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 #51 : Literary Analysis

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!"

 

What literary technique is used in D to parodic effect?

Possible Answers:

Bathos

Dramatic irony

Hyperbole

Paranomasia

Correct answer:

Bathos

Explanation:

Turning the fear and trepidation felt during the spiritual standoff between speaker and raven in Poe's poem into a standoff between speaker and a tub of hot water is an example of conscious bathos—the anticlimax experienced when the sublime turns into the ridiculous.

The parody does not feature paranomasia (puns and wordplay), hyperbole (exaggeration for rhetorical effect) or dramatic irony (when the audience knows or suspects something that the speaker/character does not know).

 

A: Adapted from Peter Bell: A Tale in Verseby 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)

Example Question #52 : Literary Analysis

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,---

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door:

Only this, and nothing more."

 

Oh! distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow;--- vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow,--- sorrow for the lost Lenore,---

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore,---

Nameless here forever more.

Which of the following was NOT written by the author of the above excerpt?

Possible Answers:

Benito Cereno

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue"

"The Bells"

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

"Ulalume"

Correct answer:

Benito Cereno

Explanation:

Benito Cereno (1855) is a novella by Herman Melville. All of the other works listed were written by Edgar Allen Poe.

 

Passage adapted from The Raven (Boston: Richard G. Badger & Co., 1898): I-IV by Edgar Allen Poe

Example Question #53 : Literary Analysis

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,---

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door:

Only this, and nothing more."

 

Oh! distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow;--- vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow,--- sorrow for the lost Lenore,---

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore,---

Nameless here forever more.

Name the dominant metrical pattern of the above lines.

Possible Answers:

Trochaic Octameter

Iambic Pentameter

Anapestic Tetrameter

Dactylic Hexameter

Spondaic Trimeter

Correct answer:

Trochaic Octameter

Explanation:

The above lines (excerpted from "The Raven," by Edgar Allen Poe) are written in Trochaic Octameter -- 8 metrical feet per line, with each foot consisting of 1 stressed followed by 1 unstressed syllable, e.g.:

"ONCE u-PON a MID-night DREA-ry, WHILE i PON-dered WEAK and WEA-ry..."

 

Metrical patterns are described in terms of the kind and number of metrical feet that make up each regular line. Metrical feet are units of stressed and unstressed syllables. Different kinds of metrical feet combine stresses and unstresses in different combinations. For instance, an iamb is one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable (da DUM), and a trochee is one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable (DUM da). The number of feet per line is indicated by words with latinate prefixes followed by the word "meter." Pentameter, for instance, indicates that each line contains five feet. Hence, iambic pentameter describes a rhythm in which each line is made up of five iambic feet, and trochaic octameter (the correct answer) describes a pattern in which each standard line is made up of eight trochees.

 

Passage adapted from The Raven (Boston: Richard G. Badger & Co., 1898): I-IV by Edgar Allen Poe

Example Question #54 : Literary Analysis

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,---

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door:

Only this, and nothing more."

 

Oh! distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow;--- vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow,--- sorrow for the lost Lenore,---

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore,---

Nameless here forever more.

Which of the following is NOT a feature of the above excerpt?

Possible Answers:

Feminine rhyme

Internal rhyme

Apostrophe

Caesura

Enjambment

Correct answer:

Apostrophe

Explanation:

Apostrophe is an address in the second person to an absent person or entity as though he/she/it were present. Although Lenore's name is invoked and her absence is noted, the poem is not structured in such a way as to suggest that the narrator is speaking directly to her.

 

Caesura is (in post-classical verse) a pause in the middle of a line, frequently written as an em-dash.

Enjambment is when a sentence or phrase runs over from one line to the next.

Feminine rhyme is two-syllable rhyme (e.g., remember/December).

Internal rhyme is a set of rhyming sounds occurring within a single line of verse (e.g., dreary/weary.)

