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« The House of Silk | Main | This Week's Acquisitions »

December 15, 2011



Thanks a lot for this--i have similar trouble with ID questions. The short essay component often prompts very general comments on the text as a whole, tied down only marginally to the actual quotation. I think I'll try your suggestion next semester. It may take some creativity to come up with questions (your #2 component) that don't give away, or give too many clues to, the source.


One of the professors in my department was complaining about something similar today--students who tried to read his mind and got it wrong. They listened to an excerpt from a symphony, had the printed music for the excerpt in front them, and were asked questions about it. Numerous students gave answers that would have been correct if the excerpt had been from the end of the symphony, but it was actually from the middle.

I really like this idea, which will get them to actually look at the quotation instead of trying to dance around it with some Sparknotes-induced generalities.


I too have eventually arrived at a more specific way of explaining what a passage ID should look like, and I spell it in the exam instructions (we also do practice IDs for about 20 min in class before the midterm). For Shakespeare, I ask for these five things:

1) Identify the work
2) Identify the speaker
3) Identify the context of the quotation as precisely as you can
4) Say something about the passage's dramatic or thematic significance
5) Say something about at least one interesting linguistic or poetic feature

Two points per part, for a total of 10 points per ID.

It's made my life much easier, and my students' exam answers much better.

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