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American Literature Test Questions

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Pre-1620
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Pre-Colonial Period
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1620-1800
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Colonial/Revolutionary Period
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1800-1850
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Romantic/Transcendentalist Period
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1850-1900
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Realist/Naturalist Period
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Elevated Language
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Use of complicated vocabulary, syntax and sentence structure
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1620
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The year the Puritan Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.
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Syntax
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Word order
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Meter
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The rhythm or beat of a line or lines of poetry
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Creation Myth
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A story that explains how the universe or the earth was created.
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Major Realist Writers
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Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe
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Primary Source
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A first-hand source
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Secondary source
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A source created by someone who did not witness an event firsthand.
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Historical Narrative
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A story about history.
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External Conflict
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Man vs Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. society
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Internal Conflict
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Man vs. self
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Of Plymouth Plantation
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A primary source about the founding of one of America’s earliest settlements.
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Slave Narratives
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Autobiographical accounts by persons who suffered the horrors of slavery.
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Sensory Imagery
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Words that appeal to the five senses
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Writer’s Purpose
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To inform, to entertain, to express him/herself, or to persuade
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Puritan Beliefs
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Humans are inherently evil, personal salvation depends on the grace of god, and the Bible is the supreme authority on earth.
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Puritan Values
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Hard work, family life, community service, and education.
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Iambic Pentameter
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A form of meter where each line of poetry has ten syllables, following an unstressed-stressed pattern.
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Inverted Syntax
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The reversal of word order.
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Anne Bradstreet
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The first important American poet.
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Rhyme Scheme
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The pattern of rhymes in a poem.
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AA, BB, CC, DD, EE, FF, GG
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An example of rhyme scheme.
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Subject matter of Anne Bradstreet’s poetry
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Everyday life, family, love between husband and wife
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Persuasive Writing
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Writing intended to convince a reader to adopt a particular opinion or to perform a certain action.
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Loaded Language
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Words with strong connotations/emotional associations.
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Jonathan Edwards
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Puritan minister who wrote and preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
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Emotional Appeals
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Rely on emotionally charged language that triggers intense feelings like fear, insecurity, etc.
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Logical Appeals
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Imply that if the readers are reasonable people, they will do or think what the writer desires.
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Protagonist
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The main character in a work of literature.
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Antagonist
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The character who opposes the main character in a work of literature.
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Theme
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The main idea or message at the core of a work of literature
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Rhetoric
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The art of communicating ideas
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Persuasive rhetoric
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Consists of reasoned arguments in favor of or against particular beliefs or courses of action.
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Ethical Appeals
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Call forth an audience’s sense of rout and wrong
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Rhetorical Questions
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Questions that don’t require answers
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Allusion
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An indirect reference to a person, place, event or literary work.
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Tone
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A writer’s attitude towards his/her subject matter
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Historical Context
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The social conditions that influenced a work of literature’s creation.
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Romanticism
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Literary movement that rejected strict Puritanism and focused on emotion and nature above all else.
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Famous American Romantics
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Longfellow, Irving, Whitman
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Famous American Transcendentalists
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Emerson, Thoreau
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Stanza
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A group of lines in a poem
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Metaphor
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A direct comparison between two different things.
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1st Person Point of View
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Narrator is a character in the story and tells the story from his/her point of view
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3rd Person Omniscient Point of View
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Narrator is outside the action of the story, and knows everything about every character
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3rd Person Limited Point of View
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Narrator stands outside the story, but focuses on the thoughts, feelings and actions of only one character
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Aphorism
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A brief statement, usually one sentence long, that expresses a general principle or truth about life.
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Walden
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Henry David Thoreau’s collection of essays written while Thoreau lived alone in Walden Woods for over 2 years.
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Catalog
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Poetic device frequently used by Walt Whitman that is the use of lists of things, people or attributes.
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Free Verse
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Poetry without regular patterns of rhyme or meter.
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Diction
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A writer’s word choice.
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Dark Romanticism
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Focused on the dark, evil aspects of human nature.
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Famous Dark Romantics
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Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Allegory
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A work of literature with two levels of meaning: one literal and the other symbolic
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End Rhyme
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Similar or identical sounds at the end of lines in poetry
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Internal Rhyme
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Rhymes within a line of poetry
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Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to Literature
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Song-like poetry, created the short story, created the murder mystery story
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Mood
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The feeling or atmosphere that a writer conveys with his/her words.
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Foreshadowing
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A writer’s use of hints or clues to indicate events that will occur later in a story.
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Dramatic Irony
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When readers know more about a character or a situation than the characters themselves.
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Verbal Irony
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When someone says one thing, but means another
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Situational Irony
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A contrast between what is expected to happen and what actually does happen.
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Style
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The distinctive way that a work of literature is written.
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Famous Realist Writers
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Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Harriet Beecher Stowe
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Symbol
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A person, place, object or activity that has a concrete meaning but also stands for something beyond itself.
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Realism
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Attempts to present the world as it really is.
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Naturalism
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An offshoot of realism; attempts to show how human behavior is a product of environment and heredity
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Famous Naturalist Writer
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Stephen Crane
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Couplet
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A pair of rhyming lines in a poem
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Quatrain
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A stanza of four lines in a poem
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Tall Tale
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American form of humorous story that features extreme exaggeration.
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Local Color
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Writing that imitates ordinary life and brings a region alive by portraying its typical dress, mannerisms, customs, character types and dialects.
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Dialect
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Patterns of speech specific to certain regions of the country.
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Elements of Mark Twain’s Writing Style
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Comic exaggeration, humorous subject matter, rambling narratives, use of dialect and idioms
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Idiom
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Phrase peculiar to a culture.