ENGL405 Study Guide

Course Wrap-Up

After reading the materials in this course, you will probably realize a pattern in the writings of the authors on the syllabus. Most of these writers were rebels in one way or another. Many cast off their inherited Christian faith, and several attempted to provide at least the beginnings of a post-Christian cosmology. Harriett Beecher Stowe remained an orthodox Christian, but she, like the early Frederick Douglass, thought of the biblical God as the champion of the poor and oppressed. Most were also literary iconoclasts, calling for and creating unorthodox literary forms and styles: macabre short story, problem novels, slave narratives, free verse, and other rule-breaking poetic techniques. Some questioned or rejected traditional gender roles and sexual mores, some protested their government's policies, some covertly resisted laws they deemed unjust, and some committed civil disobedience and/or openly disobeyed their government.

As you read through these works, you learned how they perceived and responded to their socio-historical context, and how they crafted new styles to address their specific realities in innovative ways. These writers and their works can be used to speak to our collective socio-historical situation, and we may draw upon aspects of that history to better understand the passions that informed these writers' lives and art.

To that end, here are some questions that you might ask:

  • Are there parallels between the socio-historical situation of the authors in the course and the world today?
  • Are there moral and spiritual challenges today that are similar to the issues authors of the American Renaissance faced?
  • Did these authors respond in smart and productive ways? Why or why not?
  • Does our time call for a similar level of commitment and engagement to our social, cultural, and historical contexts?
  • Do we have a similar call to think creatively, protest perceived injustices, and demand a more democratic and responsible government?
  • Knowing about generic form, what genre would you use to help answer this call?
  • Or, do you have ideas about creating a new form, or perhaps mixing genres to create a new way of speaking about your situation today?

A note about the final exam: If you were taking this course face-to-face with a professor, your final exam would most likely be formatted as a series of short answer and essay questions. For this type of online course, however, the final exam will be comprised of 50 multiple choices questions. While most literary critics would argue that explanations of the texts you've just read are quite subjective, there are objective details that you should take away from this course as well. To study, you should return to the learning objectives at the beginning of the course and before each unit. They will help you see what topics each unit covers, and what you should take away from the material. While you will certainly be tested on some plot elements and author information, most of the questions have been designed to help your further study of literature. You will find questions on literary terms, genre conventions, and historical context.