GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Identification of British Prose to 1660

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Subject Test: Literature in English

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All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identification Of British Prose To 1660

St. Almachus, or Telemachus:

Was a holy solitary of the East, but being excited by the ardors of a pious zeal in his desert, and pierced with grief that the impious diversion of gladiators should cause the damnation of so many unhappy souls, and involve whole cities and provinces in sin; he travelled to Rome, resolved, as far as in him lay, to put a stop to this crying evil. While the gladiators were massacring each other in the amphitheatre, he ran in among them; but as a recompense for his kind remonstrance, and entreating them to desist, he was beaten down to the ground, and torn in pieces, on the 1st of January, 404. His zeal had its desired success; for the effusion of his blood effected what till that time many emperors had found impracticable. Constantine, Constantius, Julian, and Theodosius the elder, had, to no purpose, published several edicts against those impious scenes of blood. But Honorius took occasion from the martyrdom of this saint, to enforce their entire abolition. His name occurs in the true martyrology of Bede, in the Roman and others.

The above lines are an example of which genre of medieval religious writing?

Possible Answers:

Mystical Writing

Morality Play

Autobiography

Hagiography

Homily

Correct answer:

Hagiography

Explanation:

These lines discuss the life of a saint, which makes this genre of writing a hagiography. Some of the earliest hagiographies are Aelfric’s Lives of the Saints and The Vercelli Book.

Passage adapted from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Alban Butler (1866)

Example Question #2 : Identification Of British Prose

"And in þis he shewed me a lytil thyng þe quantite of a hasyl nott. lyeng in þe pawme of my hand as it had semed. and it was as rownde as eny ball. I loked þer upon wt þe eye of my vnderstondyng. and I þought what may þis be. and it was answered generally thus. It is all þat is made. I merueled howe it myght laste. for me þought it myght sodenly haue fall to nought for lytyllhed. & I was answered in my vnderstondyng. It lastyth & euer shall for god louyth it. and so hath all thyng his begynning by þe loue of god. In this lytyll thyng I sawe thre propertees. The fyrst is. þt god made it. þe secunde is þet god louyth it. & þe þrid is. þat god kepith it."

In the work above, Julian of Norwich writes about her experiences as a female anchorite and her visions of Jesus Christ. The excerpt best represents which category of writing?

Possible Answers:

Miracle play

Morality play

Mysticism

Monasticism

Madrigal

Correct answer:

Mysticism

Explanation:

Written in the 1300s, this text, Revelations of Divine Love, is a canonical work of mysticism and is also the first English book known to have been written by a woman. The book delineates sixteen mystical visions as well as Julian’s musings about hope and divine love against a backdrop of turmoil and plague.

Passage adapted from Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (1395)

Example Question #2 : Identification Of British Prose To 1660

Truly, said Christian, I do not know.

At this Pliable began to be offended, and angrily said to his fellow, Is this the happiness you have told me all this while of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect betwixt this and our journey's end? May I get out again with my life, you shall possess the brave country alone for me. And, with that, he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on that side of the slough which was next to his own house: so away he went, and Christian saw him no more.

Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone: but still he endeavoured to struggle to that side of the slough that was still further from his own house, and next to the wicket-gate; the which he did, but could not get out, because of the burden that was upon his back: but I beheld in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him, What he did there?

Sir, said Christian, I was bid go this way by a man called Evangelist, who directed me also to yonder gate, that I might escape the wrath to come; and as I was going thither I fell in here.

But why did not you look for the steps? [Help asked.]

Fear followed me so hard, that I fled the next way, and fell in[, Christian replied.]

What early English work is this?

Possible Answers:

The Canterbury Tales

The Seafarer

Beowulf

The Consolation of Philosophy

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Correct answer:

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Explanation:

John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (full name: The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream) is an early example of English prose. Published in 1678, it constructs an elaborate moral allegory featuring Christian, the protagonist, and a host of personified virtues and sins that Christian encounters on his journey.

Passage adapted from The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream by John Bunyan (1678)

All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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