American Literature Questions (1865-Since 1945)

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Last updated: April 24, 2019

Which event in the history of American territorial expansion occurred first?
The Louisiana Purchase.Feedback: See page 3 (full ed.) page 1255 (shorter ed.

): President Jefferson engineered the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, well before the literature in this section of the anthology. The annexation of Texas in 1845 sparked the Mexican War, which ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and the acquisition of most of the southwest from Texas to the Pacific. That same year, discoveries of gold in California caused a rush of settlement, and by 1850 California was granted statehood.

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In what year was the transcontinental railroad completed?
1869.See page 4 (full ed.) page 1255 (shorter ed.): The transcontinental railroad replaced covered wagon trains as the quickest and most reliable means of traveling west–travel time decreased from several months to a few days. The flux of gold prospectors to California after 1848 increased the demand for faster travel to the Pacific, but not until the Homestead Act of 1862 could railroad companies acquire enough land cheaply to build tracks into the country’s interior.

At which of the following ports did most Chinese and Japanese immigrants arrive in the United States?
San Francisco.Feedback: See page 4 (full ed.) page 1256 (shorter ed.

): Though all four of these cities experienced massive population growth due to immigration during this period, San Francisco is the only Pacific Ocean port of the four.

In 1893, the historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote The Significance of the Frontier on American History. Where did he place the frontier in that essay?
He believed the frontier had vanished.Feedback: See pages 4-5 (full ed.) page 1256 (shorter ed.): Turner based his frontier thesis on census data concerning population density: since enough Americans lived in previously unpopulated frontier areas to call them “civilized,” Turner suggested the country would need to look outward and overseas to expand its influence further.

As more and more Native Americans were forced onto reservations, some authors chose to represent the perspectives of the indigenous tribes in order to fight back against their persecution. Which of the following was not a literary detractor of American reservation policy?
Franz Boas.Feedback: See page 2 (full ed.) page 1256 (shorter ed.): Bonnin and Eastman were both Lakota authors (Bonnin is better known as Zitkala-_a, and Eastman as Ohiyesa). Jackson was of European descent, but wrote A Century of Dishonor to protest government policy. Franz Boas, meanwhile, was an anthropologist who studied native oral traditions with the expectation that they would soon vanish into history.

Which of the following monopolies was not consolidated during the period 1865-1914?
Breakfast cereals, by W. K. Kellogg.Feedback: See pages 5, 15 (full ed.) page 1256 (shorter ed.

): Kellogg was not mentioned in the introduction; his company’s efforts to corner the market on breakfast cereals were hindered by competition from Post, which made corn flakes similar to Kellogg’s, and the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), which made shredded wheat.

The population of New York City increased from half a million people in 1865 to 3.5 million in 1900. Where did these new New Yorkers come from?
Many immigrated from Eastern and Southern Europe.Feedback: See page 6 (full ed.) page 1257 (shorter ed.): Although the ratio of urban to rural population increased during this period, it was due not to shifting internal populations but to an influx of new citizens. The new city-dwellers that New York welcomed were almost entirely immigrants from Europe seeking new opportunities overseas.

Which monopoly did Frank Norris take on in his novel The Octopus because of its inhumane pricing policies and malicious treatment of Midwest, Great Plains, and California farmers?
Railroads.Feedback: See page 6 (full ed.) page 1257 (shorter ed.): Farmers depended on the railroad to transport their crops to larger urban centers for sale. Without competition, railroads could set prices as high as they liked, knowing farmers had no recourse but to pay.

The Homestead Act of 1862 promised cheap land to anyone who would promise to improve it, in order to encourage settlement of western lands by eastern farmers and their families. Who actually gained control of most of these lands?
Railroad companies and land speculators.Feedback: See page 6 (full ed.

) page 1257 (shorter ed.): Only about 10% of the land opened up to settlement by the Homestead Act actually went to the homesteaders the bill was drafted to assist.

Which of the following was not a “muckraking,” anti-corruption writer?
William Marcy Tweed of New York City.Feedback: See page 7 (full ed.) page 1257 (shorter ed.): “Boss” Tweed controlled the corrupt Tammany machine in New York municipal politics. He was a frequent target of the muckrakers.

By the 1880s, the American Federation of Labor had provided a unified voice for industrial workers that eventually let them bargain collectively with an antagonistic management. Why didn’t similar experiments organizing farm labor with cooperative farming and storage succeed?
Collective farming went against the individualist ethos of the homesteader.Feedback: See page 7 (full ed.) pages 1257-58 (shorter ed.

