You’ll take your honors exam on April 12, but my goal is to persuade you not to focus your attention too heavily on that date. We’re going to devise a plan for your success on the exam that’s guided by the idea that the event itself is less important than the months leading up to it.

You’ll do well on the exam, and the preparation for it will be a good experience for you, if you work toward it in this way. All you have to do is read literature, after all, and you like that! You just need to do it steadily, thoughtfully,with a plan and a strong sense of purpose. 

We’ll devise the plan together, and we’ll spend the spring semester talking about the variety of ways you can think analytically about these texts.

Student List

Sophocles, Antigone (Oxford UP 442 BCE; 2007)

Thomas More, Utopia (Yale UP 1516; 2014)

William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Norton Critical Edition, 1604-5; 2010)

Phillis Wheatley, Five Poems: “On Being Brought from Africa to America, “On Imagination” “On Virtue,” “To the Right Honorable William, Earl of Dartmouth,” “To S.M. A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works” (PoetryFoundation.org 1773; web)

Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street (from The Piazza Tales; Penguin 1856; 2016)

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (Penguin 1905; 2012)

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (Mariner 1925; 2012)

Paul Beatty, The Sellout (Picador 2016; 2016)

Claudia Rankine, Citizen:An American Lyric (Graywolf 2014; 2014)

Anne Boyer, Three Poems: “The Revolt of the Peasant Girls,” (2014); “Not Writing” (2015); ”No” (2017) (PEN America, Poetry Foundation, and Ugly Duckling Press)

Faculty List

Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto V, Canto XIII, & Canto XV, trans. Mark Musa (Penguin 1320 / 2002)

John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)

Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote; Or, the Adventures of Arabella,ed. Margaret Dalziel (Oxford’s World Classics 1752/ 2008)

Mary Alcock, “A Receipt for Writing a Novel” (1799)

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Poems: “Author’s Preface” (1918), “The Wreck of the Deutschland” (written 1875; pub. 1918), “God’s Grandeur” (1877; 1918), “As kingfishers catch fire, so dragonflies draw flame” (1877; 1918), “The Windhover” (1877; 1918), “Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves” (1886; 1918), “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire” (1888; 1918), “Thou art indeed just, Lord” (1889; 1918)

Wystan Hugh Auden, “In Praise of Limestone(1948)

Athol Fugard, John Kani, Winston Ntshona, The Island (in The Township Plays, Oxford UP 1973; 1993)

Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (Penguin 1977; 2006)

Toni Morrison, “Nobel Lecture” (1993)

NourbeSe Philip, “The Absence of Writing or How I Almost Became a Spy” (1993)

Javier Zamora, Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press 2017)


The exams from 2017 and 2016
When you read these exams, remember that you haven’t prepared for them, so they will undoubtedly look “hard” to you. The students who took these exams had spent many months– as you will, too– reading the twenty texts that are covered on these exams (see below). So, these texts would all have been familiar to those students in a way that they couldn’t possibly be familiar to you.

As you read the exams with this in mind, start formulating your thoughts about what you want on the exam, and how you want to prepare. 

Also, note that your exam will more closely resemble last year’s exam than the one from 2016.


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