October 24, 2017

CLEP English Literature Exam Answer Key

Question 1

The correct answer is (B). Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales recounts the story of pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket from the Tabard Inn. This is a fairly simple question with a number of significant clues: (1) pilgrims telling stories, (2) shrine of St. Thomas à Becket, and (3) Tabard Inn. Students closely familiar with literature might know that Chaucer based The Canterbury Tales on elements of The Decameron, but answer choice (C) cannot be correct because of the clues in the question about location. (The Decameron is set in Italy.) Additionally, Chaucer is the author of answer choice (A), The Wife of Bath’s Tale, but that is just one story within The Canterbury Tales. What is more, it is a story told by one of the pilgrims but about an entirely different topic. As for answer choices (D) and (E), the student might be aware that both Consolation of Philosophy and Piers Plowman are recognized to be influences in The Canterbury Tales, but neither contains a plotline of pilgrims telling stories. Answer choice (B) is the only choice that can be correct.

Question 2

Even if students have not read Ulysses, they should be able to recognize the description that sets it apart in question 2. Ulysses is widely known for its qualities of (1) variety in genre, (2) experimental prose, (3) considerable use of allusion, (4) complexity, and (5) controversial reception. Taken individually, these qualities could describe many pieces of literature; taken together, and in reference to a modern work by James Joyce, answer choice (E) is the only possible correct answer. Joyce is also the author of Finnegan’s Wake, but the description contained in the question does not apply to that work. As for Mrs. Dalloway, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and A Study in Scarlet, they all have different authors and should be eliminated immediately. (Note that The Picture of Dorian Gray functions as a false association with Joyce: Joyce wrote a novel entitled A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, while Oscar Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray.)

Questions 3–5

Questions 3–5 relate to a sixteen-line passage provided. Should the student be immediately familiar with the passage, there will be an obvious advantage. If not, the student should still be able to answer these questions through prior knowledge and the process of elimination.

Question 3

The correct answer is (A), Alexander Pope. (Students might already be aware that this particular passage derives from Pope’s famed Essay on Man.) If students do not recognize the passage right away as Pope, they should sort through the other answers carefully. William Congreve was a contemporary of Pope and a fellow poet, but he is generally known more for his work as a playwright (e.g., The Way of the World) than as a poet. John Donne is a well-known poet, but he died more than fifty years before Pope was born. What is more, Donne’s style is unique, and this passage does not match his style of poetry in any way. Jonathan Swift was another contemporary of Pope, but he is more widely remembered for his fiction (Gulliver’s Travels) and his essays (A Modest Proposal). Wordsworth was a Romantic poet and was born some thirty years after Pope died, so answer choice (E) cannot be correct.

Question 4

Alexander Pope is often remembered for his use of the heroic couplet, so answer choice (C) is correct. Should the student not know this, there still should not be much difficulty in identifying (C) as the correct answer. The heroic couplet is usually written as two (masculine) rhyming lines in iambic pentameter, as in this example:

Together let us beat this ample field,
Try what the open, what the covert yield;

Blank verse is written without rhyme, as is sprung verse, so answer choices (A) and (E) are incorrect. Eponym refers to a place, time period, event, and so forth being named for a person. That is to say, a town with the name “Cartersville” was probably named after someone with the surname Carter, so the town’s name becomes eponymous. There is nothing in the passage to suggest an eponym: the reference to St. John is a reference to an actual person (and not something named after a person), and Nature and Folly both represent themselves. As for ballad meter, that usually follows a pattern of iambic tetrameter or iambic trimester, whereas the heroic couplet (in iambic pentameter) is used for epic poems. When in doubt, reread the passage; the student should be able to tell from the style alone that the poem is not intended to be a ballad.

Question 5

This is a fairly challenging question, but it is not an impossible one to answer even if the student is not already familiar with the reference. The question provides a number of details that should assist the student in selecting the correct answer. The poem makes allusion to a work by (1) John Milton that is (2) widely known and claims to (3) “justify the ways of God to man.” The most famous work by John Milton is definitely Paradise Lost, and within the early lines of the poem Milton makes this very claim. Among the other answer choices listed, Areopagitica, Samson Agonistes, and Lycidas are all by Milton, but none is as widely known as Paradise Lost, nor do any others contain the material that would provide for Milton’s claim of justifying the ways of God to man. Answer choice (D), Inferno, is by the medieval poet Dante, so it should be eliminated as an option immediately.

