors.

  • You are not responsible for most of the background material in the anthology's introduction sections, or the anthology web site or other materials that have been recommended for this course. But reading the introductions can help improve your grasp of the literature and Romanticism and major concepts we discussed.
  Short Answer Section: 5 questions (5 points each)
Be sure to name the author and title of the work being discussed., if they are not given in the question. Only poems discussed in class will appear in the short answer section but you may mention other works if that makes sense for the question.

This sample comes from American literature but it contains good illustrations of strengths and weaknesses in answers for the short answer portion of the text.

Sample Short Answer Question: Discuss briefly the significance of the broken unicorn.

One-point answer (too brief; doesn’t discuss significance; not a complete sentence; author not identified):

a figurine that breaks in The Glass Menagerie

Two-point answer
(brief identification but nothing on significance):

Williams, The Glass Menagerie. This is Laura's favorite figurine in her collection of glass animals.

Three-point answer (good on significance of item but nothing precise on how the item relates to main characters or plot or period/genre of literature. The key word "broken" has not been explained. Also there is awkward wording in this answer and the play is called a "story.")

The unicorn in Williams’ The Glass Menagerie symbolizes the unique virgin, fragile, and beautiful aspects of the young person in the story. It represents the unreal fantasy in real life circumstances.

Four-point answer (too much plot summary and not precise enough on thematic significance):

The glass unicorn was one of Laura's favorite figurines in her menagerie of glass animals. She lived with her mother and brother and she was afraid to go out into the world because she felt self-conscious about her physical handicap. Her collection at home was very important to her. Laura and Jim were dancing when they knocked it over and broke it. When that happened she said the unicorn would now be like the other animals. Since she had liked Jim since they were in high school together, and he was helping her feel more self-confident, she gave him the unicorn, but he told her he was engaged to another girl, so the play ends sadly.

Five-point answer (gets right to the point about the significance of the unicorn):

The unicorn is Laura's favorite glass piece in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. It represents her uniqueness and virginity. However, while she and Jim are dancing, the unicorn falls and loses its horn, making it just one of the other horses. This represents Laura's feeling that she is now like everyone else; she is dancing despite her handicap.


Tips on short-answer questions: There are many ways of discussing briefly the significance of an important character, place, quotation, or object from a piece of literature. Give a short discussion of how the item identified relates to the development of the main character, contributes to the main plot, functions symbolically, reflects the main theme of the poem, or represents a specific technique or genre or trend in literature (e.g., explain how an example from “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” illustrates Wordsworth’s concern with expressing “emotion recollected in tranquility,” or how a feature of a work is typical of Romanticism in nineteenth-century literature). You don't need to cover every way it functions, or figure out exactly what the professor wants in that answer, and don’t spend too much time summarizing the work or developing long interpretations. Be sure you are not just paraphrasing the content of a quotation or restating the information or idea give in the question. As long as you give a precise, brief statement of the item's significance, without ignoring any key words in the question (especially if it is a quotation) or any obvious, overwhelmingly important point about its role in the work, you will receive full credit for your answer.

Not all questions will be phrased this way, but any short essay answer or essay should do a good job of stressing the literary significance of the work you are discussing. If the question asks for a comparison, make a brief point of comparison that focuses on a significant idea about the works of literature.


Essay Questions:

  • There will be two essay questions, each one requiring you to write about two or three of the authors we have studied. For example, you might be asked to compare the use of images from nature in three works we have studied (one by each author).

  • You will have a choice of essay questions. You choose which work(s) by each author you will discuss to answer the question you have chosen. Focus on works we discussed in class, but you may also mention other works by the same author that we did not focus on in class discussion, if they help prove your point. Be sure to use specific examples and details from the works to support the generalizations in your essay.

  • If questions ask for comparison/contrast, be sure you include specific, explicit points of comparison and/or contrast in your essay.

  • See page Pointers for Taking Essay Tests. Many writing and literature textbooks (such as The Little, Brown Handbook) also give advice about responding to essay questions and examples of student essays.



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