GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Literary Analysis

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

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All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

1 Diagnostic Test 158 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept

Example Questions

Example Question #41 : Literary Analysis

In the desert

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,

Who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,

And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”

“It is bitter – bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it

Because it is bitter,

And because it is my heart.”

The tone of this poem can best be described as __________

Possible Answers:

ethereal

orgulous

vituperative

dispassionate

phantasmagoric

Correct answer:

dispassionate

Explanation:

The tone of this poem could be described as cold, emotionless, or dispassionate. The narrator describes an encounter with a man eating his own heart, and, in contrast to the visceral subject matter, the experience and dialogue are relayed in a flat, affectless way. The poem is, quite literally, emotionless, as the reactions of neither the speaker nor the "creature" are mentioned.

The passage is adapted from "In the Desert," which appeared in Stephen Crane's The Black Rider and Other Lines (1895).

Example Question #41 : Literary Analysis

In the desert

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,

Who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,

And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”

“It is bitter – bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it

Because it is bitter,

And because it is my heart.”

The form of the poem is that of __________.

Possible Answers:

a ghazal

a sestina

a villanelle

a Petrarchan sonnet

None of the other answers is correct

Correct answer:

None of the other answers is correct

Explanation:

This 10-line poem does not follow any of the forms above. A villanelle typically has nineteen lines (including five tercets and a closing quatrain), a sestina has six stanzas of six lines each (and usually a final three-line envoi), a Petrarchan or Italian sonnet has fourteen lines, and a ghazal has between five and fifteen couplets.

This poem, "In the Desert," appeared in Stephen Crane's The Black Riders and Other Lines (1895).

Example Question #21 : Literary Analysis Of American Poetry

In the desert

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,

Who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,

And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”

“It is bitter – bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it

Because it is bitter,

And because it is my heart.”

Which of the following meters is used in this poem?

Possible Answers:

Spondee

Iamb

None of the other answers is correct

Trochee

Anapest

Correct answer:

None of the other answers is correct

Explanation:

Although certain lines or phrases in this poem fall into a recognizable meter (as will most any), the overall poem is not confined to any one meter in particular.

The passage is adapted from "In the Desert," which appeared in Stephen Crane's The Black Rider and Other Lines (1895).

Example Question #41 : Literary Analysis

I celebrate myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

 

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.

 

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes— the shelves are crowded with perfumes,

I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

This passage contains all of the following elements, except __________

Possible Answers:

transcendentalism

rhyme

American Romantic style

Gothic style

individualism

Correct answer:

Gothic style

Explanation:

Since Whitman can be considered the best example of American Romanticism, and this passage isquite representative of his overall style, it can obviously be said to contain elements of American Romanticism as a classification. One need only count the number of "I"s in this short passage to find ample evidence of individualism. The discussion of shared "atoms" is transcendental in nature. While the passage does not follow an obvious rhyme scheme, the internal rhyme of "houses and rooms are full of perfumes" functions as a notable, and powerful, instance of rhyming for poetic effect in this passage.

Gothic writing is characterized by its use of horror, the grotesque, and the macabre, none of which play a role in this passage, nor in Leaves of Grass as a whole.

Poem taken from Walt Whitman’s 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass.

Example Question #41 : Literary Analysis

Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, expos’d to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ’mongst vulgars mayst thou roam.
In critics' hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.

All of the following emotions can be attributed to the speaker EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

embarassment

grudging acceptance

self-deprecation

None of the other answers is correct.

justifiable pride

Correct answer:

justifiable pride

Explanation:

While Bradstreet at turns expresses embarassment and self-deprecation about her poetry, and finally accepts that her poems are now out in the world whether she wants them to be or not, she does not give evidence of any particular pride in this.

Passage adapted from "The Author to Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet (1678)

Example Question #1 : Structure And Form: Poetry

Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, expos’d to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ’mongst vulgars mayst thou roam.
In critics' hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.

The poetic form that Bradstreet uses in this poem is __________.

Possible Answers:

blank verse

sestina

None of the other answers is correct

heroic couplets

sonnet

Correct answer:

heroic couplets

Explanation:

The poem is written in heroic couplets, which are rhymed pairs of lines in iambic pentameter.  The poem would only be in blank verse if the iambic pentameter lines did not rhyme.  The poem is also too long and in the wrong form to be a sonnet and is too short to be a sestina.

Passage adapted from "The Author to Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet (1678)

Example Question #551 : Sat Subject Test In Literature

Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, expos’d to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ’mongst vulgars mayst thou roam.
In critics' hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.