 

Passage adapted from The Raven (Boston: Richard G. Badger & Co., 1898): I-IV by Edgar Allen Poe

Example Question #52 : Literary Analysis

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

In which line of the poem is there a radical shift in tone?

Possible Answers:

Line 6

Line 8

Line 3

Line 2

Line 10

Correct answer:

Line 3

Explanation:

This excerpt, from T. S. Eliot's much longer "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," begins with two rhyming lines that truly do read like a love song, but the third line of the poem "Like a patient etherized upon a table" introduces themes of complacency, impotence, paralysis, and sickness.

Passage adapted from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Elliot, 1-11 (1915)

Example Question #53 : Literary Analysis

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 William Wordsworth?

 

Possible Answers:

D

A

C

B

Correct answer:

A

Explanation:

A is a parody of the kinds of poems Wordsworth wrote and included in Lyrical Ballads (1798).

The ballad-like form, the apostrophe to nature (moon and brook), the serene scene (the moon shining over the larch) and the idolization of innocence are all features found in many of Wordsworth's poems.

  

A: Adapted from Peter Bell: A Tale in Verseby 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)

Example Question #51 : Literary Analysis

Vladimir Lensky, Tatiana Larina, and Olga Larina are all characters in a work by which Russian author?

Possible Answers:

Mikhail Lermontov

Aleksandr Pushkin

Ivan Turgenev

Leo Tolstoy

Nikolai Gogol

Correct answer:

Aleksandr Pushkin

Explanation:

Lensky, Tatiana and Olga are all characters in Eugene Onegin (1833), a novel in verse by Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837).

Example Question #1 : Literary Analysis Of British Poetry To 1660

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every Shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.
 
Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb,
The rest complains of cares to come.
 
The flowers do fade, and wanton fields,
To wayward winter reckoning yields,
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.
 
Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
 
Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds,
The Coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee, and be thy love.

The reference to Philomel in line 7 serves primarily to __________.

Possible Answers:

give an example of a woman spurned

show the effects of the passage of time

show the psychological toll that an affair with the shepherd might take on the speaker

give an example of the changing of seasons

express a concern that the shepherd may harm the speaker

Correct answer:

express a concern that the shepherd may harm the speaker

Explanation:

Philomela is a character from Greek mythology. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Philomela is raped by her sister's husband, who also removes her tongue and hands so that she can not tell anyone of his crime. In the myth, she is then transformed into a nightingale.

Passage adapted from "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" by Sir Walter Raleigh (1596)

Example Question #1 : Figurative Language

Batter my heart (Holy Sonnet 14)

1          Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
2          As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
3          That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
4          Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
5          I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
6          Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
7          Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
8          But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
9          Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
10        But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
11        Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
12        Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
13        Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
14        Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

The only simile throughout this sonnet is                        .

Possible Answers:

"Batter my heart, three-person'd God;" (line 1)

"betroth'd unto your enemy;" (line 10)

"Reason, your viceroy in me," (line 7)

"Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again," (line 11)

"like an usurp'd town" (line 5)

Correct answer:

"like an usurp'd town" (line 5)

Explanation:

"like an usurp'd town" (line 5) is the only simile throughout this sonnet, as it makes a direct comparison between two apparently unlike things—the poet and an usurp'd town—with the word "like." When constructing similes, the word "as" is also used.

Example Question #1 : Literary Analysis Of British Poetry To 1660

Batter my heart (Holy Sonnet 14)

1          Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
2          As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
3          That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
4          Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
5          I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
6          Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
7          Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
8          But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
9          Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
10        But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
11        Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
12        Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
13        Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
14        Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

At its most basic level, the theme of this poem is                      .

Possible Answers:

reason

erotic love

religion

warfare

romantic love

Correct answer:

religion

Explanation:

At its most basic level, the theme of this sonnet is religion (that is, the poet's wish for God's more forceful intervention in his life).

All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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