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

Literary Criticism: Gender and Nature
Fall, 2003  Kate Liu
Final Exam

Instructions: 1. Please read through all the questions carefully; 2. Answer four questions altogether; choose 2 from each part  to answer.  3. Do not repeat in your choice of texts as examples for analysis. 
I . Theoretical Terms: (Choose two; each answered in about three paragraphs)
Choose two terms/statements 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. (The following pagination is that of our textbook's.)
1. "In language there are only differences," Saussure. (43) 2. feminine writing (or 'ecriture feminine') (25-) 3. diff"erance 4.constructionist approach to representation (59-61) 5. the biotic pyramid (118-)
6. binary opposition and semiotic rectangle

7. Activity/Passivity Sun/Moon
Culture/Nature Day/Night Father/Mother
Head/Heart Intelligible/Palpable Logos/Pathos (26)

8. [In the signifying process of contemporary myth], the first, completed meaning [signified] functions as the signifier in the second stage of the representation process, and when linked with a wider theme by a reader, yields a second, more elaborate and ideologically framed message or meaning.  Barthes calls this second level of signification the level of myth.(66)

9. The writer writes in a language and in a logic whose proper systems, laws, and life his discourse by definition cannot dominate absolutely,  He uses them by only letting himself, after a fashion and to a point, be governed by the system.  And the reading must always aim at a certain relationship, unperceived by the writer, between what he commands and what he does not command of the patterns of language that he uses. (72)


II. General Questions:  (choose two; each answered in an essay form)

A. Text and Context: 

  1. context = conceptual framework: 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 "Ode on Melancholy" (by John Keats) and then a 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 binaries, gaps or contradictions to prove that its meanings are undecidable or reversible
  2. context = social context: 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. 

  3. context = intertextuality: 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 respectful citation (Wordsworth's self-quotation in 'Immortality Ode'), parody (Daffodil poems; 某些雙人舞), revision (the fairy-tale pattern in "Should Wizard Hit Mommy," "The Long Enchantment," Into the Woods), to pastiche (國際VISA組織-VISA在手盡其在我-羅拉) and unconscious inscription (male gaze in some commercials featuring women, Noble Savage in Nell).   Choose two texts and compare their different usages of their 'intertexts.'

B. Gender and Nature
  1. Undoubtedly, most women in patriarchal society have been in an inferior or disadvantaged position.  However, in the works by women, the female characters are not always presented as victims.  How are they victimized and/or empowered?  Use either Surfacing or two texts from the following list to analyze women's positions in patriarchal society and the (im)possibilities of their self-assertion.  (Possible choices: “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” “Fifteen-Dollar Eagle,” “Spelling”〈安卓珍妮〉“Universal Grammar” and the poems by Christina Rossetti and 夏宇.)
  2. Of the common concerns in feminist works (visual and filmic works included), language, housekeeping and gendered and sexual identities are three that we have discussed in class.  Choose two texts from the following list to discuss their ways of engaging these issues (i.e. the questions they raise and the answers they give).    (Possible choices: all included in no. 4 question; work by Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, Freda, If These Walls Could Talk II, and Into the Woods.)
  3. Do a semiotic reading of a text (or a group of texts; e.g. landscape paintings, commercials using nature to sell, natural landscape in films, etc.) to examine how they construct some myth of 'Nature.' 
  4. What roles does Nature play in the Romantic poems we have read?  And how does Nature interact with the poems' speakers?  How are Mary Oliver's poems different from the previous group?  Choose at least two poems--one from each group-- as your examples.  
C. Language and society, Literary Criticism & Self-Reflexivity (of the texts and ours):
  1. Structuralism, deconstruction, feminism and ecocriticism all posit some theories about "language and society/eco-system," what are their differences and similarities?  (For instance, how is language related to society or ecosystem, the former serving as the latter's models, imposing its prejudices, or as a means to move beyond the anthropocentric?  Society as a network of contradictory languages, or eco-system as interconnectedness beyond the mapping of human languages?)  Choose two theoretical schools (and two theorists of these schools) as your focus and then express your own views.       
  2. 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, postmodernism, poststructuralism, and  ecocriticism

b. Choose a text to practice the two approaches. 

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

10. 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!