(This webpage is the assignment for our course's midterm. This page will be updated up to 23 February.)Date:
2 March 2015—email
midterms due by 9pm 5 March
(If your exam will be late, communicate!—professional courtesy.).
(If your exam will be late, communicate!—professional courtesy.).
No regular class meeting on 2 March
(i.e. attendance not
required unless you take the exam in-class. ) Instructor keeps
office hours during class period.
) Instructor keeps office hours during class period.
Format: Open-book, open-notebook: Use course materials + outside sources (<optional).
2 options for taking exam
Email students may take breaks and write parts in installments.
4 parts to midterm
1. Long essay describing and focusing learning, challenges, issues concerning American Renaissance or American Romantic literature. (6-8 paragraphs)
2. Short essay (4-6 paragraphs) on 1 of 2 options (or combinations as inspired) :
3. Web Highlights: Review at least 3 posts from course website's Model Assignments (4-6 paragraphs)
Essays, web reviews, and research plan
Welcome to email, phone, or confer with instructor before, during or after exam.
Warning about content: You're always invited to integrate
your own ideas, but they should interact with the course's terms and
objectives. What you don't want me to tell you is,
"You could have written this exam without taking the course."
Warning about content: You're always invited to integrate your own ideas, but they should interact with the course's terms and objectives. What you don't want me to tell you is, "You could have written this exam without taking the course."
1. Long essay: Describe and focus learning, challenges, issues, gains concerning the American Renaissance or Romantic Period of American literature. (6-8 paragraphs)
Assignment: Referring to at least 4 assigned readings (incl. Mohicans) and to the course's central terms and objectives, write a readable, unified, and compelling essay describing and evaluating your learning experience concerning the American Renaissance or American Romantic Movement.
Audience: Obviously I'm the primary reader and grader, but future students may see samples of your writing in our Model Assignments.
You can't cover everything & aren't expected to—prioritize, emphasize, organize some materials at the expense of others.
More on required texts: One of your minimal number of 3-4 texts can be a poem presented in class. Beyond that minimal number, refer to as many poems as helpful.
2. Short essay (4-6 paragraphs). Choose & indicate either 2a or 2b. If inspired to combine options, announce at start of answer.
2a. Highlight a passage from our course readings—your best textual experience so far—explaining why it made an impression on you. Analyze the passage’s language, how it works and connects. Apply to course terms and/or objectives + extend or apply beyond course.
Copy and paste the passage into your exam, or refer to it so instructor can find it or know what you’re talking about. (Doesn’t count as essay length)
You may refer to more than 1 passage, but more material may equal shallower analysis. If 2 passages, be sure to connect.
References to discussion or lecture a plus; otherwise analyze text on its own terms, in larger context, by connecting to significant terms and to other texts.
Make it matter. Why or how does the passage speak to literary and/or cultural issues in and beyond our course?
[One way to make your passage matter is to connect it
to other course readings; e.g. Ligeia as dark lady > Cora in
[One way to make your passage matter is to connect it to other course readings; e.g. Ligeia as dark lady > Cora in Mohicans]
text selection: any text featured so far in class, whether
assigned readings, poetry presentations, or web reviews.
text selection: any text featured so far in class, whether assigned readings, poetry presentations, or web reviews.
2b. Favorite term, objective, concept + why + apply to 1-2 texts
What term or idea appeals to you the most & why? What concepts does it explain? Why does the term or its applications matter?
Establish a "working definition" of the term that you can apply to one or more course texts. (Use course links when possible.)
Apply to one or more passages from one or more of our course texts so far. How does the text-example extend, challenge, or enrich your working definition?
Connect, compare, or contrast with other terms.
Conclude by exploring, How has your understanding evolved? What is learned? Show how the term or idea helps you with the text or literature generally.
3. Web Highlights: Review 3(+) posts from course website's Model Assignments
Assignment: Review at least 3 submissions on the course webpage’s “Model Assignments” page and write 5-7 paragraphs (total) on what you found and learned.
Requirements & guidelines:
At least one Model Assignment must be a midterm from American Renaissance's previous semesters. All three may be midterms, but research projects, research proposals, final exams, and presentations are welcome and may help your research proposal.
“Review”: describe what interested you, where, why, what you learned, what impressed or surprised. You may criticize what you found, but not required.
To identify passages, copy and paste brief selections into your web review or refer to them using locations, paraphrases, summaries, and brief quotes. (Both options appear in models.) Either way, highlight and discuss language used in the passages as part of your commentary. Critique what you learn.
What did you learn from reviewing model assignments that you didn't learn from in-class instruction?
Any of your answers may refer to your research plans, but #4 is required as a separate element.
Formats and processes
Documentation?--No documentation required for references to course texts except for citing author, title, & context.
Example from a 2006 midterm:
In “Resistance to Civil Government” Thoreau uses a mix of Romantic language and sublime imagery to make the individual the supreme authority from which governments derive their power: “when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.” The moral reference to nature is specifically Romantic in that it recalls the simplicity of the natural world and the natural order. The analogy of competition requires the reader to consider the role of governments and individuals in both their natural urges and their moral obligations to themselves and each other. Towards the end, Thoreau argues, “There will never be a really free and enlightened State, until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.” The passage's uplifting language promotes the status of the individual. Words such as “enlightened,” “higher,” and “independent” will probably evoke a higher plane of thought than might usually be associated with the concepts of government.
Instructor’s response to midterm:
7-10 days after turning in midterm, you’ll receive an email with your midterm grade and 1-3 paragraphs of feedback.
Feedback tries to be brief, but sometimes it's long for the sake of offering advice.
Response to research proposal may be only “yes” + brief note since many students change their research option or topic. The proposal’s purpose is less to commit than to start thinking and planning.
Guides for anticipating grading and comments:
The best exams use terms, themes, and objectives recognizable from class meetings, demonstrate understanding of terms and objectives with quick working definitions and application to examples from texts, while also extending and refreshing common materials with the student's own language, examples, and analyses of shared texts.
Lesser exams talk about the texts but ignore terms and objectives. Students write what they would have said before starting the course. Instructor replies, "You could have written this without taking the course." Don't make me write this!
Evidence of learning: All exams are expected to use central terms and themes from objectives with text-examples highlighted in lecture-discussion with competence. Knowledge from beyond the course and on-the-spot inventiveness are impressive, but first and foremost demonstrate mastery of the course’s essential materials. Beware my criticism: "You could have written this essay without taking the course."
Students naturally want to show what they already know and for the instructor to exclaim, "I have nothing to teach you—you know it all already!" But experience teaches that we never know everythingl. A more interesting persona or attitude for a critic is to discover something they don't quite understand but want to understand through writing, rethinking, rewriting. Questions, problems, and issues are good as long as you learn from them.
Extension of learning: The best exams not only comprehend the course’s terms, objectives, and texts but also use the student's voice to refresh, extend, or vary terms and themes with examples from the class and from experience beyond our class. Make our course meet the world!
Mix your language and ideas with the course's.
Writing the exam: