"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten." -B. F. Skinner

Literary Criticism: Form & Race
Spring, 2002  Kate Liu
Final Exam

Instructions: 1. Please read through all the questions carefully; 2. choose I from each part  to answer by yourself, 3. choose 1 to answer with your group.  (The group's answer will be presented on the day of the final exam with an outline.)
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. organic unity & objective correlative  2. "In language there are only differences," Saussure.(29)  3. myth as a second-order semiological system.(56) 4.diff"erance 5. transcendental signified
6. overall commodification  7. floating signifier 8. Orientalism  9.mimicry (defined by H. Bhabha 164)  10. Can the subaltern speak?

II. General Questions: 

A. Text and Context: 

    How are meanings produced in a text through different levels of signification (e.g. developing from denotation to cultural connotations)? How is textual unity achieved? Do a structuralist reading of either "The Blind Man" (by D. H. Lawrence) or "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" (by W. Wordsworth) and then deconstructive reading of it.  In other words, find out its basic pattern and how its meanings are developed and unified around it, and then its gaps or contradictions to prove that its meanings are undecidable. 

    New Critics believe that a text is an objective, self-contained and autonomous entity whose meaning transcend its time and space.   Placing a text in a certain context, however, can either add to the meanings we have found in the text or deny them.   Choose a text and do a new critical reading of it.   Then place it in a certain context (social, historical or theoretical) and explain how meanings are enriched or deconstructed. 

    Context can also mean the other texts a text refers to and/or gets influenced by, and their "inter-textual" relationship can be various, ranging from paying tribute to (Achebe vs. his anti-colonial predecessors), parodying, to pastiche and unconscious inscription (romantic love in Moulin Rouge, Cinderella story in Working Girl).   Choose one text and analyze how its meanings get changed when it is related to two kinds of intertext.   (Note: a person can also be regarded as a text.)

B. Form and Race, Language and Society: 
  1. Form, for New Critics, is inseparable from content, and by extension, we can also say that different literary forms construct different subjects.  What type(s) of subject get to be constructed by the group of poems about death written by either male poets (Hardy and Wordworth p. 2) or female poets (Christina Rossetti p. 3). 
  2. Do a structuralist reading of a text (or a group of texts) from popular culture to examine how they construct some myth.  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.) 
  3. From a poststructualist perspective, human subject is not a fixed entity, but rather a sequence of subject positions.   Use "The Blind Man" and "My Man Bonvanne" and compare how the blind men in these two stories are presented and what subject positions the stories offer to these two blind men in relation to the characters around them.  Can you make sense of their differences?
  4. What are the possible positions a "post-colonial" intellectual can take in between the dominant culture and the colonized?  What positions do the teacher(s) in "The Lesson" and "Columbus in Chain" take? 
  5. How is the stereotype of Madame Butterfly (recently again popular in The World Cup held Japan) explained and challenged in the play M. Butterfly?  (Note that it is explained in different levels--sexual, racial and political--and challenged in more than one ways.) 
  6. What is "stereotype" and how is it different from "type"?  What is its basic structure and way of operation?  (e.g. Other-ing?  simplification?  imposition?)  Choose two texts and explain how one presents stereotypes and the other does not.

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

C. Literary Criticism & Self-Reflexivity (of the texts and ours):
  1.   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?
  2. How does our Chinese education and/or the teaching of English literature influence our sense of identity as "Taiwanese" and/or as English majors?   Choose two to three texts you have learned to illustrate your points.  Be text-and-self specific!
  3. What is literary criticism?  Why do we need to take different approaches?  What else do we do besides taking different approaches to a text?  To answer this question, 
a. Use the following pattern to discuss 2 of the various approaches you have learned; i.e. New Criticism, structuralism/semiotics, feminism (you can do it!), postmodernism, postcolonialism. 

b. Choose a text to practice the two approaches. 

The text's, and ours
c. And . . .explain what else we can do.  

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? 

Enjoy the feast of questions and
be inspired!