): Escaping the crowded cities and owning one’s own land, away from anyone else’s interference, was a major attraction of moving West for many homesteaders. Cooperative farming and storage, while financially attractive, meant giving up the dream of making it on one’s own in order to make it along with one’s neighbors.

Which of the following newspapers, all founded between 1875 and 1900, was not printed in the English language?
The Jewish Daily Forward.Feedback: See page 8 (full ed.

) page 1258 (shorter ed.): Abraham Cahan established the Jewish Daily Forward in 1897. Written in Yiddish, its circulation numbered a quarter of a million people (and many more readers than buyers).

Which of the following magazines established in the second half of the nineteenth century was devoted to western-themed writing?
The Overland Monthly.Feedback: See page 8 (full ed.) page 1259 (shorter ed.): The Atlantic Monthly (est. 1857), the Galaxy (1866), and Scribner’s Monthly (1870) were all published from the East Coast.

The Overland Monthly (1868), meanwhile, was published in California, and featured such western authors as Bret Harte, Ambrose Bierce, Jack London, Mary Austin, Sui Sin Far, and Mark Twain, among others.

What term did the critic Werner Berthoff give to the nonfiction prose writings of the late nineteenth century that brought the disciplines of psychology, philosophy, and sociology to the politics of social reform?
The literature of argument.Feedback: See page 8 (full ed.) page 1259 (shorter ed.): Berthoff believed the intellectual efforts of Henry George, Henry Demarest Lloyd, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Thorstein Veblen, and William James during this period were all motivated by the spirit of exposure, with which they focused attention on corruption in order to help eliminate it from public service.

Which of the following foreign authors provided the earliest influence on American authors interested in writing a realistic international art story?
Gustave Flaubert.Feedback: See pages 8-9 (full ed.) page 1259 (shorter ed.

): Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1857) provided the earliest example of French realism for American authors.

What literary movement did William Dean Howells describe as “nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material”?
Realism.Feedback: See page 9 (full ed.) page 1260 (shorter ed.): Henry James called Howells’s brand of realism a “documentary” realism, interested in exterior characteristics and descriptions of ordinary, representative people, much like Howells presumed his readers to be. His novel The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) is the best example of Howells’s, and perhaps American realism in its attempts to persuade its readers that it has delivered a true representation of its central character.

Which of the following best describes how the realism of Henry James and Edith Wharton differs from that of William Dean Howells?
James and Wharton represented interior human consciousness in their novels, while Howells was more interested in describing the surface details and exteriors of his characters.Feedback: See pages 9-10 (full ed.

) pages 1260-61 (shorter ed.): Both Henry James and Edith Wharton concentrated on depicting the moral and psychological interiors of their characters, trying to depict increasingly precise and intangible states of mind against the backdrop of social refinement. Though most of their characters were indeed members of the upper class, the difference between Howells’s and their aesthetic methods is more profound than the difference between the classes they wrote about.

Which of the following American realists is best known for his comic experiments in regional vernacular?
Mark Twain.Feedback: See page 10 (full ed.

) pages 1260-61 (shorter ed.): Twain’s masterpiece The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) is narrated by Huck, a boy from rural Missouri. The novel’s humor relies on the assumption that both Twain and the reader know about the situation than Huck does as he naively reports events. Twain’s method draws upon his experiences as a performing humorist in California and his ambivalent relationship with both the American oral tradition and the stylistic expectations of the literary marketplace.

Which of the following sentences best defines literary naturalism?
Naturalism depicted a world in which fate had replaced free will, characters were products of their environments, and events usually did not turn out for the best.Feedback: See page 10 (full ed.) pages 1262-63 (shorter ed.

): Naturalism is considered by some to be the logical extension of realism’s truth-telling mission. Where realism concentrated on middle and upper class people, naturalism focused on characters who did not have the means or the ability to escape the bleak circumstances into which they were born.

Which work of nineteenth-century intellectual prose had the most influence on literary naturalism?
Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1857).Feedback: See page 10 (full ed.) page 1261 (shorter ed.): This book and Darwin’s next work (The Descent of Man [1870]) questioned the religious assumption that human beings were created in God’s image. They spurred thinkers to apply Darwin’s scientific, determinist theories to other areas. For example, Herbert Spencer’s theory of “social Darwinism” suggested that “survival of the fittest” should also apply to international and domestic politics.

