Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze How a Work Uses and Transforms Source Material: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.9

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Example Question #1 : Analyze How A Work Uses And Transforms Source Material: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.9 10.9

Adapted from John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1819)
Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness, 
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, 
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape 
       Of deities or mortals, or of both, 
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? 
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? 
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; 
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, 
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: 
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; 
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, 
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve; 
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; 
And, happy melodist, unwearied, 
         For ever piping songs for ever new; 
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd, 
                For ever panting, and for ever young; 
All breathing human passion far above, 
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd, 
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 
Who are these coming to the sacrifice? 
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? 
What little town by river or sea shore, 
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, 
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? 
And, little town, thy streets for evermore 
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return. 
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede 
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought, 
With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought 
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 
         When old age shall this generation waste, 
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

In this poem, the "Grecian Urn" in question is being used as a(n) __________________.

Possible Answers:

allusion to the Bible

object of derision, helping to prove the author's overall point about the uselessness of art

metaphor for death

springboard for a consideration of permanence in art

Correct answer:

springboard for a consideration of permanence in art


This question asks you to evaluate the aesthetic use of a work of art in the poem. When a work of literature discusses or uses as its subject another work of art it is called an "ekphrastic" work of art; this passage is a prime example of ekphrastic poetry.

So, what specific use is Keats making of the Grecian Urn in question? Let's go through our answers one by one.

The first and most obvious answer to eliminate is the one that claims that the urn is being used as an "object of derision." This just does not, in any way, relate to the tone of the poem, and it's enthusiastic, romantic treatment of the work of art, or the artistic principles it is being used to represent.

The idea of the vase being used as a "metaphor for death" does not make sense in the context of the poem's discussion of the "for ever" artistic permanence of the piece of pottery, which is said to specifically outlast mortal beings.

The artistic source here is Classical (from Ancient Greece), not Christian.

This leaves us with the correct answer, and the answer that is directly supported by the tone and content of the poem. The vase is acting as a useful springboard for a deeper, farther reaching consideration of permanence in the context of art. The point of the poem is not to directly analyze the vase in an academic manner, but to vault the author into a poetic, romantic treatment of the themes he believes the piece embodies.

Example Question #11 : Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838)

Upon my return to the United States a few months ago, after the extraordinary series of adventure in the South Seas and elsewhere, of which an account is given in the following pages, accident threw me into the society of several gentlemen in Richmond, Va., who felt deep interest in all matters relating to the regions I had visited, and who were constantly urging it upon me, as a duty, to give my narrative to the public. I had several reasons, however, for declining to do so, some of which were of a nature altogether private, and concern no person but myself; others not so much so.

One consideration which deterred me was that, having kept no journal during a greater portion of the time in which I was absent, I feared I should not be able to write, from mere memory, a statement so minute and connected as to have the appearance of that truth it would really possess, barring only the natural and unavoidable exaggeration to which all of us are prone when detailing events which have had powerful influence in exciting the imaginative faculties.

Another reason was, that the incidents to be narrated were of a nature so positively marvellous that, unsupported as my assertions must necessarily be (except by the evidence of a single individual, and he a half-breed Indian), I could only hope for belief among my family, and those of my friends who have had reason, through life, to put faith in my veracity-the probability being that the public at large would regard what I should put forth as merely an impudent and ingenious fiction. A distrust in my own abilities as a writer was, nevertheless, one of the principal causes which prevented me from complying with the suggestions of my advisers.

Among those gentlemen in Virginia who expressed the greatest interest in my statement, more particularly in regard to that portion of it which related to the Antarctic Ocean, was Mr. Poe, lately editor of the "Southern Literary Messenger," a monthly magazine, published by Mr. Thomas W. White, in the city of Richmond. He strongly advised me, among others, to prepare at once a full account of what I had seen and undergone, and trust to the shrewdness and common-sense of the public-insisting, with great plausibility, that however roughly, as regards mere authorship, my book should be got up, its very uncouthness, if there were any, would give it all the better chance of being received as truth.

Notwithstanding this representation, I did not make up my mind to do as he suggested. He afterward proposed (finding that I would not stir in the matter) that I should allow him to draw up, in his own words, a narrative of the earlier portion of my adventures, from facts afforded by myself, publishing it in the "Southern Messenger" under the garb of fiction. To this, perceiving no objection, I consented, stipulating only that my real name should be retained. Two numbers of the pretended fiction appeared, consequently, in the "Messenger" for January and February (1837), and, in order that it might certainly be regarded as fiction, the name of Mr. Poe was affixed to the articles in the table of contents of the magazine.

The manner in which this ruse was received has induced me at length to undertake a regular compilation and publication of the adventures in question; for I found that, in spite of the air of fable which had been so ingeniously thrown around that portion of my statement which appeared in the "Messenger" (without altering or distorting a single fact), the public were still not at all disposed to receive it as fable, and several letters were sent to Mr. P.'s address, distinctly expressing a conviction to the contrary. I thence concluded that the facts of my narrative would prove of such a nature as to carry with them sufficient evidence of their own authenticity, and that I had consequently little to fear on the score of popular incredulity.

This exposé being made, it will be seen at once how much of what follows I claim to be my own writing; and it will also be understood that no fact is misrepresented in the first few pages which were written by Mr. Poe. Even to those readers who have not seen the "Messenger," it will be unnecessary to point out where his portion ends and my own commences; the difference in point of style will be readily perceived.


-A.G Pym

Within the passage, Edgar Allen Poe's 1838 publication in the "Southern Literary Messenger" is figured as ________________.

Possible Answers:

a true but distorted version of Poe and Pym's adventures

a fictional story that Poe stole from Arthur Pym

a fictional story that Poe stole from Arthur Pym and passed off as a historical record

a true story that Poe stole from Arthur Pym and passed off as his own fictional story

Correct answer:

a true story that Poe stole from Arthur Pym and passed off as his own fictional story


This passage centers on the publication of a story in the 1838 edition of the "Southern Literary Messenger," which has caused the author to provide his current writing, clarifying events and putting his own name on his own true story. Given its immense importance to the overall content of the passage, it certainly behooves us to understand the nature of this document!

So, let's start at the beginning: Pym is the "I" in this passage, and is thus the narrator. He begins by asserting that he had an "extraordinary series of adventures in the South Seas and elsewhere." Let's stop and re-emphasize this: Pym is definitively stating that these adventures happened to him, they are real, non-fictional events that he asserts occurred.

Right off the bat we can eliminate the option that claims Poe stole a fictional story from Pym, according to Pym he has no fictional stories to share.

Moving on, things get a bit muddled, as Pym tells us that he was pressured by numerous high-ranking members of Richmond society to publish a non-fictional account of his travels. Pym for a long time refused, believing some of the events to be of a "private nature" and "of concern to person but [himself]," and the rest of it to be so fantastic that the "veracity" may be doubted by readers. Finally, Poe, the editor of the "Southern Literary Messenger," convinced Pym to publish the true account as fiction, so as to assuage Pym's fears of being thought a liar. Ultimately, however, Pym claims that Poe stole his story and published it as fiction under Poe's own name. 

This is where the answer is found, we need look no further in the passage, and we may become confused if we do (as Pym goes on to detail the story's reception once it was published).

We are now aware that, according to the logic of the passage, the story published in the 1838 editions of the Messenger was Pym's true account being passed off as Poe's fiction.

All Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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