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Exit Exam Reading List

Dear Mount St. Mary’s College English major:

During your senior year (or possibly during your junior year), you will take a course called English Seminar.  As part of our ongoing efforts to maintain a high level of quality, the Mount St. Mary’s College English Department has begun administering an Exit Exam to all students in the seminar.  It’s a 90-minute, multiple-choice, content-based exam that asks you questions about texts and authors from various periods of English and American literature.

The purpose of this exam is simply to allow us, as a department, to assess how well we’re doing as we prepare our English majors.   Your performance will not affect your GPA or your overall standing with the college.  However, those who score especially high on the exam will have the opportunity to graduate with departmental honors. 

With that in mind, we’ve compiled the below reading list that will help you prepare for the exam. We recommend that you save the list somewhere handy and refer back to it frequently during your time at the Mount.  Then, as your time in English Seminar approaches, you can more intentionally focus on reviewing the information on the Reading List, so you can perform on the exam as well as possible, and possibly be rewarded for your efforts.

For the exam, you won't be expected to have memorized minor details about every text on this list.  You should, however, have at least a basic knowledge of each work, understanding fundamental characteristics like plot, main characters, theme, structure, and so on.

You can see the texts below, and on this printable PDF.

English Literature (Beowulf to 1700)
  1. "Beowulf"
  2. "The Dream of the Rood"
  3. "Caedmon’s Hymn"
  4. "The Battle of Maldon"
  5. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"
  6. Geoffrey Chaucer. "The General Prologue," "The Miller’s Tale," "The Pardoner’s Tale," and "The Nun’s Priest’s Tale" from The Canterbury Tales
  7. "The Second Shepherd’s Play"
  8. Thomas Malory.Le Morte d'Arthur (Selections in the Norton Anthology of English Literature)
  9. Thomas More. Utopia
  10. Wyatt and Surrey. Poems in the Norton Anthology of English Literature
  11. Christopher Marlowe. The Tragic History of Doctor Faustus
  12. Edmund Spenser. The Faerie Queen (Selections in the Norton Anthology of English Literature)
  13. William Shakespeare. Hamlet, Twelfth Night, King Lear, Macbeth
  14. John Milton. "L'Allegro," "Il Penseroso," "Lycidas," "Paradise Lost" (Selections in the Norton Anthology of English Literature)
  15. John Donne. Poems in the Norton Anthology of English Literature
  16. Ben Jonson. "Volpone"
  17. John Dryden. "Absalom and Achitophel," "MacFlecknoe"
  18. Samuel Butler. Hudibras (Selections in the Norton Anthology of English Literature)
  19. Aphra Behn. Oroonoko
English Literature (1700-1950)
  1. Jonathan Swift. Gulliver’s Travels, "A Modest Proposal"
  2. Alexander Pope. “The Rape of the Lock,” “An Essay on Man,” “An Essay on Criticism”
  3. George Gordon, Lord Byron. Don Juan, Canto I
  4. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Frost at Midnight”
  5. John Keats. “Ode on Melancholy,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale”
  6. William Wordsworth. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” “Tintern Abbey,” “Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads”
  7. Percy Bysshe Shelley. “Ode to the West Wind,” “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”
  8. John Stuart Mill. “The Subjection of Women”
  9. Henrik Ibsen. A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler
  10. Robert Browning. “My Last Duchess,” “Fra Lippo Lippi”
  11. Matthew Arnold. “Dover Beach”
  12. Alfred Lord Tennyson. “In Memoriam, A. H. H.”
  13. George Eliot. “Middlemarch
  14. Leo Tolstoy. Anna Karenina
  15. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Crime and Punishment
  16. Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights
  17. Charles Dickens. Great Expectations
  18. Mary Shelley. Frankenstein
  19. Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice
  20. Dylan Thomas. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”
  21. W. B. Yeats. “The Second Coming,” “Sailing to Byzantium”
  22. Aristotle. The Poetics
  23. Sir Philip Sidney. “An Apology for Poetry”
American Literature (through 1945)
  1. Benjamin Franklin. Poor Richard’s Almanac
  2. Thomas Jefferson. “The Declaration of Independence”
  3. William Apess. "An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man"
  4. Jonathan Edwards. “A Personal Narrative,” “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
  5. Washington Irving. “Rip Van Winkle”
  6. Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter
  7. Henry David Thoreau. Walden
  8. Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn
  9. Walt Whitman. “Song of Myself,” “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd”
  10. Ralph Waldo Emerson. "The American Scholar," "Self Reliance"
  11. Frederick Douglass. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
  12. Emily Dickinson. “After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes,” “I Died for Beauty---but Was Scarce,” “I Heard a Fly Buzz---When I Died,” “I Never Lost as Much But Twice,” “My Life Closed Twice Before Its Close,” “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church,” “Success is Counted Sweetest,” “Tell All the Truth, but Tell it Slant,” “These are the Days When Birds Come Back,” “There's a Certain Slant of Light”
  13. Robert Frost. “The Road Not Taken”
  14. T. S. Eliot. “The Wasteland”
  15. Sylvia Plath. “Lady Lazarus,” “Daddy”
  16. William Faulkner. As I Lay Dying
  17. J. D. Salinger. Catcher in the Rye
  18. Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms
  19. F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby
  20. Maya Angelou. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  21. Ralph Ellison. Invisible Man
  22. Herman Melville. Moby Dick
  23. Tennessee Williams. Streetcar Named Desire
  24. Arthur Miller: The Crucible
  25. Upton Sinclair. The Jungle
  26. Henry James. Washington Square
Contemporary American and British Literature
  1. Flannery O’Connor. “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
  2. Anthony Burgess.A Clockwork Orange
  3. George Orwell. 1984
  4. Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird
  5. Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart
  6. Tom Stoppard.Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
  7. Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot
  8. Eugene O’Neill.Long Day’s Journey Into Night
  9. Arthur Miller.Death of a Salesman
  10. Lorraine Hansberry.Raisin in the Sun
  11. David Henry Hwang. M. Butterfly
  12. Allen Ginsberg. “Howl”
  13. Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream," "I've Been to the Mountaintop"
  14. Frances Ford Coppola.The Godfather, Parts 1 and 2
  15. Toni Morrison.Beloved
  16. Zora Neale Hurston.Their Eyes Were Watching God
  17. Jack Kerouac.On the Road
  18. Philip Roth.Goodbye, Columbus
  19. Vladimir Nabokov.Lolita
  20. Don DeLillo.White Noise
  1. Transcendentalism
  2. The Harlem Renaissance
  3. Beat Poetry
  4. Existentialism
  5. Postmodernism
  6. Irony
  7. Mock epic
  8. Hyperbole
  9. Heroic couplet
  10. Iambic pentameter
  11. Mimesis
  12. Deconstruction
  13. Reader response theory
  14. The New Historicism
  15. Alliteration