Unfortunately, this theory was used by monopolists like Andrew Carnegie to justify the social status quo–the ill treatment of the poor and underprivileged by the wealthy and powerful.

Which sentence best describes the characteristic tones of the novels of American naturalist authors Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, and Theodore Dreiser?
Since events seem determined not by characters’ choices or abilities but by fate, the novels seem bleak and pessimistic about American society.Feedback: See pages 11-12 (full ed.) pages 1261-62 (shorter ed.): In both of these stories, the haphazard quality of natural events imply a responsibility to respect, sympathize, and join with other people in order to survive an unforgiving environment and give a significance to a landscape that lacks one of its own.

How is nature represented in Jack London’s “The Law of Life” and Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat”?
Nature is indifferent and unplanned; events occur at random rather than as a result of providence.Feedback: See page 12 (full ed.) pages 1262-63 (shorter ed.

): In both of these stories, the haphazard quality of natural events imply a responsibility to respect, sympathize, and join with other people in order to survive an unforgiving environment and give a significance to a landscape that lacks one of its own.

Which of the following best defines “local color” writing?
Local color writers sought to capture regionally distinctive perspectives by representing characteristic dialects, idioms, social relationships, and natural environments.Feedback: See page 13 (full ed.) pages 1263-65 (shorter ed.

): Although regional writing is considered by many to be an extension of realism, many regional authors were women (such as Chopin, Jewett, and Stowe), and “local color” as a literary term was derived from genre paintings of landscapes, only the last choice defines what all local color writers had in common in terms of their aesthetic methods and mission.

How did local color writing about the legendary West by writers such as Owen Wister, Mary Austin, and Jack London compare with native American writings by Zitkala-_a, Ohiyesa, and Sarah Winnemucca in their characters’ relationship to the land?
Westerns romanticized cowboys and gold miners as they exploited the landscape; native writing sadly recorded the loss of the land to the influx of American settlers.Feedback: See page 14 (full ed.) page 1263 (shorter ed.): Native traditions of the deeply-rooted relationship between the land and the people who live on it stood in stark contrast to the profit motive that drove cattle ranching and gold prospecting settlement of the West.

What common ambition is shared by the regional writings of Mary Austin, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Sarah Orne Jewett?
To encourage readers to see the world from a woman’s perspective.Feedback: See page 13 (full ed.

) page 1265 (shorter ed.): These four regional writers all offered alternatives to the way American society privileged men and men’s values. Their writings offer women characters who are increasingly willing to rethink and rebel against sexism and inequality. But their approach focused on depicting believable and specific women, authentic to a particular place, rather than emphasizing universals or general truths.

Which regional population does Kate Chopin portray in her novel The Awakening?
the creoles of New Orleans and Louisiana.Feedback: See page 14 (full ed.

) page 1265 (shorter ed.): Unlike other more positive examples of local color, which attempted to preserve the distinctive language and perspectives of a region against the encroachment of industrialization, Chopin presented the ugly side of her regional Southern population. Her main character, Edna Pontellier, is non-native to Louisiana. As a Protestant woman in a largely Catholic society, she experiences mainly prejudice and suspicion from the locals.

Which African-American author and statesman did W. E .B. Du Bois criticize in The Souls of Black Folk (1907)?
Booker T. Washington.Feedback: See page 15 (full ed.) page 1266 (shorter ed.): The disagreement between Du Bois and Washington on how to react to Plessy vs Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court ruling which established the concept of “separate but equal” services and laws for black and white Americans, set the terms for twentieth-century challenges to institutionalized racism.

In 1920, what development changed social and political life for women?
They gained the right to vote.Feedback: “The long struggle to win American women the vote—given a final push by women’s work as nurses and ambulance drivers during the war—ended in 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.”

In the interwar period, many Americans were influenced by Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud’s theories about the human psyche. Which of the following describes one of Freud’s most important theories?
The self is grounded in an “unconscious,” where forbidden desires, traumas, and unacceptable emotions are stored.

Feedback: “[Changes in sexual mores] found their most influential theorist in Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1858-1939), inventor of the practice of psychoanalysis. According to Freud, many modern neuroses could be traced to repression and inhibition. Freud developed the idea of the self as grounded in an ‘unconscious,’ where forbidden desires, traumas, and unacceptable emotions . . . were stored. Freudian analysis aimed at helping people become aware of their repressed feelings, and so [they were] less likely to re-enact the traumas of the past in the present.”

