Posts Tagged ‘GRE Literature’
Laurence Sterne (1713 – 1768) was an Irish-born English novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels
For the GRE Literature, focus on Tristram Sha andy. It is very very likely to appear on the test.
Notable for its bawdy humor and inventive narrative devices, Tristram Shandy is ostensibly Tristram’s narration of his life story. But it is one of the central jokes of the novel that he cannot explain anything without endless diversions, and so we do not even reach Tristram’s own birth until Volume III.
Tristram Shandy – GRE flash card
notable characteristics: bawdy humor, dense satire, unconventional narrative devices
Walter – Tristram’s father
Uncle Toby – his uncle
Trim – Toby’s servant
- Pope and Swift are frequently satirized.
- references to Cervantes, particularly Don Quixote are also present in the frequent references to Rosinante (the horse), the “quixotic” character of Uncle Toby and Sterne’s own description of his characters’ “Cervantic humor.”
-The novel also references John Locke’s theories of empiricism, or the way we assemble what we know of ourselves and our world from the “association of ideas” that come to us from observation and our senses.
Click below to listen to chapters 1-3 of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy.
Give your eyes a rest! This GRE literature podcast contains audio books of everything you’ll need to read for GRE subject test – so you can study in your car, in the bath, at the gym or wherever you bring your ipod. The audio books appear at the end of the posts, along with helpful notes, links and other information. Just scroll down to view the most recent posts, or find the authors you want in the categories section on the right. If you want to download the audio files, just left click on the file and select “save link as.” Or, for easiest listening,
One of the best ways to identify small excerpts from poems on the GRE Literature is to know what form they are written in. You may not recognize the 23rd stanza of The Faerie Queene, for example, but if you know that the passage in front of you is a Spenserian stanza, you’re one step closer to knowing who wrote it, when it was written, how many feet there are in each line, etc.
The Spenserian stanza is almost guaranteed to show up on the GRE Literature, and so I recommend you know it in all of its guises. This form was invented by Edmund Spenser for his epic poem The Faerie Queene, and shows up frequently in romantic poetry from the 1800’s.
Each Spenserian stanza contains nine lines in total: eight lines in iambic pentameter followed by a single, 12 sylable ‘Alexandrine‘ line in iambic hexameter. The rhyme scheme of these lines is “ababbcbcc.”
Spenser’s Faerie Queene (first stanza)
Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far vnfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
Whose prayses hauing slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.
The third stanza from Shelly’s “Adonais”:
Oh weep for Adonais-he is dead!
Wake, melancholy Mother, wake and weep!
Yet wherefore? Quench within their burning bed
Thy fiery tears, and let thy loud heart keep,
Like his, a mute and uncomplaining sleep;
For he is gone where all things wise and fair
Descend. Oh dream not that the amorous deep
Will yet restore him to the vital air;
Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair .
The Spenserian Stanza in Literature
The Spenserian Stanza experienced a revival in the 1800’s when it was used by the following notable poets:
Lord Byron in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
John Keats in The Eve of St. Agnes
Percy Bysshe Shelley in The Revolt of Islam and Adonais
Sir Walter Scott in The Vision of Don Roderick
William Wordsworth in The Female Vagrant, included in Wordsworth and Coleridge’s “Lyrical Ballads”
I recommend you memorize this list. It’s easy to get confused with some of these longer poems, and at least one of them is likely to show up on the GRE.
Spenser’s invention may have been influenced by the following preexisting forms:
ottava rima – Italian form which consists of eight lines of iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme “abababcc.”
rhyme royal - a traditional mediæval form used by Geoffrey Chaucer and others, which has seven lines of iambic pentameter that rhyme “ababbcc.” (a comparatively modern use of the ottava rima is found in Byron’s Don Juan)
“GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.”
So opens Robert Herrick’s poem To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time. The poem is often compared to Andrew Marvells’ Coy Mistress for its similar thematic content: expounding the principle of
Herrick is often classified as a
“To His Coy Mistress” is a favorite on the GRE literature. You should know it inside out, know that it is a metaphysical poem written by the British author Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678), and be able to compare it to Robert Herrick’s, “To The Virgins, To Make Much Of Time.”
The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, with rhyme scheme AA BB CC etc. The first stanza is ten couplets long, the second six, and the third seven.
Here is an excerpt, from the second stanza:
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Read the full poem here:
Written in In 1611 for his wife Anne More Donne, “A Valediction Forbidden Mourning” is one of Donne’s most famous and eloquent pronouncements on the idea of spiritual love. It is also very likely to appear on the GRE in Literature. The poem is written in 4-line stanzas of iambic tetrameter, with eight syllables (four feet) per line. For more information on this poem, you can check out the following sites:
As an addendum to the usual order of things, I wanted to call your attention to a program I just discovered, one which may prove very useful in enhancing your vocabulary for the GRE literature and general tests. It’s called the
The Mnemosyne software resembles a traditional flash-card program to help you memorise question/answer pairs, but with an important twist: it uses a sophisticated algorithm to schedule the best time for a card to come up for review. Difficult cards that you tend to forget quickly will be scheduled more often, while Mnemosyne won’t waste your time on things you remember well.
The software runs on Linux, Windows and Mac OS X.
While you use the software, detailed statistics can be kept on your learning process. If you want, these logs can be uploaded in a transparent and anonymous way to a central server for analysis.
This data will be valuable to study the behaviour of our memory over a very long time period. As an additional benefit, the results will be used to improve the scheduling algorithms behind the software even further.
I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds pretty fascinating. It’s also open source, which is always nice.
You can read more about it, download the program and get the GRE vocabulary flash cards
by John Donne
MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is ;
It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead ;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper’d swells with one blood made of two ;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.
O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we’re met,
And cloister’d in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck’d from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
‘Tis true ; then learn how false fears be ;
Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.