Question 6

In the event that the student is not familiar with this particular passage from the play Othello, two primary clues within this passage should indicate to the student that the correct answer is (A): (1) the mention of Emilia and Cassio, also primary characters in the play Othello, and (2) the mention of a wife who is deceased, with an indication of the husband’s guilt. From these elements, the student should be able to eliminate the other characters listed. The character of Benedict makes a memorable appearance in Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, the character of Macbeth in the tragedy by that name, the character of Henry IV in the history that bears his name, and the character of Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Again, the student does not need to be immediately familiar with the passage to be able to eliminate the incorrect answers and select the correct answer.

Question 7

Question 7 asks the student to identify the author of the poem “If.” Since this is a fairly famous poem, the student might recognize the correct answer at once: answer choice (B), Rudyard Kipling, who is said to have written the poem in honor of the Jameson Raid and its leader during the Boer War. If the student is not familiar with this poem and thus with its author, the process of elimination should help. Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, remembered for their mid-Victorian lyric poetry, both died before the Jameson Raid, which occurred 1895–1896. Alfred, Lord Tennyson also died before the Jameson Raid. Oscar Wilde is known largely for his clever wit, which he used in writing various comedies, and is not known for writing any material connected to war. This leaves only Rudyard Kipling, who is frequently remembered for his patriotic verses about England.

Question 8

For question 8, the student must paraphrase Sir Philip Sidney’s comments from The Defense of Poesie. Reading carefully, the student can deduce that Sidney is commenting on the value of poetry in teaching those who are uneducated to appreciate beauty and learning. Answer choice (D) offers the closest paraphrase and is, therefore, the correct answer. Answer choice (A) is incorrect because the passage does not indicate that poetry provides a “range of learning” but rather that it opens the door to learning. Answer choice (B) is incorrect because the passage does not mention the need to learn poetry at an early age. Answer choice (C) is also incorrect; while the passage does elevate the role of poetry in expanding learning and knowledge, the passage does not suggest that poetry is the “sole resource” for learning. And answer choice (D) is incorrect because Sidney does not indicate that intelligence is “equated with poetry” but rather that poetry facilitates learning.

Questions 9–10

Questions 9–10 refer to nine lines from John Keats’s lengthy poem “The Eve of St. Agnes.” The test identifies the passage, so the student will not need to know either the title or the author of the poem, but students who have read the poem or are familiar with Keats’s style will be able to approach the questions with a degree of knowledge.

Question 9

The correct answer is (E), lyric. Much of John Keats’s poem falls into the category of “lyric” in style, but even without knowing this the student should be able to eliminate the incorrect answers. The poem is clearly not an example of satiric writing, which uses dry humor to make a statement about society. While “The Eve of St. Agnes” is a long poem, it is not an epic poem, in the sense that the poem does not record the adventures of a hero in a way that suggests the ultimate development of a culture or a country. (What is more, Keats did not dabble much in epic poetry but rather focused on more lyric poems.) A traditional sonnet is fourteen lines long, and the test only provides a nine-line passage, so it is impossible to identify this particular passage as a sonnet. Finally, a concrete poem utilizes the actual shape of the written poetry to convey an image (such as George Herbert’s “Easter Wings”), and this passage conveys no such image.

Question 10

In question 10, the student must find the closest paraphrase for the expression “couch supine” from line 7 of the passage. Reading the passage carefully, the student should see that the poet is talking about young women going to sleep, resting on their backs and looking up to heaven in order to receive visions of the ones they love. As a result, answer choice (A), put to sleep, is closest in meaning to the phrase “couch supine.” Answer choice (B) makes no sense in the passage. Answer choices (C) and (E) contradict the suggestion that the young women will be going to sleep. Answer choice (D) does not fit the indication that the young women will be going to sleep. While it is perfectly believable that they will indeed “pray fervently” before they fall asleep, this cannot be the meaning of the phrase “couch supine.”