ENGL 204: Renaissance Literature
Dr. Debora B. Schwartz
English Department, California Polytechnic State University

Information on the Final Exam

The Final Exam will be worth 300 points; there will be both objective sections and an essay (likely to be worth between 1/4 and 1/3 of exam points). In format it will resemble the midterm. It will be semi-cumulative: all works read this quarter will be covered in some parts (as noted below), but particular emphasis is on readings covered since the midterm. You are also responsible for material covered in lectures, study guides, online readings and assigned background pages. Cumulative exam score (based on total number of exam points for midterm and final) will be worth 40% of your final course grade. Keep in mind that my exams are meaty; you will probably need the full three hours. As on the midterm, if you do not know the material well, you may have difficulty finishing the exam in the allotted time.

HINT:  Even if you prepare thoroughly and breeze through the exam, you are strongly advised to use the full time allotted to you. Should you be tempted to leave before the end of the allotted time, don't!  Instead, use that time to PROOFREAD YOUR EXAM CAREFULLY. Verify that you have followed instructions exactly in each section.  Make sure you have answered all required questions on objective portion, but NOT more than are required on a section where there is choice. (There is NO E.C. for doing more than the specified number of IDs; you will simply lose time and points, since any answer that's wrong or incomplete will count off!) Go back over your essay.  Make sure you responded to the prompt AS IT IS WRITTEN, rather than the prompt you wish it had been. PROOFREAD your essay for spelling, punctuation, grammatical errors, and effective argumentation (clear and explicit articulation of your claims in your opening statement; logical development of argument; adequate and relevant textual support for each step in the argument; clear conclusion).  If you find that you STILL have extra time, add more detail (or more examples) to the textual support in your essay.


The essay will be worth a substantial portion of the exam points (probably in the 1/4 to 1/3 range).  While you may pace yourself as you see fit, the essay is supposed to take approximately one hour to an hour and a half (depending on how quickly you complete the rest of the exam). There will be a number of prompts to choose from, all of which will require you to write on one or more authors or works read since the midterm exam.  (Some questions will require you to compare these works or authors to readings from the first half of the quarter.)  YOU MAY NOT WRITE ON THE WORK(S) WHICH ARE THE FOCUS OF YOUR FINAL PAPER.

Prompts may ask you to "compare and contrast" two works, or to discuss the development of a genre, theme or motif over time. Be sure that your essay doesn't just make a list of observations, but has something to say about what you have observed; that your essay argues a position concerning the question and the works you are discussing (rather than being merely descriptive or factual); that your paper is organized into paragraphs that represent logical steps in your argument; and that each paragraph contains allusions to specific textual evidence in support of your argument. 

Because I look for the same things in an exam essay as I do in out-of-class writing (except that I don't expect the same level of polish, and of course there's no citation and documentation on a closed-book exam), be sure you are THOROUGHLY FAMILIAR with the GUIDELINES and the CHECKLIST provided for your out-of-class writing and endeavor to apply them to your exam essay.  Pay particular attention to the instructions concerning the introductory paragraph and argumentation.  Unless I can tell from your opening paragraph which prompt you selected, what work(s) you are writing on, and precisely what you will argue about it/them, your exam essay is unlikely to earn more than a C, regardless of the quality of your observations.  This means:  begin by ECHOING THE PROMPT and be sure that you explicitly articulate the central claims you will make in your essay.

PLEASE NOTE: You MAY NOT write on the same work(s) that are the focus of your final paper.  AUTOMATIC 50% PENALTY if you do.

To Prepare:  Review names of main characters in readings. Review study questions on guides, paying particular attention to recurring themes, motifs, genres and techniques. Come up with several questions which you would write for an essay exam and think about how you would answer them. Do not neglect the extremely helpful practice of brainstorming with classmates! 

Please:  don't forget to purchase a LARGE FORMAT EXAM BOOK and bring it with you to class!


A substantial amount of objective material will be thoroughly covered on the exam.. This part of the exam will test your knowledge of: 

    1. The relationship between religion and politics from Henry VIII through the Restoration, with special emphasis on the Jacobean and Puritan eras (James I through the Restoration); the recurrence of themes and issues associated with humanism and the Reformation throughout this period; the intersection between gender and writing.

    3. The primary readings which illustrate these contexts for English literature of the 16th and early 17th centuries.  At a minimum, you should be able to identify the author, genre, language (if other than English), and notable formal characteristics for ALL assigned primary readings this quarter.  Additionally, you should be able to list by name and language the most significant literary models and influences for the various genres and works we have read (particularly, but not exclusively, those introduced in the second half of the quarter) AND know which authors/works/genres read in class they influenced.  Finally, you should know the year of composition and/or publication (as given in Norton) for primary readings/authors read since the midterm exam.

    5. The development of three principal Renaissance genres: the lyric (esp. sonnets, pastoral poetry, poems of erotic seduction, and other lyric works); the epic (Spenser's The Faerie Queene and Milton's Paradise Lost); and the theater (Marlowe's Dr. Faustus and Shakespeare's Hamlet and The Tempest). 

    7. Basic biographical information on writers read and historical figures (as indicated on study guides).
You will have the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the most significant issues in individual works and your ability to make meaningful connections among these works.

