CLEP Humanities : Literature

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for CLEP Humanities

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Answering Other Questions About Poetry

The Japanese writer Bashō is most famous for working in what form?

Possible Answers:

Haiku Poetry

Bunraku Drama

Kabuki Drama

No Drama

Epic Poetry

Correct answer:

Haiku Poetry

Explanation:

Bashō is widely considered the master of the haiku form, a Japanese style of poetry that limits poems to just seventeen syllables. Bashō's work is especially famous for his use of the twist that is standard in the middle of a haiku. Bashō is considered to have set the standard for haiku with his work in the seventeenth century.

Example Question #2 : Clep: Humanities

A miraculous or unexpected intervention that quickly resolves a seemingly impossible plotline is called a __________.

Possible Answers:

chorus

deus ex machina

MacGuffin

flashback

red herring

Correct answer:

deus ex machina

Explanation:

"Deus ex machina," Latin for the god from the machine, is an ancient theater term that described a play's conclusion that found actual gods intervening from contraptions to quickly resolve a plot. The term is used more widely in literature and film in modern parlance to refer to a contrived ending to a plot that relies heavily on a miraculous or contrived intervention by some other figure than the main characters.

Example Question #1 : Answering Other Questions About Fiction

The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to an author for __________.

Possible Answers:

an author's literary output in a single year

a singular achievement in composing one poem

a singular achievement in composing one novel

excellent work in multiple genres

an entire career of literary achievement

Correct answer:

an entire career of literary achievement

Explanation:

The Nobel Prize in Literature, first established by Alfred Nobel's will in 1895, rewards authors for their total "work," which is read by the prize committee to mean an author's entire output for their career. The Nobel prize can be given to an author working in any field of literature, be it fiction, poetry, or even nonfiction. Usually, the Nobel Prize is seen as capping the career of an author, and is awarded usually to older writers.

Example Question #1 : Answering Other Questions About Fiction

Which twentieth-century novel features a detailed rumination on “kitsch"?

Possible Answers:

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Swell Season

The Stranger

All Quiet on the Western Front

Pale Fire

Correct answer:

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Explanation:

Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being features the 1968 Prague spring uprising as a background story for its characters' lives. The novel also discusses many philosophical themes, particularly the low-art known as "kitsch." Kundera's discussion of kitsch helps reflect on the "lightness" in the title of the novel.

Example Question #3 : Clep: Humanities

In a novel, a narrator that can see every event and understands every character's motivation is describes as a __________.

Possible Answers:

multiple first person narrators

second person narrator

first person narrator

third person omniscient narrator

third person limited narrator

Correct answer:

third person omniscient narrator

Explanation:

A third person narrator describes a narrator whose perspective is from outside any individual's own thoughts. An omniscient narrator describes a narrator that knows and understands every event and character motivation. This is one of the most common kinds of narration, along with first person narration, which is told from the point of view of a single character. A third person limited omniscient narrator has a perspective from outside, but can only understand the motivation of one, primary character. A first person narrator uses "I" and narrates from one character's perspective. A second person narrator uses "you." 

Example Question #1 : Clep: Humanities

The novels of John Updike are marked by all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

a sharp realism

explorations of Protestant theology and morality

a use of fantasy elements

a focus on middle-class American life

frank descriptions of sexual activities

Correct answer:

a use of fantasy elements

Explanation:

John Updike was a prolific, successful, and critically acclaimed American author whose work was centered in the middle of the twentieth century. Updike's style, which was fairly consistent over his more than twenty novels and dozens of short stories, featured an intense realism in storytelling about middle class Americans that often had frank descriptions of sexual activity and discussions of Protestant beliefs.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Content Of Twentieth Century Fiction

The American author who wrote a series of novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawtha County, Mississippi was __________.

Possible Answers:

John Updike

Sinclair Lewis

Edith Wharton

William Faulkner

Philip Roth

Correct answer:

William Faulkner

Explanation:

Virtually the entire canon of William Faulkner is set in the fictional Yoknapatawtha County. Even the stories set elsewhere refer back to or feature characters from Faulkner's other stories set there. William Faulkner’s literary achievements earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Content Of Twentieth Century Fiction

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915) tells the tale of __________.

Possible Answers:

a man overcome by the guilt of the monstrous crime he committed

a man transformed into a hideous bug

a man who is charged with a crime he did not commit

the use of an elaborate torture device

a young woman who is stoned to death by her fellow villagers

Correct answer:

a man transformed into a hideous bug

Explanation:

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis is a landmark novella that tells the story of Gregor Samsa, who finds himself transformed one morning into a massive bug. The Metamorphosis is Kafka's most famous story, and has many of the hallmarks of Kafka's style, including surreal situations, ironic plots, and dark humor.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Content Of Twentieth Century Fiction

The author Raymond Chandler's style was marked by all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

sparse descriptions and language

detective stories

complex plot twists

Los Angeles as a setting

romantic tales of heroism

Correct answer:

romantic tales of heroism

Explanation:

Raymond Chandler wrote his first book when he was in his 40s during the Great Depression. Nonetheless, he instantly became one of America's bestselling authors, writing several books in a "pulp" vein about the detective Phillip Marlowe. In doing so, Chandler pioneered literary detective fiction, with its hard-boiled investigator, sparse language, complex plots, and dark mood. Chandler's typical Los Angeles settings also saw many of his books, like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, made into films.

Example Question #1 : Clep: Humanities

Which of these twentieth century American novels concerns a corrupt evangelist in the Midwest?

Possible Answers:

Arrowsmith

The Sound and the Fury

Elmer Gantry

Tender is the Night

The Jungle

Correct answer:

Elmer Gantry

Explanation:

Sinclair Lewis published his novel Elmer Gantry in March 1927, and immediately had both a bestseller and controversy on his hands. Lewis' story of a corrupt and immoral evangelist, which was based on the careers of actual evangelists, drew widespread derision from religious groups. Nonetheless, Elmer Gantry was the bestselling American novel of 1927.

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