Literary Criticism: Language  & Society
Spring, 2001 Kate Liu
Final Exam

Please read through all the questions carefully
and then choose I from each part:

(Page no.s included in this exam are that of our textbook.)
I. Theoretical Terms:
Choose one term/statement below; define its meanings, discuss its related issues  and then use a text (literary or cultural text) as an example of what you've discussed. 
1. Myth today, as defined by Barthes 2. binary opposition & deconstruction 3. transcendental signified 4."[S]igns are arbritrarry, conventional, and differential." (10) 5. ideology as defined by Althusser
6. 3  stages of postcolonial writings: adopt, adapt, adept 7. "Nothing exists outside of discourse."(26) 8. reflectionism and relative autonomy 9. diffrance 10. Orientalism

II. General Questions: 

A. Meaning: 
1. How is meaning produced in a text through different levels of signification? What are the textual, inter-textual and extra-textual (socio-historical) determinants of a text's meanings?   Choose one short text (a poem or an ad) and analyze its meanings both from structuralist and then marxist perspectives. 

2. Do a structuralist reading of either "Araby" or "The Blind Man"and then deconstructive reading of it.  In other words, find out its basic narrative pattern (of actants and functions or binary opposition) and then its gaps or contradictions to prove that its meanings are undecidable.

B. Language and Subject: 
3. As Foucault points out, there are two meanings of the word subject: being subject to someone else's control, or being oneself with self-knowledge and self-determination (31).  How do these two meanings of subject get to operate or be denied in an ideology study of a text (literary or cultural)? 

4. What are the subject positions provided/constructed respectively by "The Lesson" and "My Man Bonvanne"?  What position do you take in relation to these two Afro-American texts?

5. How is the idea of author challenged in metafictional works?   (You can use the examples in "Text Play.")   Choose two from the following texts: "Lost in the Funhouse," The Icicle Thief and Deconstructing Harry to further compare and contrast their different treatments of the authors.

6. The chapter on Deconstruction from our textbook says that there is no fixed nor singular interpretation of a text and that even the author cannot control his/her text's meanings.  What do you think about this view?  Use a text to illustrate your points. 

C.Society, Language and Literary Analysis
7.  Do a structuralist reading of a text (or a group of texts) from popular culture to reveal the ideologies hidden in it/them.  Living in the age of information, do we have the power to resist the ideological influences of mass media?   (To answer this question, don't just say yes or no.  Give examples of the influences and/or resistance.) 

8. How is capitalism represented in "Chinago" and "The Rocking Horse Winner"?  What ideologies are there in the texts which the authors may not be aware of? 

9.   Society and Literature: Is a text completely conditioned by its socio-historical background?    Can the author as a social subject be critical of his/her society? 
* Be specific by choosing a literary work and relating it to its society through a specific social aspect (e.g. its class structure, its power relations, its colonial/postcolonial conditions, its ideologies or discourses, etc.). 

10. Marx said, "Consciousness does not determine life; life determines consciousness."  (Or: It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.)  What does he mean?  Find a text to illustrate and/or challenge his points.

11.  Why do so many texts today call attention to their fictitiousness or parody some authorities? (e.g. films, music videos, literature, photography, painting, etc.; see examples in "Text Play.")  Can news report do the same? Or commercials?

12. Language and Postcolonial society: 
How does the use of language influence our sense of identity as "Taiwanese" (and maybe also English majors)?   Choose one Taiwanese text to illustrate your points. 

13.  Structuralism, deconstruction and postcolonialism all posit some theories about "language," what are their differences and similarities? 

14. What is literary criticism? 

a. Use the following pattern to discuss 2 of the various approaches you have learned; i.e. formalism, structuralism/semiotics, psychoanalysis, archetypal approach, feminism, marxism, postmodernism, postcolonialism. 

b. Choose a text to practice the three approaches. 

The text's, and ours

14. another meta-question: 

What aspects of the class are not covered by this final exam?  What kinds of power relations or ideologies can be implied in concluding a course with a final exam?  What are your reasons to be for or against having a final exam in a college course like this?