The term “Great Migration” refers to:
The large number of African Americans who moved out of the South and into northern industrial centers beginning in 1915.

Feedback: “Around 1915, as a direct result of the industrial needs of World War I, opportunities opened for African Americans in the factories of the North, and what became known as the Great Migration out of the South began. Not only did migration give the lie to southern white claims that African Americans were content with southern segregationist practices, it damaged the South’s economy by draining off an important segment of its working people. Even though African Americans faced racism, segregation, and racial violence in the North, a black American presence soon became powerfully visible in American cultural life.”

What is “double consciousness”?
W. E.

B. Du Bois’s term for African Americans’ sense of “doubleness” when identifying themselves as simultaneously black and American—identities that were sometimes in conflict with one another.Feedback:”The famous black intellectual W. E. B.

Du Bois had argued in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) that African Americans had a kind of double consciousness—of themselves as Americans and as blacks. This doubleness contributed to debates within African American cultural life.”

Which of the following events catalyzed critiques of the American justice system and galvanized support among writers and intellectuals for the rights of those who opposed American free enterprise?
The trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.Feedback: “A defining conflict between American ideals and American realities for writers of the 1920s was the Sacco-Vanzetti case. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants, not Communists but avowed anarchists . . . They were accused of [a] crime, then tried and condemned to death in 1921; but it was widely believed that they had not received a fair trial and that their political beliefs had been held against them.

. . . Many writers and intellectuals . . . demonstrated in their defense; several were arrested and jailed.

Which of the following contributed to production of mass popular culture in the interwar period?
The radio.Feedback: “The phonograph record and the record player (early devices for recording and playing music), the motion picture (which acquired sound in 1929), and the radio brought mass popular culture into being.”

Most “high modernist” literature interprets modernity as:
An experience of loss, alienation, and ruin.Feedback: “Much of the literature that critics now call ‘high modernist’ is in a sense antimodern: it interprets modernity as an experience of loss. As its title underlines, T. S.

Eliot’s The Waste Land—the great poem of high modernism—represents the modern world as a scene of ruin.”

Which of the following could be described as the key formal characteristic of high modernist works?
Fragmentation.Feedback: Order, sequence, and unity came to seem contrived and unrealistic to the modern experience, and generalization, abstraction, and high-flown writing seemed to conceal rather than covey reality.

“Thus a key formal characteristic typical of high modernist works, whether in painting, sculpture, or musical composition, is its construction out of fragments—fragments of myth or history, fragments of experience or perception, fragments of previous artistic works.”

Which of the following best describes the concept of “self-reflexivity” in a literary work?
A concern with its own nature as art and with questioning previous literary traditions.Feedback: “While there have long been paintings about painting and poems about poetry, high modernist writing was especially self-reflexive, concerned with its own nature as art and with its questioning of previous traditions of literature.”

Modernist literary techniques had the effect of:
Decreasing the average length of published literary works.Feedback: “[Modernist] prose writers strove for directness, compression, and vividness. They were often sparing of words. The average novel became quite a bit shorter than it had been in the nineteenth century, when a novel was expected to fill two or even three volumes. The modernist aesthetic gave a new significance to the short story, which had previously been thought of as a relatively slight artistic form.

(Poems, too, became shorter, as narrative poems lost ground to lyrics and the repetitive patterns of rhyme and meter that had helped sustain long poems in previous centuries lost ground to free verse).”

Most high modernists conceived of their aesthetic movement as:
International in nature, bringing together American and European culture.Feedback: “High modernism . . . was a self-consciously international movement.” Many writers lived either permanently or temporarily as expatriates in Europe, but “they seldom thought of themselves as deserting their nation.

“. . . “They thought of themselves as bringing the United States into the larger context of European culture.”

In the modern period, innovations in American theater often occurred as reactions against:
Popular Broadway productions.

Feedback: “Innovations in American theater are often launched in reaction against Broadway, a pattern observable as early as 1915 . . .

European influence was strong [in fledgling off-Broadway companies].”

Which countries emerged from World War II with strong economies?
The United States.Feedback: “Great Britain . .

. fought against odds that depleted its resources and severely disrupted its traditional class structure. The Soviet Union . . . suffered the war’s worst casualties . . .

[and] remained at an economic disadvantage. . . . It was the United States .

. . that emerged as the only world power in excellent economic shape.”

