Final Exam

Because we couldn't meet the regular way this week, I'll try here to explain the final exam, especially for students who couldn't make our last meeting today (Friday, Dec. 8). If you have any questions, though, I'll be in my office Monday, Dec. 11, from 1 - 4, and I'll be checking e-mail pretty much every day between now and the final.

On Monday, Dec. 18, at a little before 9 a.m, in our regular classroom (324 Cabell) I'll hand out the exam. You'll have about three hours to take it. The exam will contain at least 6 essay questions, each involving a comparison of two of the works we've read this term. You'll be asked to pick three of the questions, and spend an hour answering each of them.

There won't be any short answer or ID questions, but I will ask you to develop your essays with examples from the text. I don't mean specific quotations, but the instructions for the exam will ask you to "name names, give details, cite examples to support your ideas." I'll try to give you a range of questions, including some that cover issues we talked about a lot in class during the term and some that ask you to discuss issues we haven't already talked about. As with the papers, you'll have every right to come up with your own ideas or emphases; I don't have to agree with your answer, as long as you show me how the texts support it.

Students asked today if they could write the exam on a computer in one of the labs, or a laptop outside our classroom, and I said sure. I'll hand the exams out in Cabell 324, and expect to get them back at noon in 324, but you can go anyplace in between to take it. I won't accept any answers on disk, though. You must bring back a printed copy.

Between now and Monday you can study for the exam any way you want. If you've been doing the reading thoughtfully all term, there probably isn't a lot more you need to do now. One tip I suggested today is to flip through the works we've read and refresh your memory about the major characters, major scenes, major themes. I also suggested taking our reading list and trying on your own to figure out what kinds of comparisons you can make between and among the works -- i.e. try to predict the questions I might ask. I'm not sure many students learn much from taking a final, but I believe in what you can learn from studying for one, and having to pull together the separate pieces of the course into various kinds of patterns and toward various kinds of conclusions. I'd love to think, for example, of students getting together in groups to discuss the works we read and talk about the exam together, and for the record, such "giving and receiving of assistance" will not constitute any kind of honor offense. And when you think about it (despite what Emerson says about "SELF reliance") it's not possible for much to happen -- for me to teach the course, for you to read the books, etc. -- without the "giving and receiving" of a lot of assistance to and from each other.

Here are a couple sample questions. I used them several years ago, the last time I taught "American Renaissance." I'm posting them here to give you an idea of what I mean when I say the exam will consist of a set of essay questions asking you to compare two of the works/authors we've read. In that class we read Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance and Dickinson's poems, and in our class we read The Scarlet Letter and didn't have a chance to talk about Dickinson at all, but I hope you can still get a good idea of the kind of question I'll be asking you to answer.

4. Thoreau actually lived at the pond for over two years, from July 1845 to September 1847. When he transformed that experience into a book, however, he tells the story around a single year that ends in the Spring. The story Coverdale tells, on the other hand, begins in the Spring, but ends in the Fall. Discuss how and why Thoreau and Hawthorne use the seasons, especially the Spring in Walden and the Fall in The Blithedale Romance.

5. One scholar has actually counted, and found that Dickinson uses "I" in her poetry more frequently that Whitman does in his -- and of course he uses it a lot in "Song of Myself." With that poem and a couple of Dickinson's in mind, discuss the way each of these poets uses her or his "self" as the occasion, or hero, or subject, of the poetry.

Two last notes. (1) As I told the class today, I wish we could have talked about Dickinson, and so for those of you who want to include her in the exam, among the questions will be one very similar to the one numbered "5" above. (2) I'll give back all the remaining essays at the end of the exam, and will explain then how and when you can see me if you have any questions or complaints about my response to your essay. See you December 18th.