Additional midterm-exam information

Some of you have asked about the short-answer portion of the midterm exam. Here’s a description: there will be a list of terms from “Elements of Fiction” (don’t forget to look at all the sections of the site, not just the home page!) and from the list I posted on the blog (there is a lot of overlap, but some terms are only in one place or the other). There will also be a list of passages from our readings this semester. You will have to identify which term is an appropriate label for that passage AND explain why in a sentence or two. There might be more than one right answer, for example, if a passage is an example of first-person narration and setting–either would be correct in that case. You will not get credit, though, if you do not provide an explanation of why it is the appropriate label, since I won’t know if you know the terms or are just guessing.

Bonus points for correctly identifying the source of the passage!

Also, I added a new poll to the sidebar–I’m curious to know your interests for the essay topics. You can choose up to three in the poll.

Midterm exam questions

In a well-developed essay, consider how two of the short stories we have read this semester compare in their approach to one of the following issues, topics, or themes. Compare two examples from each story, using quotations from your quotation sheet as evidence to support for your thesis-driven essay.

  1. the treatment of characters exhibiting signs of mental illness or instability
  2. the significance of setting details, including their symbolic significance
  3. the inclusion of the supernatural or inexplicable in what is otherwise natural, of-this-world, or rational
  4. the intricate relationship between freedom and death
  5. marriage as restrictive and empowering

(on the exam, this will be a list of three, so be sure to prepare three of the five to guarantee one of your preferred options will be available to you on Wednesday!)

Your essay should be 500-600 words—if you’re writing 5 words per line, that’s 5-6 pages in the blue book, fewer pages if you get more words per line. There’s no need to count all of the words: check to see roughly how many words you write per line on a few lines, then multiply that by 20 (lines per page) and the number of pages you have. When you include a quotation, even though it is already on your quotation sheet, I ask that you copy it into your essay. Rather than using whiteout or making a mess, when you need to make a correction, just cross out what you want to delete.

To get started, you should use the time before the exam to plan your three possible essays. On Wednesday, take time at the start of the exam to think about what you want to write, and use the blue book to write down notes before you start writing the essay. There’s no need to skip every other line, but you might want to skip a line or two between paragraphs to give yourself space to add in any additional words or sentences when you re-read your essay.

Don’t forget–there will be short-answer questions to start the exam.

If you have questions, feel free to ask them here. Here’s one to start us off: what’s a draft of a thesis statement for one of these essays?

Fiction: terms for study

These are the terms we reviewed in class at the beginning of the semester, plus the few more that we added to our list of terms. Many of them come from Ann Charters’s “Elements of Fiction.” You should review them and be sure you know what they mean, (especially the terms for different types of narrators for Essay 1)!

plot: the series of events that give a story its meaning and effect: what happens

rising action: the events in which the drama intensifies, rising toward the climax

climax: the most dramatic and revealing moment, usually the turning point

falling action: when the drama subsides and the conflict is resolved

protagonist: the central agent in generating its plot, and this individual can embody the story’s theme

antagonist: the character or force in conflict with the protagonist

round character: a complex, fully developed character, often prone to change

flat character: A one-dimensional character, typically not central to the story

characterization: The process by which an author presents and develops a fictional character

setting: the story’s time and place, as well as its historical moment or its social context

first-person point of view: narration identifiable by the use of the pronoun “I”

second-person point of view: narrator uses “you” to addresses reader

Third-person point of view: narration doesn’t use “I”; occurs when the narrator does not take part in the story

omniscient narration: when the narrator includes information from anywhere, including characters’ thoughts and feelings. (omniscient=all-knowing)

limited narration: when the narrator can relate what is in the minds of only a select few characters

objective/dramatic narration: when the narrator doesn’t have access to characters’ internal thoughts or background information about the setting or situation.

homodiegetic narration: when the narrator is part of the story-world–a character within the story. This would be a first-person narrator, and can also be called a character narrator.

autodiegetic narration: when the narrator is the protagonist. This is a sub-set of homodiegetic narration

prolepsis: a change in the order of the story representing a flash-forward

analepsis: a change in the order of the story representing a flashback

focalizer: a character whose point of view or thoughts the narrator represents–most closely represented in “Elements of fiction” as a point-of-view character. There can be multiple focalizers in a narrative. The narrator is the focalizer in a homodiegetic, or first-person, narration.

diction: the word choices the author makes to tell the story

tone: the story’s attitude toward its subject matter–it can be earnest, sarcastic, humorous, etc

theme: the meaning or concept central to the story

image: descriptive language that engages on of the senses, such as a visual image that makes the reader imagine what something looks like, or a tactile images that depicts what something feels like, etc

symbol: a repeated image that comes to take on a larger meaning in a given story

allegory: a story in which the symbols, characters, and events represent a different metaphysical, political, or social situation that elevates the meaning of the story