Which of the following best describes the “cold war” as a phenomenon in American history?
A strategy directed at containing the political and ideological influence of Communism around the globe through the amassing of military strength for deterrence rather than combat.Feedback: ” . . .

if hot war was out, cold war was in, specifically the type of contest in which military strength was built up for deterrence rather than combat. Henceforth economic conduct would be a major factor in the American decision to contain the Soviet Union’s attempt to expand its influence.”

What was the “G.I. Bill”?
A program that provided returning World War II veterans with a college education.

Feedback: “The G.I. Bill provided veterans with a college education; after World War II America would eventually have as much as 50 percent of its population college educated, a percentage unthinkable in prewar years and unmatched by any other nation.”

The 1950s, in general, were characterized by:
A stable conformity within American life and a dedication to an increasingly materialistic standard of living.Feedback: “Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, social critics perceived a stable conformity to American life, a dedication to an increasingly materialistic standard of living, whose ethical merit was ensured by a continuity with the prewar world—a continuity that proved to be delusory.”

What event prompted many of the protests on college campuses in the Sixties that eventually led to a much larger cultural revolution?

military involvement in Vietnam.Feedback: “Active dissension within the culture emerged in response to military involvement in Vietnam. . . .

increasingly strident opposition [to this military action]—fueled by protests on American college campuses and among the country’s liberal intellectuals—turned into a much larger cultural revolution.”

Novels and short stories of the immediate postwar period often strove to:
Serve as representations of a common national essence or an entire national experience.Feedback: “[The] ideal of homogeneity led many writers to assume that a single work—short story, novel, poem, or play—could represent the experiences of an entire people, that a common national essence lay beneath distinctions of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or region. . . .

Hence the desire to write what was called ‘the great American novel’—a major work that would characterize the larger aspects of national experience.”

Which poem is credited with administering a transformative shock to the state of American poetry when it was read aloud in San Francisco in 1955 and published in 1956?
Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.Feedback: “In poetry, two important and transforming shocks were administered by Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956) and Robert Lowell’s Life Studies (1959). Ginsberg first delivered his poem aloud, during a reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco in the fall of 1955; the following year it was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookshop.

In a single stroke . . . Ginsberg made poetry one of the rallying points for underground protest and prophetic denunciation of the prosperous, complacent, gray-spirited Eisenhower years. . .

. With its open, experimental form and strong oral emphasis, Howl sounded a departure from the well-shaped lyric.”

Which of the following best describes the literary theory known as “deconstruction”?
A theory first developed by French linguists and philosophers that questioned assumptions about the stability of language and the extent to which “facts” might be constructed by intellectual operations.Feedback: “Known as ‘Deconstruction’ and brought to American shores from France . .

. this style of criticism questioned the underlying assumptions behind any statement, exposing how what was accepted as absolute truth usually depended on rhetoric rather than fact, exposing indeed how ‘fact’ itself was constructed by intellectual operations.”

Which of the following best characterizes “Minimalism” as a movement in literary prose?
A form of realism committed to crafting a manner of description that with great intensity limited itself to what could be most reliably accepted, usually focused around signs that characters accepted as truth.Feedback: “In prose fiction a new group of realistic writers, called ‘Minimalists,’ . .

. craft[ed] a manner of description that with great intensity limited itself to what could be most reliably accepted. What the Minimalists described was not endorsed by the authors as true: rather it consisted of signs that their characters accepted as truth, not objects from nature but conventions accepted by societies to go about the business of living.”

Contemporary literature from the Sixties to the present, in general, is characterized by:
Its values of heterogeneity in its form and pluralism in its cultural influences.Feedback: “The social and political changes of the 1960s left a legacy even richer than those of critical and philosophical revolutions. Political dissent helped make available to literature a broad range of more insistent voices.

. . .By the close of the twentieth century . . .

many writers from minority traditions began to take their place at the center of American writing. . . .Contemporary literature values heterogeneity in its forms and pluralism in its cultural influences.”

Which of the following best describes “creative nonfiction”?
A genre that combines aspects of the essay, memoir, reportage, criticism, and autobiography, and that uses the techniques of fiction to make a claim to the real.

Feedback: “The burgeoning genre of creative nonfiction . . . reflects contemporary literature’s impatience with the opposition between fact and fiction.

Combining aspects of the essay, memoir, reportage, criticism, and autobiography, creative nonfiction uses the techniques of fiction to make a claim to the real.”

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