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  • Don’t get into the minor details of the passage; just focus on what each paragraph has to say
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  • Once you read the question, come back to the part of the passage that is likely to have the answer
  • Compare the options and eliminate the incorrect choices based on the evidence that you see in the passage
  • Choose the answer once you are convinced of the right choice

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Reading Comprehension Practice Passage

It is an unfortunate fact that most North Americans know little about American Indian culture and history. Scholars have studied such matters, but they have not succeeded in broadcasting their conclusions widely. Thus, it is still not widely known that American Indians have epics, that they performed plays long before Europeans arrived, and that they practiced politics and carried on trade.

One way to gain a fuller appreciation of this rich culture is to examine American Indian poetry, for poetry is in all cultures the most central and articulate of the arts. It is especially important that we study American Indian poetry as this poetry can create a context that gives cohesive expression to the crafts, the artifacts, and the isolated facts that many Americans have managed to notice willy-nilly . Even a survey of American Indian poetry reveals a range of poetic thought and technique that defies easy generalization. Jarold Ramsey hazards a summary, however, which serves at least to give the uninitiated reader some sense of what American Indian poetry is like. Overall, he writes, it represents “an oral, formulaic, traditional, and anonymous art form,” whose approach is to emphasize the “mythic and sacred” components of reality. It “flourished through public performances... by skilled recitalists whose audiences already knew the individual stories” and valued the performers for their “ability to exploit their material dramatically and to combine them ?their stories? in longer cycles” rather than for their “plot invention.” Because this poetry belongs to highly ethnocentric tribal peoples, whose cultures “we still do not know much about,” it “is likely to seem all the more terse, even cryptic.”

American Indian poetry has another feature that Ramsey ignores: it is always functional. Whether sung, chanted, or recited; whether performed ceremonially, as entertainment, or as part of a task such as curing a patient or grinding corn; or whether recited individually or by a group, it is always fully woven into the fabric of ordinary life.

For complicated reasons, American Indian poetry has basically been ignored by non-Indian cultures. Kenneth Lincoln writes that failure to hear American Indian voices results “partly...from the tragedies of tribal dislocation, partly from mistranslation, partly from misconceptions about literature, partly from cultural indifference.” Brian Swann suggests an additional explanation: tribal poetry is oral, whereas Europeans arrived in the New World with a deeply ingrained belief in the primacy of the written word. As a result, European settles found it hard to imagine that poetry could exist without written texts and thus that the American Indians had achieved something parallel to what Europeans called literature long before Europeans arrived. As a consequence, Europeans did not fully respond to the rich vitality of American Indian poetry.


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Question: According to the passage, American Indian cultures have produced all of the following forms of artistic expression EXCEPT

crafts
dramas
songs
written poems
oral epics

Question: According to Jarold Ramsey, American Indian poetry is an art form characterized by its

unusual depictions of landscapes
integration with everyday affairs
universal accessibility
highly original plots
adaptability to public performance

Question: According to Kenneth Lincoln, one of the reasons that non-Indians have had little knowledge of American Indian poetry is that American Indian poems

have been poorly translated
have not yet attracted the scholarly attention they deserve
can be appreciated only when presented orally
are difficult to understand without a background in comparative mythology
are too stylistically complex

Question: According to the passage, it would be unusual for American Indian poetry to be

attributed to specific authors
sung by a group of performers
chanted while working
sung during a sacred ceremony
performed in a dramatic manner

Question: It can be inferred from the passage that Brian Swann believes which of the following about the European settlers of America?

They probably were more literate, on the average, than the general European population they left behind.
They probably thought it necessary to understand American Indian politics before studying American Indian literature.
They probably did not recognize evidence of an oral poetic tradition in the American Indian cultures they encountered.
They probably could not appreciate American Indian poetry because it was composed in long narrative cycles.
They probably did not study American Indian poetry because its subject matter was too practically oriented.

Question: The tone of lines 12-16 suggests that the author believes that most Americans’ knowledge of American Indian culture can best be characterized as

spotty and contradictory
stereotyped and limited
confused and inaccurate
unsystematic and superficial
vague and biased

Question: Which of the following best describes the organization of the last paragraph of the passage?

An observation is made and qualifications of it are provided.
A phenomenon is noted and explanations for it are presented.
A hypothesis is presented and arguments against it are cited.
A prognosis is made and evidence supporting it is discussed.
A criticism is presented and information expanding it is provided.

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