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

Information on the Midterm Exam
(Winter, 2014: day 1 of week 6)

The midterm Exam will be worth 150 to 200 points; there will be both objective sections and an essay (worth between 1/3 and 1/2 of exam points). Be aware that my exams are meaty; you will probably need the full two hours.  If you do not know the material well, you will 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 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, PROOFREADING for spelling, punctuation, grammatical errors, and effective argumentation (Opening Statement that clearly articulates what you will argue in your essay; logical development of argument; adequate and relevant textual support -- i.e. allusions to specific moments in the text(s) --  for each step in the argument; clear conclusion).  If you find that you STILL have extra time, add more detail (and/or more examples) to the textual support in your essay.


The essay will be worth a substantial portion (usually between 30% and 50%) of the exam points.  While you may pace yourself as you see fit, the essay is designed to take approximately half of the two-hour exam period. There will be a number of essay questions to choose from, some of which may resemble suggested TOPICS I have used in the past for a week five out-of-class essay.  THESE TOPICS WOULD BE A GOOD PLACE TO START YOUR PREPARATION FOR THE ESSAY PORTION OF THE EXAM! 

Because I evaluate exam essays according to the same standards that I apply to out-of-class writing (except that there's no documentation on a closed-book exam), you should be 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 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.

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 portion of the exam will test your knowledge of: 

    1. Humanism, the Reformation, and the relationship between religion and politics during the Tudor dynasty (from Henry VII through the end of Elizabeth's reign), as well as the readings which illustrate these contexts for English Renaissance literature.

    3. The development of three principal Renaissance genres/modes: the lyric (sonnets, songs and sonnet cycles); the pastoral (especially eclogues and elegies, but also other poems of erotic seduction using pastoral themes); and the epic (Spenser's The Faerie Queene).  Additionally, you should consider how and why Renaissance theater (e.g. Marlowe's Dr. Faustus) differs from medieval theater (e.g. the late 15th-century morality play Everyman).

    5. 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 primary reading this quarter (or from each author in the event of multiple readings by one author) -- so don't neglect the shorter selections assigned for class.  You will be asked to identify work/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. 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 characters, objects, themes or motifs in or associated with a specified number of different works read in class AND to list the reading(s) in which the particular item is found. 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 type of poem (sonnet, pastoral, 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 1 and 2: dates given in Norton or on study guides for a) key historical figures and events, and b) for the major authors/works read thus far. Concentrate on dates/events on timelines in the NA and on the overview of Tudor monarchs in the appendix, as well as date that are indicated as important on study guides (see esp. Humanism and Reformation). There will NOT be choice in this section; you will be expected to answer ALL questions.
      Note 1: you will NOT be required to come up with these dates "out of thin air"; you will be asked to match dates provided with a list of events/works/authors. 

      Note 2: the dates section will NOT represent a major part of the points on exam, and should be prepared for wisely (i.e. do not spend all your time worrying about the dates and forget to think about why they are of interest). 

To prepare for these sections, review general and individual author/work introductions in The Norton Anthology as well as general questions/information on study guides. You are also responsible for material covered in online readings or e-reserves and in LECTURES (review class notes!) Review background questions on quizzes; quiz questions MAY reappear on exam!

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 individual lyric poems, but you should know titles (if given) of collections of poems -- e.g. sonnet cycles, the Shepheardes Calender -- 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 consider my exams to be fair. (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 the exam really DOES cover everything I say it will!

3) Again:  you will need to be well prepared in order to complete all sections of the exam in the allotted time; expect to use the full two hours!

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


Contents of this and linked pages Copyright Debora B. Schwartz, 1997-2014

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