Tagging stories

In class on Wednesday, 3/13, we tagged the stories we read with words and terms that might help us think more about overlaps we could find among the stories. Here’s what we had to say:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Cottagette”

equality, domestication, gender roles, romance, happy endings? domesticity, gender roles, feminism, role of gender, roles, Chinese take-out, doesn’t have to stay in the kitchen, conformity, utopia, happy ending (?), domesticity

Franz Kafka, “The Metamorphosis”

grotesque, nightmare-fuel, entombed, unconditional  vs conditional love, physical/ emotional change, gross, unordinary, euthanasia, transform, change, acceptance, metamorphosis, plot, bug, insect, ill, family, finance, metaphor, discrimination, transforming, family, creation, absurd, deformity, family, vermin, family values, family reliability, different living world, responsibility, disability, repugnant, unexplained,”The Fly”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-Paper”

sickness, mental, psychological, hallucination, creepy, craziness, mental illness, loss of freedom, mental breakdown, illness, ignorance, brainwashing, confining marriage, gender role in society, you’d think yellow was a happy color, feminism, psychoanalysis, physicians, marriage, freedom, “rest cure” doesn’t work, caring vs hurting, consequences of bad marriage, gothic, dystopia

Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour”

what is true love?, elixir, freedom, blind persistence, freedom–not!, shame she didn’t live, freedom, marriage, illness, love, free, freedom, dark, 3rd person limited, love–who needs it? heart trouble, physical exhaustion, “freedom,” life, heart attack, lack of freedom, desire of freedom, unhappy marriage

Susan Glaspell, “A Jury of Her Peers”

woman-centric, women’s intuition, poor Mr. Wright, two wives, crazies, detective story, mystery, crime, judgmental, neighbors, women know women, confining marriage, importance of details

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown”

Faith, damnation, symbols, allegory, distrust, forest, pink ribbons, forest, journey, evil, corruption, hallucinations vs. supernatural, hidden identities, reasons the Puritans aren’t really around anymore, demonic, godless, confusing, dream or not, young love, mystery, moral, ancient, faith, dreams, metaphors, Old English [**just have to say–this is NOT Old English. If you want to see what Old English looks like, or Middle English, or Early Modern English, in contrast to Modern English, you might check out this website, among many, many others. Thanks for listening!**]

William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”

crazy, haunting, death, forever and ever, pity, caring vs. hurting, loneliness, dilapidated, lonely life, Southern Gothic, loving dead, possessive, loneliness, china painting, iron-grey hair, mystery, crime, horror, past/future, 3rd person dramatic [***just to be clear, though, this story is told from a first-person plural point of view. The narrator is the people of the town. We could call this homodiegetic narration***], taxes, grotesque

Thomas Wolfe, “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn”

humor, Brooklyn, history, New York City, the map, Bensonhoist, big guy knows how to swim, transportation, directions, past, getting to know places, locations, settings, train, Brooklyn, vast, big, tour, Brooklyn, accent, NY, 1st person unreliable, enormous, unknowable, knowledge of Brooklyn, historical, accents/diction, maps, Brooklyn, Bensonhoist, Brooklyn history, culture, setting, ingenuity, visual descriptions, Bensonhurst, Red Hook, Coney Island

Brainstorming for the midterm exam

As you well know, our midterm exam will be on March 20th, the last time we meet before Spring Break. In preparation for that, and to make sense of what we’ve worked on for the first half of the semester, we’re going to devote class time today and Monday, March 18th, to an examination of the stories we’ve read and to the overlaps we find among them.

The midterm exam itself will include ten short-answer questions asking you to define or identify terms, and one essay question that will ask you to compare two stories in a specific way. We will develop possible essay questions together in class today–they will each be based on a comparison of some element of two stories. For homework, write a blog post in which you advocate for two or more of these questions to be included among the choices you will have. In your post, consider any of the following questions:

  • What does answering the question allow you to understand about each story?
  • How does the question allow you to further explore the stories?
  • What does the comparison bring out?
  • What examples and quotations would you use in your response?
  • What thesis statement would you include?

In class on Monday, we will narrow the options down to 5 possible essay questions. On the exam, I will include only three of those questions, and you will have to answer one. You will be allowed to bring one sheet of quotations into the exam, which you will use to include evidence in your essay. After the exam, I will collect the quotation sheet along with your exam booklet.

For the essay, you will not be able to use the story you wrote about for Essay #1.

I’m happy to answer any questions in class, or you can reply here with more questions.