Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism, exam assignment help – Excelsior Writers | excelsiorwriters.com
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The following lines are from Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism.” In it, Pope (1688-1744) gives his opinions on the secret of good writing, opinions that were very consistent with his times. Answer questions 1-11 below based upon these lines.
Those RULES of old discover’d, not devis’d,
Are Nature still, but Nature Methodiz’d;
Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain’d
By the same Laws which first herself ordain’d.
You then whose Judgment the right Course wou’d steer, 
Know well each ANCIENT’s proper Character,
His Fable, Subject, Scope in ev’ry Page,
Religion, Country, Genius of his Age:
Without all these at once before your Eyes,
Cavil you may, but never Criticize. 
Be Homer’s Works your Study, and Delight,
Read them by Day, and meditate by Night,
Thence form your Judgment, thence your Maxims bring,
And trace the Muses upward to their Spring;
Still with It self compar’d, his Text peruse; 
And let your Comment be the Mantuan* Muse.
True Wit is Nature to Advantage drest,
What oft was Thought, but ne’er so well Exprest,
True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance, 
*Mantuan: Mantua was the home of Vergil, the author of the Aeneid.
Which of figure of speech is used in lines 1-4?
Lines 1-4 suggest a paradox. What is it?
a. The laws of nature are old, yet they still apply today.
b. Nature must abide by the rules that Nature itself created.
c. Nature is at once wholly wild and wholly restrained.
d. The laws of Nature were both created and discovered.
e. Rules that were created of old are only now being rediscovered.
Which best describes Pope’s attitude toward ancient writers?
a. They discovered the writing methods that are naturally the most effective.
b. They created rules that set a standard of excellence.
c. Although they did extremely well, by following their examples, we can rise to greater heights of quality.
d. Their writing was fitting to the tenor of their times, but a modern writer should fit the tenor of modern times.
e. Their beliefs are no longer relevant to a modern world.
According to lines 5-10, what must a modern reader do before criticizing ancient writing?
a. Study the rules that governed ancient writings.
b. Be able to do a better job yourself.
c. Carefully study everything there is to know about those times.
d. Be able to read Greek and Latin texts in the orginal language.
e. Follow the dictates of Aristotle in the “Poetics.”
Judging from this passage, if one could read only one work of literature, which of the following would he prefer?
a. The Aeneid
b. The Bible
c. Aristotles Poetics
e. The Odyssey
The “spring” in line 14 refers to:
a. ANCIENT’S proper character (6)
b. Homer’s Works (11)
c. Your judgment (13)
d. Your Maxims (13)
e. the Muses (14)
Which of the following statements is most consistent with the philosophy expressed in lines 17-18?
a. Nature is itself dressed in its greatest beauty, so the true writer recreates nature as it is now and does not seek to paint it in false trappings.
b. The true writer’s greater insight into the meaning of Nature allows for an elegant expression of the truth.
c. The true writer leads us to hidden truths through the ability to improve upon the inherent design of Nature.
d. The true writer takes the beauty inherent in nature that we have always seen and known and improves its form to create a more perfect and elegant representation.
e. The beauty of nature has always lain before us, but even though we often see it, we need the writer to reveal it to us.
Lines 19-20 include an example of:
Which of the following is most consistent with the philosophy expressed in lines 19-20?
a. The true writer experiences inspiration that drives the creative experience.
b. The skilled writer’s skills are improved through participation and training in other forms of artistic expression.
c. The true writer learns to write with ease, just as true dancers learn their art with ease.
d. Learning to write is easier than learning to dance.
e. True writing skill is not a gift but a simple function of proper training.
Which of the following philosophies is most consistent with the passage as a whole?
a. Reading classic literature prepares the writer best. The best writers use the skills derived from that training to make us see the modern world through classic eyes.
b. With a strong background in classic literature and the rules set down by the ancients, the true writer has the foundation that will allow the full use of poetic inspiration and allow us to see the world as we have never seen it before.
c. A thorough education in classical literature and the rules of writing set down in the ancient world will best prepare someone for a career in writing. The best writing is able to improve upon the world around us and impress us with the skill and eloquence with which common thoughts are expressed.
d. Although a thorough education in the classics is helpful, the true artist must take training that takes him beyond the limitations of that study.
e. The true writer is able to write because of the inspiration that comes from a personal connection with the spiritual aspects of nature.
QUESTION 11 (short answer)
Describe the rhetorical techniques Pope uses in this passage.
The following prose selection is taken from the Preface to the second (1800) edition of Lyrical Ballads. It was written by one of the two poets who composed the book, William Wordsworth (1770-1850). Use this selection to answer questions 11-22 below it.
They who have been accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology
of many modern writers&, will, no doubt, frequently have to struggle
with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness: they will look round for
poetry, and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these
attempts can be permitted to assume that title.&The principal object, then, 
proposed in these Poems was to choose incidents and situations from common
life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible in a
selection of language really used by men, and, at the same time, to throw over
them a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be 
presented to the mind in an unusual aspect; and, further, and above all, to make
these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them & the primary
laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate
ideas in a state of excitement&.The language, too, of these men has been
adopted & because such men hourly communicate with the best objects from 
which the best part of language is originally derived; &Accordingly, such a
language, arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings, is a more
permanent, and a far more philosophical language, than that which is frequently
substituted for it by Poets, who think that they are conferring honour upon
themselves and their art, in proportion as they separate themselves from the 
sympathies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of expression,
in order to furnish food for fickle tastes, and fickle appetites, of their own creation.
