Literary Criticism: Capitalism & Society
Spring, 2000 Kate Liu
Final Exam
Last updated: 2000/6/4
Literary Criticism: Society and Capitalism
Those marked with  are chosen from your input (with a bit of modifications): Thanks!
I. Theoretical Terms: 
Choose one, define it and discuss the meanings as well as how they can be related to a literary/cultural text.
    1. ideology as defined by Althusser 2. binary opposition  3. floating signifier 4. differance 5. Myth today, as defined by Barthes
    6. adopt, adapt, adept 7. de-colonization 8. de-centering 9. Orientalism 10. three pairs of actants (Greimas) 

II. General Questions: 

Structuralism and Semiotics:
1. How is meaning produced? Can you find out a group of signs (an ad, for instance), or a myth, that you are--or a literary text is--most influenced by and then discuss its/their process of signification?

2. Do a structuralist reading of a soap opera (or some similar ones) 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 media?   (To answer this question, don't just say yes or no.  Give examples of the influences and/or resistance.) 

3.  How does capitalism influence literature and/or our reading of literature?  This is a very broad question.  You need to find a focus yourself.   For instance, you need to decide whether you want to talk about the capitalism in the nineteenth century (monopoly capitalism) or in the late nineteenth and first part of the twentieth century (nationalist capitalism) or contemporary capitalism (multi-national imperialism).

4.   How is "society" written into literature?  Is a text completely conditioned by its socio-historical background?    How about the author as a social subject?  Again, define what you mean by society, and be specific in choosing a certain society and a certain aspect of it (e.g. its class structure, its power relations, its colonial/postcolonial conditions, etc.) and its relations to a specific literary work. 

  5. 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?  Can you find a text to illustrate his points?

6.  Why do so many texts today call attention to their fictitiousness? (e.g. films, music videos, literature, photography, painting, M. Butterfly, The Icicle Thief, etc.)  Why can't news report do the same? Or commercials?

7.The role of the author: 
In M. Butterfly , Gallimard reconstructs his history, and in The Icicle Thief, the director Maurizio Nichetti produces a re-make of the film Bicycle Thief (which turns into a self-parody).  Discuss how either "author" (Gallimard or the film director) turns powerless in the text or the film he wants to create. How is Gallimard or the director overpowered, and deprived of their authority (the dominating position of an author)  by the characters in the fictional world? And why cannot either of them fully control the text they create?

8. 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. 

9. Use Derrida's idea of differance to explain the different uses of Puccini's
"Madame Butterfly" or the different definitions of gender roles in M. Butterfly.

10. How does M. Butterfly deal with gender+postcolonial issues through the switching of roles?

11. What kinds of power relations can occur in between the colonizer and the colonized?   Is the colonized always powerless?   Be specific about the context for the (post)colonial subjects/texts you want to discuss.  If you see the immigrants as colonized, clearly define their experience of "internal colonization."   (Applicable texts: "Chinago," M. Butterfly, ¡q³½Àe¡r¡q²ï³é©Ô®R¡D¦A¨£¡rand? .) 

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

13. What is literary criticism

a. Use the following pattern to discuss 3 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?