The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Exam 1

Phew, just wrote my first minor exam in Literary Theory (the second will be on Thursday, so stay tuned). I am neurotic, but this exam worries me less than my next one on 19th century British literature.

I read a few previous exams written by the same examiner, but this one was a bit tougher. The first section was fairly straightforward, though some terms are hard to define even if I understand them. Here is my exam is abbreviated form:

PartI: Define four of the following [ I chose numbers 2, 4, 6 and 7. 5 was too broad]

1. mimesis (Plato)
2. ecriture (Derrida)
3. pleasure (Barthes)
4. author function (Foucault)
5. ideology (Marxism)
6. subaltern (Postcolonialism)
7. simulation (Baudrillard)

Part II: Answer two of the following [I've abbreviated these long questions. I answered 1 and 4. I wanted to do 2 but couldn't think of any theoretical objections. None of the three examinees, myself included, touched 5 with a ten foot pole. ]

1. Define the concept of genealogy with reference to Foucault and Nietzsche. How is it distinct from 19th century classical historicism? How does New Historicism appropriate the genealogical method? [I'm fairly confident of my answer here]

2. Edward Said's Orientalism established postcolonialism. What are the premises of this work? How has it been challenged by theorists both within and outside postcolonialism.

3. Drawing on two current literary theories, indicate how the concept of culture has been mobilized and or deconstructed [not touching this one].

4. Literary theory over the past century has witnessed an abiding competition between historical and ahistorical methods of literary interpretation. Present an argument for/against the thesis that the study of literature is essentially an historic discipline, and that ahistorical formalist methods can best be justified through their integration into a comprehensive historical theory of literature. Refer to any two theories of literature in your answer [ I argued in that ahistorical methods are just as valuable as historical ones, and that denouncing a method because it ignores history is merely espousing one ideology over another].

5. The question of the relation of literature and "power" has long been central, in various forms, to reflections on literature. The question of power, in turn, is related to, and ultimately founded in, questions of truth. What is your understanding of the truth or untruth of the literary work and consequently to power? In your answer, carefull define the concepts of truth and power.

Now I have to prepare for my oral interrogation. I may be asked merely to clarify answers or potentially answer the questions I avoided. Fortunately, this is only a minor exam, so their expectations are a little lower. These exams are, for all intents and purposes, pass/fail, so a passing grade is as good as an A.

The theory exam is always a bit of a rip off because only a small percentage of what an examinee has read for the past 1.5-3 months will be on it. Fortunately, I had a good idea of what was not going to be on the exam, but I'm awfully surprised there were no big questions on Marxism.


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