&Habits of meditation have, I trust, so prompted and regulated my feelings,
that my descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be
found to carry along with them a purpose. If this opinion be erroneous, I can 
have little right to the name of a Poet. For all good poetry is the spontaneous
overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any
value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a
man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also
thought long and deeply. 
Common: In context, it refers to lower class, less educated, and more rural people.
Sensibility (29): refers to sensitivity, not intelligence as in the modern sense.
Which of the following best describes Wordsworth’s opinion related to the writing that was popular at that time?
a. Poets attempting to use elevated and eloquent language have created absurdly ornate language that has little relation to nature.
b. The elevated and gaudy language of most poetry is too hard for the average reader to understand.
c. The writers of the time are too focused upon following the rules of ancient writers.
d. The writers have noble goals, but do not have the skill to accomplish what they are setting out to do.
e. The high standards established in the past have been lost due to the poor state of current writing, for most writers have lost sight of what has been learned and established in the past.
In line 10, “them” refers to:
a. “They” (line 1)
b. “they” (line 3)
c. “attempts” (line 5)
d. “Poems” (line 6)
e. “incidents and situations” (line 6)
The subject of the verb “make” in line 11 is:
a. “object” (line 5)
b. “Poems” (line 6)
c. ”language” (line 9)
d. ”imagination” (line 10)
e. “things” (line 10)
Lines 5-14 primarily:
a. provide a rationale for a new philosophy of poetry.
b. summarize why most modern poetry is not worth reading.
c. argue for the merits of the innovative poetry they have produced in the book.
d. introduce a creative framework for their poetry.
e. respond to those who criticized the earlier (1798) edition of the book.
Which of the following best summarizes the concepts in lines 5-14?
a. Describe everyday incidents in common language, changing them into more exciting incidents through the imagination.
b. Focus on the coarser aspects of life using rustic language. Use the imagination to give these boring incidents color and excitement.
c. Describe common incidents in common language; bring excitement into the poetry through association with imagination and the primary rules of Nature.
d. Describe common incidents in common language, using imagination to color them, and showing how these incidents illustrate the primary rules of our nature.
e. Begin with common incidents in common language, then use the imagination and the Primary rules of Nature to elevate them to a level worthy of study.
Lines 16-22 suggest that the language of the common man is superior to the language used in most poetry because:
a. it is easier for the reader to understand.
b. it does not place a barrier of artificiality between the poet and the reader.
c. it allows the reader to better sympathize with the subjects of the poetry.
d. it forms more natural sounding patterns when placed into poetic meter.
e. it comes from a source that is repeatedly closer to Nature, the source of all that is best.
Lines 18-22 imply that:
a. if the public had not been artificially manipulated by current poets, its conception of quality poetry would be different.
b. The public did not respond well to the first edition of their poetry.
c. Most modern poets have no choice but to write as they do because of the demands of popular tastes.
d. “Arbitrary and capricious habits of expression” are preferred by the public, which suggests that the public has become too far removed from the common man and Nature.
e. The tastes of the public are immutable.
Which best describes the paradox in the nature of the creation of poetry identified in lines 23-30?
a. natural thought and poetic language
b. deep thought and purpose
c. powerful feelings and purpose
d. deep thought and exuberant spontaneity
e. exuberant spontaneity and purpose
Lines 22-30 suggest that the successful poet:
a. has studied poetic technique carefully.
b. has a natural sensitivity that exceeds that found in the general public.
c. must be close to the common man.
d. uses natural language and avoids artificial verbal constructs.
e. never makes use of the rules created by by ancient writers
Considering the passage as a whole, which of the following is most consistent with the philosophy expressed by Wordsworth?
a. The true poet is a common man who has thought deeply about Nature. That thought leads him to create poetry that uses the language of the common man and reflects their sensibilities.
b. The true poet is inspired by the common world to write spontaneous and imaginative poetry with the purpose of translating that common experience to the general public that is otherwise too far removed from it.
c. The true poet uses the base of his extensive training, but colors that training with the imagination and the spontaneous overflow of his powerful feelings.
d. The true poet has a greater sensitivity to Nature than most people. He is close to nature and the common man. He is excited and inspired by Nature, and then uses the powers of imagination to create natural-sounding poetry after deep and careful consideration of that excited experience.
e. The true poet has no greater powers or training than anyone else. He has simply paid more attention to the Natural world and thought more deeply about it. This allows him to capture their rustic tones more accurately.
QUESTION 22 (short answer)
Describe the rhetorical techniques used by Wordsworth in this passage.
Compare the writing by Pope with the writing by Wordsworth.
Which of the following statements are accurate?
a. Pope stressed that poetry was a skill that could be taught to someone like any other art or craft; Wordsworth felt that the poet had an innate sensitivity to nature that exceeded the general public.
b. Pope felt that a thorough education in classic literature was mandatory preparation for the poet; Wordsworth never mentions it as having any importance whatsoever.
c. Pope felt that careful adherence to the writing rules established by ancient writers was essential; Wordsworth felt careful observation of the natural world and common man was essential.
d. Pope felt that the poet should express common thoughts in elegant language; Wordsworth felt the poet should express deep and inspired thoughts in common language.
e. All of these are accurate.
Compare the writing by Pope with the writing by Wordsworth.
Which best describes the primary contrast between Pope and Wordsworth in terms of the source of great poetry?
a. careful adherence to established rules vs. a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings associated with a sensitivity to the power of nature.
b. A close adherence to the rules of the ancients vs. the use of language really used by men.
c. A thorough knowledge of classic literature vs. the study of common man.
d. The use of artificial language vs. the use of common language.
e. The ability to take old ideas and say them in new and better language vs. the expression of new ideas.
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