The author of the passage suggests that present-day readers

In early-twentieth-century England, it was fashionable to claim that only a completely “new style of writing” could address a world undergoing unprecedented transformation— just as one literary critic recently claimed that only the new “aesthetic of exploratory excess” can address a world undergoing… well, you know. Yet in early-twentieth-century England, T. S. Eliot, a man fascinated by the “presence” of the past, wrote the most innovative poetry of his time. The lesson for today’s literary community seems obvious: a reorientation toward tradition would benefit writers no less than readers. But if our writers and critics indeed respect the novel’s rich tradition (as they claim to), then why do they disdain the urge to tell an exciting story?

The author of the passage suggests that present-day readers would particularly benefit from which of the following changes on the part of present-day writers and critics?

  1. An increased focus on the importance of engaging the audience in a narrative
  2. Modernization of the traditional novelistic elements already familiar to readers
  3. Embracing aspects of fiction that are generally peripheral to the interest of readers
  4. A greater recognition of how the tradition of the novel has changed over time
  5. A better understanding of how certain poets such as Eliot have influenced fiction of the present time

An important thing to keep in mind about the Reading Comprehension section of the GRE as we use PowerPrep online to study is that it is just that—reading comprehension. In other words, as difficult as it may seem, and it can be pretty tricky, the test makers will always give us all the information we need in the passage to answer the question. Even questions that ask about what the passage “suggests”, like question 17 of the second Verbal section on practice test 1, abide by this rule.

This question specifically asks about what present-day readers might benefit from hen terms of something both writers and critics could change. The end of the passage specifically talks about present day readers, but we should keep context in mind: the passage explicitly states that the “lesson” for the present-day literary community (writers, critics, and readers, alike) comes from an earlier example.

The passage talks about how at one point (in the early-twentieth-century), it was thought that only a new writing style could “address,” or speak to, the contemporary world, a view similar to that of a recent critic. The next sentence tells us, however, that Eliot, who was “fascinated by the ‘presence’ of the past,” or, in other words, not necessarily concerned with a new style, actually wrote the most innovative poetry of his time. So this example of someone using the past, according to the next sentence, should inform the present community about how important a “reorientation towards tradition” should be. But that’s not all: the final sentence tells us that by way of a question that although current writers and critics claim to respect tradition, they aren’t writing exciting stories.

Alright, so, we learned from the passage that a “reorientation toward tradition” would definitely benefit readers, but we should also keep in mind why: apparently it would help tell exciting stories that could “address,” or connect with, the audience. Let’s see if we have a similar answer.

  • An increased focus on the importance of engaging the audience in a narrative

Ok, this answer does point out one thing mentioned in the end of the passage—telling more “exciting” or engaging stories—BUT it doesn’t seem to mention the fact that this could be done through a “reorientation toward the past.” Since it does seem to be supported by the passage, it’s hard to say we can eliminate this answer. However, since it doesn’t seem to have everything that we predicted a good answer would have, perhaps we should check out our other answers and come back to reevaluate this one.

  • Modernization of the traditional novelistic elements already familiar to readers

This answer certainly has all of the right keywords, but the passage didn’t mention anything about “modernizing” tradition, persay. We do know that Eliot’s word was “innovative,” but still this seems like a bit of a leap. Additionally, we aren’t told what elements readers will be “familiar with,” nor are we told that part of the problem is that writers are using elements that are unfamiliar. This answer is a bit off—there are two parts of it that don’t seem well supported. We can eliminate B even though it sounded like a good answer at first.

  • Embracing aspects of fiction that are generally peripheral to the interest of readers

Something that’s “peripheral” is of a secondary concern. We don’t know what would be of a “peripheral” interest to readers, but we do know that authors should be telling more exciting stories (which, I don’t know about you, but that is a primary interest when a read). This answer almost sounds as though the passage promotes writers doing things that readers wouldn’t engage with, but we want an answer that shows that writers could better engage with readers, possibly by respecting tradition better. We can eliminate C.

  • A greater recognition of how the tradition of the novel has changed over time

Hmm. Again, all of the right keywords and yet—not quite an idea from the passage. The passage tells us that writers should “reorient toward tradition,” not study how that tradition has changed over time. We might assume that recognizing how tradition has changed over time might help writers accomplish this, but we never want to assume on the GRE. Also, “tradition” in the passage is represented more as something fixed than changing. D is missing support from the passage and can be eliminated.

  • A better understanding of how certain poets such as Eliot have influenced fiction of the present time

The passage never says that Eliot has influenced fiction, and we cannot assume this. Rather, writers should, according to the author, pay attention to Eliot’s example of how the traditional can be a source of inspiration. We can eliminate E.

Hmm. It didn’t exactly match our answer, but A was the only answer we couldn’t eliminate. This is why process of elimination is important on the GRE: sometimes the “best” answer is not actually a perfect answer, but it might be the best available. We should remember that there can only be one answer, so whatever answer we can’t say is wrong must be correct. A is the answer.

 

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