The underlined lines "I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet, / Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet" most likely refers to what?

Possible Answers:

The poet revising the subject matter of the poems

None of the other answers is correct

The poet revising the meter of the poems

The poet revising the rhyme of the poems

The poet revising the form of the poems

Correct answer:

The poet revising the meter of the poems

Explanation:

The word "feet" is the clue here: the meter of poems is measured in metrical feet, different combinations of stressed and unstressed syllables, and here, Bradstreet is using the image of stretching the "joints" of her "offspring" to even up the meter.

Passage adapted from "The Author to Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet (1678)

Example Question #32 : Literary Analysis Of Poetry

This poet is known as America's most prolific poet. From Massachusetts, he or she wrote more than 1800 poems about art, gardens, joy, love, death, and grief.

Possible Answers:

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Anne Bradstreet

Washington Irving

Emily Dickinson

Jack London

Correct answer:

Emily Dickinson

Explanation:

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Most of her works were not discovered until after her death. Many of these works, mostly discovered in her bedroom, were about death. Her first publication, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, wasn't published until 1890, four years after her death. Her themes varied greatly, from joy through death, and as she grew older, her poems took on a more negative tone, focusing on death and grief.

Example Question #31 : Literary Analysis Of Poetry

This poet, recognized as a New World Poet, was a Puritan who wrote about his or her struggles, the role of women, and mortality. In "Microcosmographia" (1615), this author writes:

What gripes of wind my infancy did pain,

What tortures I in breeding teeth sustain?

What crudityes my stomach cold has bred,

Whence vomits, flux, and worms have issued?

Possible Answers:

Anne Bradstreet

Emily Dickinson

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Jack London

Washington Irving

Correct answer:

Anne Bradstreet

Explanation:

Anne Bradstreet was declared the first female New World Poet for her works. She was born in England in 1612 to an affluent family. Both her father and husband would be Governors of Massachusetts after they arrived in America in 1630. Some of her most famous works include A Dialogue Between Old England and New, A Letter to Her Husband, Absent Upon Public Employment, and Contemplation.  

Although Bradstreet did not have a very pleasant life, most of her poems were hopeful and positive, with a hint of sarcasm.

Passage adapted from "Microcosmographia" by Anne Bradstreet (1615)

Example Question #21 : Literary Analysis Of American Poetry Before 1925

A)

It is the thirty-first of March,
A gusty evening—half-past seven;
The moon is shining o’er the larch,
A simple shape—a cock’d-up arch,
Rising bigger than a star,
Though the stars are thick in Heaven.

Gentle moon! how canst thou shine
Over graves and over trees,
With as innocent a look
As my own grey eyeball sees,
When I gaze upon a brook?

B)

O intellectual ingurtilations of creeds!
To such I am antiseptic.
I met a man.
Where?
In a gutter.  We were at once friends.
O homogeneities of contemporaneous antiloxodromachy!

C)

When hope, love, life itself, are only
Dust - spectral memories - dead and cold -
The unfed fire burns bright and lonely,
Like that undying lamp of old:
And by that drear illumination,
Till time its clay-built home has rent,
Thought broods on feeling's desolation -
The soul is its own monument.

D)

Once upon a midnight chilling, as I held my feet unwilling
O'er a tub of scalding water, at a heat of ninety-four;
Nervously a toe in dipping, dripping, slipping, then out-skipping
Suddenly there came a ripping whipping, at my chamber's door.
"'Tis the second-floor," I muttered, "flipping at my chamber's door—
Wants a light—and nothing more!"

 

 

Which is a parody written in the style of Walt Whitman?

Possible Answers:

C

D

A

B

Correct answer:

B

Explanation:

Breaking away from traditional form and meter, Whitman tried to invent what he called "a new and national declamatory expression" in Leaves of Grass.

Parody B mimics Whitman both in terms of style (abortive, seemingly disorganized and unplanned lines, prophetic apostrophe) and content (distrust for creeds and theory).

 

A: Adapted from Peter Bell: A Tale in Verse by William Wordsworth (1819)

B: Adapted from a parody in Once a Week (London, December 12th, 1868). Can be found in Volume 5 of Parodies of the Works of English & American Authors (1888; ed. Reeves and Turner)

C: Adapted from Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock (1818)

D: Adapted from "The Vulture: An Ornithological Study" in Graham's Magazine (1853)

All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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