Instructor: Ersinghaus



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British Literature I

Instructor: Ersinghaus

Exam 1
This exam evaluates specific abilities. One emphasis here is on historical context and your ability to identify relationships and substantiate your conclusions with specific evidence:
Assessment will be built from these abilities:
Level 1: Identifies periods of literary history and their associated traits.

Level 2 Correlates literary history with its social and cultural context.

Level 1: Identifies and defines aesthetic elements using terminology of the discipline.

Level 1: Evaluates the significance of specific passages to the complete text using appropriate terminology.
Short Answer. Be brief but very specific in your approach here. Use quotation where emphasis is needed:
1. Define the technique of alliteration. Supply two specific examples from relevant works and explain the aesthetic.

2. What's the difference between figurative language and literal expression? Provide two examples that illustrate the difference.


3. Identify an instance where a form of prosody has changed over time. Explain the shift briefly and identify their associated periods. Use the term Anglo-Saxon instead of Medieval if relevant to your answer. Be specific and use evidence from texts.

4. Explain with just a few examples the difference between a literal and a metaphorical reading of Sir Gawain's armor.

5. You will be demonstrating your ability to close read texts in the essay portion of this exam. But you could also do this in a short answer. Close read this section of Caedmon's story, which I take from an online version: “The man was established in worldly life until the time when he was of advanced age, and he had never learned any songs. And consequently, often at a drinking gathering, when there was deemed to be occasion of joy, that they all must in turn sing with a harp, when he saw the harp nearing him, he then arose for shame from that feast and went home to his house.” Look for ways to elaborate on meaning here. What ideas demand closer thought? Note that this is a subjective question so being specific will assist me in assessment.

6. Beowulf is a Germanic Epic. Why would an English court audience be interested in this text? What about it might appeal to members of the court or the modern American Congress?

7. Relate Deor to Sir Gawain. What common images or ideas are at work, typically revealed in similar figures of speech. Show relations by quoting and explaining the relationship.

8. In thinking about the hero's journey and its narrative devices, consider Gawain and Beowulf. Identify some aspect of Gawain that demonstrates his different vision as a hero. Be very specific. Make sure I know what you mean.

9. How is Cædmon a new kind of “hero”? Be brief but specific. Referring to other texts for this question would be a very nice thing to do.

10. In Lanval, why is it significant that Lanval not contradict Guinevere’s accusations before Arthur? What specific “value” is at play here?


11. “You must never tell anyone / About the love that you have won” ( 141-42). In terms of the journey or adventure, this quote illustrates what narrative devise? Identify the work.

12. Why is it significant that Gawain refuse the advances of the Green Knight’s wife? What is the consequence of his failure in this “game”?

13. Give one example of a modern day ring-giverrelationship. Any clues? Note that in this question, being specific about the ring-giver criteria is important.

14. What does the Wife of Bath mean by claiming, “I folwed ay my inclinacioun / By vertu of my constellacioun” 621-23)?

Essay Section:
Pick 2 of the following questions and write a short (not less than 2 full pages), thesis- driven essay answering the questions as critically and concisely as you can. Draw substantial evidence from the texts to support your argument and cite it in MLA format. Be brief and get to the point quickly. Be analytical and creative in your approach.
In your opinion and from the works we’ve covered thus far―the Old and Middle English works--how and from what source are authority in leadership AND knowledge derived? Why is one person determined an authority or a leader and not another? What are the limits of knowledge? Note that Chaucer, Beowulf, Marie de France, Bede, and Gawaincome at authority from very different directions and all will provide you examples and illustration. First you might want to make clear what youmean by authority in specific terms and to give it context given the works that are applicable here. Note that in considering this question it would be relatively easy to draw conclusions about what ways of behaving and thinking we value and don’t value.

Trace through the narrative Sir Gawain’s psychological journey in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. What process does he go through that determines and reveals his change as Christian hero? Make sure you illustrate how this process is expressed through a careful study of metaphor, time, narrative transition, and significant relationships.

From the works we’ve studied, examine how religion plays or religious values play a role in shaping literary expression over time. Hint: how many religious theme-based movies have you seen recently? Consider another hint: without some sort of perspective, model, or ideal, can we claim to be civilized? Make sure you draw illustration and support from representative texts in your examination.

Examine the significance of authority and its figures in Chaucer's Wife of Bath. Keep in mind that we could or might read The Canterbury Tales as treating the techniques each speaker uses to be convincing or rhetorically expressive. Alisoun uses lots of tools to come to conclusions and I would argue that she, as the poet would say in Beowulf, draws not just from a word-horde but from an evidence or figure-horde. What are her conclusions and what methods does she use to make them? Draw substantively from the text and be detailed in your examinations. But don't get too complicated.

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