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GRE Reading Comp Practice…You Need This!

March 10, 2014 by

Photo Credit: grinwithoutacat via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: grinwithoutacat via Compfight cc

Unless you’ve mastered GRE Reading Comprehension and are scoring at or near a perfect 170 on the GRE verbal section, it’s always a good idea to do more GRE Reading Comp practice. This blog series will provide you with a GRE reading comp passage that we’ll walk through step-by-step to allow you to practice and get answers and explanations at each stage. First, we’ll break down this passage before moving on to some practice questions. Let’s get started!

The Passage

In her 1929 classic A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf discusses the exclusion of women from English higher culture. To help explain the seeming absence of female authors in the Elizabethan Age, she imagines what might have happened if William Shakespeare had had a sister who possessed all of her brother’s genius. “Judith Shakespeare” is one of Woolf’s most memorable fictional creations. Scorned by her family and by society at large for attempting to become a professional writer, she ends her days in squalor and misery. This picture influenced feminist thought for decades: If there are so few great woman writers in the Western canon, it is because women were prevented from writing.

Recent scholarship has shown how misleading this picture is. The oppression of women throughout history is real enough, but even in Shakespeare’s England–undeniably a sexist society by modern standards–there were several woman authors. It would be idle to claim Mary Sidney, Aemilia Lanyer, Elizabeth Cary, and Mary Wroth had the same opportunities as their male counterparts, but they did win modest acclaim for their literary achievements. Now that the myth of the nonexistence of woman writers has been exploded, an important aspect of modern feminist criticism has been the rediscovery, republication, and reevaluation of what women wrote.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the TOPIC (main idea) of this passage?
  2. What is the SCOPE (specific focus) of this passage?
  3. What is the PURPOSE of this passage? (What is the author trying to do with this passage? Describe/explain, argue, advocate, etc…)
  4. What notes would you jot down on your scratch paper to paraphrase each paragraph?

Share your answers here in the comments, and we’ll post another blog entry with the full explanation tomorrow. Happy practicing!


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