June 2007, Passage 1, Setup

Can't listen to audio right now? Turn on captions.

Transcript

Passage One is our arts and humanities passage. Every test has one, this one is about poetry and fiction. So the first paragraph does two things. The first thing it does is it establishes that in the United States, both in academia, and more generally, there's a division between poetry and fiction. The second, it presents us with the opinions of writers who tend to support the division.

They're the usual view, the decision is good. And it gives us the reason that they believe that, which has to do with the definitions that they attach to poetry and fiction. Poetry is about thoughts and feelings, it's lyrical. Fiction is about narratives, and characters, and plots, and stuff like that.

So the second paragraph begins with a little aside, a caveat, where the author says, well, sure, poetry and fiction are separate genres, but why do we divide them so much? Why do writers of one not write the other? Why do they teach them separately in school? And then the author gives us a partial answer to that question.

The reason that they're divided is because the culture in the US is suspicious of generalists, people who try to do more than one thing at a time. So in the third paragraph, we get the author's view from basically the first word. Fortunately, the author tells us the division is breaking down. And they give us an example of a writer who is part of this trend of breaking things down.

And the rest of paragraph is devoted to this writer, Rita Dove's opinions, this is how she feels about the divide. It discusses it in terms of her own background, her time in Germany, etc. The final paragraph is entirely about Rita Dove's poetry and her fiction. Her poems are written very much like fiction, and her fiction is written very much like her poems.

So she mixes the two things, and she writes both, so she's an example of the divide breaking down. Now, we wanna be careful. Even though the last two paragraphs did talk about Rita Dove pretty extensively, she's not the main point of the passage. She's an example used to prove the author's point.

The author's point is, it's good that this traditional distinction, or this traditional division between poetry and fiction is falling apart in America. Rita Dove's just an example of a writer who shows how it's breaking apart.

Read full transcript