This part of exam will have multiple-choice, matching, T/F and fill-in-the-blank questions covering background information, as well as a passage ID section (similar to part 2 on reading quizzes). There will be choice on SOME sections only. Expect:

    1. Passage IDs: passages chosen will be similar to those in quiz section two (in fact: some quiz passages may reappear on exam!!) There is likely to be at least one passage from EACH reading/author since the midterm exam (ONLY) -- so don't neglect the shorter selections assigned since the midterm exam.  You will be asked to identify each work by title (or possibly genre for some of the lyric poems) and author, and to answer a number of questions about the passages. There will be choice in this section.

    3. Factual questions concerning genres, poetic forms, literary influences, literary terms, biographical information and historical events.  One section will provide titles for the most significant works read in the WHOLE quarter and ask you to identify authors, genres and forms and answer questions concerning significant literary models and influences. But you can expect fuller coverage of and greater emphasis on material covered since the midterm. There will NOT be choice in this section; you will be expected to answer ALL questions.

    5. Item IDs: you will be asked to identify various elements -- characters, objects, themes, motifs, foreign words or phrases, and terms -- in or associated with works read since the midterm (ONLY) AND to list ALL reading(s) in which the particular item is found. NOW PAY ATTENTION:  Item IDs are worth TWO POINTS each.  You will receive one point for identifying the item (e.g. Red Crosse Knight = a knight symbolizing Holiness who fights a dragon) and one point for identifying the work OR WORKS in which the item appears (e.g. RCK is a character in The Faerie Queene). If you ONLY identify works and omit to identify the items, you will miss half the points in the section.  Likewise, if you identify items but do not say what work OR WORKS they appear in, you will miss half the points in the section.  For items that are foreign terms or phrases: identify the language, translate the term AND explain its relevance to or role in which specific reading(s).  If the item is from an individual lyric poem (not part of a larger collection or cycle), you need not specify the title, but you should identify the author and the type of poem (sonnet, pastoral, religious lyric, etc.). There will be choice in this section. As you choose which items to identify, take care to cover a broad spectrum of readings. A certain number of DISTRIBUTION POINTS will be awarded for correctly identifying items in or associated with a specified number of DIFFERENT readings.

    7. Chronology:  dates given in Norton for works read since the midterm (ONLY); possibly, the lifespans of the most significant authors read since the midterm (ONLY); and significant historical events relevant to these authors and works (from James I through the Restoration). You should also know the date (and two events) that mark the beginning of the "Renaissance." As on the midterm, you will NOT be required to come up with these dates "out of thin air"; you will be asked to match dates with a list of events / works / authors. Also as on the midterm this section will NOT represent a major part of the points on exam, so don't spend all your time worrying about the dates and forget to think about why they are of interest! There will NOT be choice in this section; you will be expected to answer ALL questions.
To prepare for these sections, review the general and individual author/work introductions in The Norton Anthology and online readings or e-reserves, as well as general questions/information on study guides. Go over your Composite Bibliography and review the Research Exercise instructions and/or reports in the archive. You are also responsible for material covered in HANDOUTS and LECTURES (review class notes!) Review background questions on quizzes; quiz questions MAY reappear on exam!

Some hopefully obvious remarks: you should know (and be able to spell correctly) the titles and authors, as well as genres and forms, for ALL works read this quarter; also, know DATES of works/authors since midterm exam, as well as significant historical milestones in period covered since midterm (e.g. early 17th century through the Restoration). Know literary terms relevant to ALL genres and forms read this quarter and the differences between these genres and forms.

HINT: you should know (and be able to spell correctly) the titles and authors of works read so far this term, the language in which these works were written, the genres of these works, and be able to describe their form. Also, review names of principal characters in works. Note: you need not know titles of each individual lyric poem, but you should know titles (if given) of collections of poems -- e.g. sonnet cycles, the Shepherde's Calendar -- and should be able to identify the AUTHOR of lyric poems.

Words of Wisdom:

1) Yes, you will have choice on many sections of the exam, but you are strongly advised to have read ALL material covered in class -- it will not be possible to camouflage large gaps. 

2) While I am known as a demanding tester, I am proud that students typically consider my exams to be fair. (I tell you exactly what you are responsible for; I don't believe in playing "Gotcha!" with my students.) If you are well prepared, there should be no surprises on the exam -- unless you are surprised by the fact that it really DOES cover everything I say it will!

3) Again:  come in well prepared and you should be able to complete all sections of the exam in the allotted time -- and even have enough time to proofread your essay.  But don't plan to leave early -- you should taken advantage of the full three hours!

4) Be sure to complete any "freebie point" questions offered as extra credit.  Don't leave blanks on parts of the objective exam where there is NO choice.  Don't do more than required number of IDs in sections where there IS choice.  Read instructions carefully and follow them exactly.

5) Be sure the first paragraph of your essay echoes the prompt, introduces any background information that is directly relevant to your argument, and states clearly and explicitly the what position you will argue in the essay -- not just the topic(s) you will cover, but what you will argue ABOUT those topics.  Take care NOT to write on a similar topic and NOT to select a similar prompt to those chosen for previous written work (the midterm exam essay and your out-of-class essay). 

6) Get enough sleep the night before and don't skip breakfast!


Contents of this and linked pages Copyright Debora B. Schwartz, 2005-14

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