Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reading Comprehension: Refers to [Piece] in Order to

This is another post describing the classification system Zen of 180 uses for the reading comprehension section; if you're not sure how to approach studying for the LSAT, our 19 reading comprehension standards break it down into manageable chunks; also, our free online LSAT analyzer will let you know which types of passage structures give you the most trouble.

We'll be using the same passage we used yesterday for primary purpose, so be sure to read through that post to understand how we'd suggest to read and mark the passage's structure.

Refers to [piece] in order to questions are somewhat easy to identify, and oftentimes will have specific line references (e.g., "lines 30–36"), as does the example question we pulled from the sample questions LSAC provides on its website. For those questions, we suggest stopping after reading those lines, go answer the question, and then return to reading the passage. It's easy to identify the "line reference" questions by just skimming through the question stems, as the numbers and/or parenthesis should jump out at you. We'll write another post about the other advantages to this strategy, but you can't always apply it to refers to [piece] in order to questions.

Some example question stems from modern LSATs include:
The author’s discussion of [passage topic] serves primarily to

Which one of the following describes the author’s primary purpose in mentioning the [fact] (lines 12–17)?

The author’s reference to the belief that “[quoted evidence]” (lines 24–25) primarily serves to
The flying spaghetti monster is referred to by some debaters in order to suggest a conclusion about creationism.
This evaluating evidence use task most often requires the examinee to consider the question stem's highlighted text within the somewhat narrow context of the lines surrounding it; sometimes, however, the question will require the reader to orient the highlighted text within the passage's overall argument. As such, it's often quite helpful to actively read the passage and highlight changes in topic and structure, as refers to [piece] in order to will necessarily hinge on the argumentation around it.

Finally, keeping in mind the various argumentative structural components that the information could be providing: premise, evidence, or conclusion. Prephrasing this structural use of the highlighted text will often be enough to eliminate many distractors. 

So, putting it all together with the passage we introduced for primary purpose:
2. The author most likely lists some of the themes and objects
    influencing and appearing in Lichtenstein’s paintings (lines 38-43)
    primarily to
As a reminder, the Zen system suggests skimming the question stems for the entire passage, taking note of the ones with line references, and then notating the passage with the question numbers along the the passage's margins. In this case, you should actively read the passage up until about line 48, then move on to answer the question before continuing.
       The painter Roy Lichtenstein helped to define pop
       art—the movement that incorporated commonplace
       objects and commercial-art techniques into paintings
       by paraphrasing the style of comic books in his work.
(5)   His merger of a popular genre with the forms and
       intentions of fine art generated a complex result: while
       poking fun at the pretensions of the art world,
       Lichtenstein’s work also managed to convey a
       seriousness of theme that enabled it to transcend mere
(10) parody.
       That Lichtenstein’s images were fine art was at
       first difficult to see, because, with their word balloons
       and highly stylized figures, they looked like nothing
       more than the comic book panels from which they were
(15) copied. Standard art history holds that pop art emerged
       as an impersonal alternative to the histrionics of
       abstract expressionism, a movement in which painters
       conveyed their private attitudes and emotions using
       nonrepresentational techniques. The truth is that by the
(20) time pop art first appeared in the early 1960s, abstract
       expressionism had already lost much of its force. Pop
       art painters weren’t quarreling with the powerful early
       abstract expressionist work of the late 1940s but with a
       second generation of abstract expressionists whose
(25) work seemed airy, high-minded, and overly lyrical.
       Pop art paintings were full of simple black lines and
       large areas of primary color. Lichtenstein’s work was
       part of a general rebellion against the fading emotional
       power of abstract expressionism, rather than an aloof
(30) attempt to ignore it.
       But if rebellion against previous art by means of
       the careful imitation of a popular genre were all that
       characterized Lichtenstein’s work, it would possess
       only the reflective power that parodies have in relation
(35) to their subjects. Beneath its cartoonish methods, his
       work displayed an impulse toward realism, an urge to
       say that what was missing from contemporary painting
 2.   was the depiction of contemporary life. The stilted
       romances and war stories portrayed in the comic books
(40) on which he based his canvases, the stylized
       automobiles, hot dogs, and table lamps that appeared in
       his pictures, were reflections of the culture Lichtenstein
       inhabited. But, in contrast to some pop art,
       Lichtenstein’s work exuded not a jaded cynicism about
(45) consumer culture, but a kind of deliberate naivete,
       intended as a response to the excess of sophistication
       he observed not only in the later abstract expressionists
       but in some other pop artists.
After reading the passage to this point, we should be ready to skip ahead to question 2 and answer it before continuing.
The author most likely lists some of the themes and objects influencing and appearing in Lichtenstein’s paintings (lines 38-43) primarily to
(A) show that the paintings depict aspects of contemporary life
(B) support the claim that Lichtenstein’s work was parodic in intent
(C) contrast Lichtenstein’s approach to art with that of abstract

(D) suggest the emotions that lie at the heart of Lichtenstein’s work
(E) endorse Lichtenstein’s attitude toward consumer culture
Answer choice B nicely fits along with the third paragraph's structure of closely describing Lichtenstein's aesthetic, leveraging that into how he consciously used it to create poignant art from common cultural tools. The list is clearly made up of specific evidence, thus any non-evidentiary keywords make an answer choice suspect.

On that basis alone, E can be removed because a list of objects cannot, on its own, lead to an endorsement of an attitude.

Answer choice B mischaracterizes the author's argument, as he or she is emphatic that Lichtenstein's work transcends parody.

While answer choice C starts off somewhat promisingly, and the list does seem in contrast with what little we are told about abstract expressionism in the second paragraph (it's "airy, high-minded, and overly lyrical"); however, the list the refers to [piece] in order to question emphasizes is in the entire next paragraph. The author has moved on from abstract expressionism and is building an argument about how Lichtenstein uses popular culture to build something more than parody.

Oppositely, answer choice D conflates the list with the author's later argument that Lichtenstein's "deliberate naivete" and his work's "inner sweetness" created a rich ground for artistic juxtaposition with the real world. Remember that the LSAT is only asking about the specific pieces of the argument listed, not the overall arguments in the paragraph or lines mentioned.