A Random Example of my Meanness

Mostly because I am trying to reinforce a habit of posting something every two or three days–whether I actually have something interesting to say or not–I’m providing these: a few minor examples of the hard, cruel, bastardly bastard I am to my lit. students.

All three of the following questions will appear on my American Literature (survey to 1865) final exam.

  1. Nathaniel Hawthorne not only wrote in the Romantic tradition, but he also explained important elements of Romantic literary theory in his writings (and we spent a good deal of time discussing these explanations in class). Compose an essay in which you explain Hawthorne’s definition of the Romance (in the “Preface” to The House of Seven Gables) as well as his explanation of Romantic literary theory (in “The Custom House”; hint: think moonlight and coal-fire), giving examples from at least two works of Romantic fiction we’ve read this semester.
  2. This semester, we’ve put forth considerable effort studying the aesthetics and poetics of a large number of American poets. Choose two of the late Romantic poets we’ve studied (Whitman, Dickinson, Melville) and, using examples from their poetry, compose an essay in which you discuss at least two significant changes from earlier periods in American literary history. (You may choose any two earlier periods or poets, but you must be specific.) Conclude by revisiting the following question: Which poet or poetic do you feel to be the most important, worthy of further study, or personally interesting? Why?
  3. Literary critic M. H. Abrams once called the symbol an “irreplaceable literary device”—an unsurprising position, as many of our discussions this semester have centered on symbols. Compose an essay in which you give an extended definition of the symbol. For examples, choose at least four important symbols, explicate their meanings, and relate them to the themes of the works they are found in. These four should be taken from at least two different authors we’ve discussed in this final unit (Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Dickinson). Conclude by assessing Abrams’ quote—why do you agree/disagree with his statement?
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5 thoughts on “A Random Example of my Meanness

  1. I predict you are the professor who has a small handful of students who go on to a vocation of English teaching and/or writing and who cite you as that “tough teacher who got the best out of me”–and a ton of other students who hate your guts and say things like, “We’re not f*#@ing English majors! Who cares about Romantic jibberty-crap?!” But years later, those students will be watching Jeopardy or playing some trivia game and a question/answer will come up about literature which they will answer correctly. Sadly, they will wonder how the hell they knew that. But still…

  2. Oh, and I asked my comp I and II students on their final that if this course were a job would they have been promoted or fired by the end of the semester.(If they say fired, they’re probably failing–or will now–and if they say promoted, they still might fail. I’m such a bitch.)

  3. Robert; That’s pretty much me (or at least, the version of me that I’d like to be–whether I am or not is left to the annals of history (or some crap like that).Rochelle, that’s not only harsh, but a cool final exam question for a writing class–I like it!

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