QUESTIONS – COMMENTS FOR “KEEPER OF THE CANON”
This page shows the correct answers and possible paths to finding those correct answers.
Aside from the YES/NO answers, several answers are usually acceptable for each question.
The aim is to test comprehension of the text as a whole. While the order of the questions follows the order of the paragraphs in the article, most answers are peppered throughout the entire article.
Highly unusual or remarkable information is the exception to this rule. In this article, Harold Bloom’s truly amazing reading ability, along with the Heath Anthology’s prison literature section, qualifies as unusual or remarkable.
THE MOST OBVIOUS CORRECTS ANSWER ARE IN BOLD.
1)Was The Norton Anthology of English Literature first published more than 40 years ago?YES
-If you happen to remember “Since it first appeared in 1962” or “after more than 40 years as founding and general editor” or “In 1956, Norton asked Abrams to oversee a group of editors for an anthology of English literature,” you’re sailing
-There are also a few other hints in the text that the answer is “Yes,” including:
a) the fact that the former editor, at the age of 93, is finally stepping down;
b) copious references to the Anthology’s institutional status – i.e. it’s been around for ages;
c) references to studying during the Depression (i.e. 70 years ago, the editor was already an adult)
2)The editor is seen as the arbiter, or shaper, of what?THE CANON (THE LITERARY TRADITION, STANDARDS TEXTS OF ENGLISH LITERATURE, OR ANOTHER ANSWER THAT CLEARLY INDICATES COMPREHENSION IS ALSO ACCEPTABLE)
-There are six references to the canon in the text, including:
i)The title is “The Keeper of the Canon”
ii)Abrams “is seen […] as the arbiter of the Canon”
iii)“‘open[ing] up’ the canon,” being “too canonical,” a sister anthology’s being “similarly too canonical”
-the tenor of the text is Abrams’ role in determining, through his Anthology, the fundamental texts of English literature
-question 4) “While some accuse the Norton of being too canonical…” offers a push in the right direction
-a few students wrote: THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY – this was acceptable because, although it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for when I phrased the question, it is a legitimate answer to the question
3)At which university does Stephen Greenblatt teach?HARVARD
-“handing the reins over to Stephen Greenblatt, a Shakespeare scholar and Harvard professor”
-a tip: assuming that the test-producer is not draconian, common sense tells us it has to be a famous university to be a fair question. We know that these professors are all at American universities, so Oxford and Cambridge are out; an educated guess would be Yale, Cornell, etc. Though neither of these is correct, each is in the right direction
-most of us notice coincidences, contrasts and other synchronicities/opposites when reading. If you’ve noticed that one editor teaches where the other used to study, question 7) (“Why was Abrams in the minority as a student at Harvard?”) is rather helpful
4)While some accuse the Norton of being too canonical, others accuse it of being what?LIBERAL, OPEN, FADDISH, etc.
-Some students remembered “faddishly expanding the reading list.” I applauded their short-term memoryand gave them full marks here
-The structure of the sentence tells us to expect contrast: “liberal” “open” “faddish” would all be acceptable
-Students who wrote: “too conservative” or “too traditional” obviously misunderstood “canonical” or the structure of the question
5)What is the problem with adding new texts to the Norton Anthology?DECIDING WHAT TO LEAVE OUT / HAVING TO LEAVE OUT A CLASSIC, etc.
-“It's a zero-sum game; for everything that was added, something else had to come out.”
-Since we know that an anthology is limited in size, adding new texts means deciding which important authors or texts to leave out
-Later on, there are several other references to the problem of what to leave out. For example, the follow paragraph offers a few hints:
“Abrams said he had been ‘more reluctant’ than Greenblatt to drop ‘some of the classic writers who'd long been canonical, and reduce their scale to make room for other writers.’ Greenblatt concedes there was friendly friction. ‘He often laments great patches of the stuff we're taking out with such a poignant pleasure.’ Indeed, for the newest edition, they scaled back on the Romantic poets to make space for more Modernism and Gothic literature.”
6)Of what literary movement was former editor M.H. Abrams a ‘leading scholar’?ROMANTICISM
-“Romanticism” or “Romantic” appears six times, including:
i)“Abrams, a leading scholar of Romanticism”
ii)“Hailed for its lucid analysis of the origins and impact of Romantic philosophy, [Abrams’ book] elevated and in many ways legitimized the study of Romantic poetry in this country.”
iii)“His Natural Supernaturalism (1971), about Romanticism's connection to the social and political changes of the 19th century, is also very well regarded.”
iv)“For a devotee of Romanticism, with its moody Sturm und Drang, Abrams is remarkably cheery and even-keeled.”
7)Why was Abrams in the minority as a student at Harvard?HE IS JEWISH/THERE WERE FEW JEWISH STUDENTS (AT THAT TIME)
-The key word here is “minority.” Consider ways that one can be a minority.
-N.b. mentioning that he was on SCHOLARSHIP is also acceptable
8)Abrams critiques New Criticism for its failure “to look at poets in ______”.HISTORY/CONTEXT (I also accepted the somewhat vague “IN TIME”)
-You might know the common critique against New Criticism. If not, the text tells us:
i)“emphasized close readings of works of literature over preoccupation with the author's biographical or cultural context”
ii)“I never fell for the noncontextual reading…”
iii)“I always felt it was important to look at poets in history.”
-Consider words that fit the syntax and sense of the question (I was unable to accept “in literature”)
9)What suspicion did Abrams have about the student essay Thomas Pynchon produced?PLAGIARISM/COPIED/NOT HIS OWN WORK, etc.
-There are two direct references:
i)“I was sure it was plagiarized”
ii)“But when he spoke with Pynchon, it quickly became clear he was indeed the author.”
-“Suspicion” tells us something negative is required (I was unable to accept “it was sophisticated” because, though true, it doesn’t answer this question about “suspicion” – “I suspect this essay is sophisticated” is a comical statement)
10)What ‘extraordinary ability’ does (former student of Abrams) Harold Bloom possess?COULD MEMORIZE ENTIRE BOOKS/READ EXTREMELY QUICKLY, etc.
-“He had that extraordinary ability to read a book almost as fast as you can turn the pages, not only to read it but to practically memorize it.”
-On the one hand, this relies on memory. On the other, Bloom’s ability is so remarkable – and the adjective “extraordinary” tells the reader to ‘listen up!’ – that it jumps out at the reader.
11)Name two reasons why the Norton was "an instant hit." (2)BREADTH/RANGE OF TEXTS/ACCESSIBILITY/LACK OF IDEOLOGICAL SLANT or BIAS/NOT TIED TO A PARTICULAR THEORY (Though not, “it made money,” which is simply a restating of what it means to be “an instant hit” – i.e. it is a circular definition, not an answer; similarly “updated every six years” was not acceptable because “six years” is hardly “instant”).
-I also accepted “ECONOMICAL” because the text (indirectly) points out how many classics are included for “$60”, namely 6 000 pages worth
12)To whom did the editors send surveys to determine which works should be kept in the Norton?PROFESSORS
-I was unable to accept “to the editors.” Most people do not mail things to themselves.
-If you missed “professors,” ask yourself what a likely answer would be.
13)Do Abrams and Greenblatt have similar “critical approaches”?NO.
-A few fairly direct references include:
i)“Abrams said he was initially skeptical because of their different critical approaches”
ii)They met when they delivered “opposing lectures”
iii)“The argument continued…”
iv)“Greenblatt concedes there was friendly friction”
-Since Abrams is ancient, Greenblatt not, and the entire article focuses on a shift of editors, the smart money is on “No.”
-Question 14) gives you a hint that the two men differ.
14)Which editor (i.e. Abrams or Greenblatt) was more in favour of dropping “some of the classic writers”?GREENBLATT
-There are too many references to this to list.
-If one considers that Abrams has been in charge of the book for ages, chances are the new guy is the one making the more radical changes
15)Name two inclusions (or increases in representation) that marked the 1999 edition of the Anthology? (2)WOMEN and POSTCOLONIAL/MINORITY WRITERS (GOTHIC WRITERS/MODERNIST WRITERS, too)
-If all four of these slipped your mind, ask yourself: what ‘sorts’ of writers were under-represented in the past? “Dead White Men” would be an unlikely answer.
16)The Heath Anthology of American Literature, the Norton’s competitor, included a section on what sort of literature?PRISON LITERATURE
-As with Bloom’s amazing ability, the highly unusual tends to stick in our minds – hence the inclusion of this question