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

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Exam 2

Well, I just came back from writing my second minor exam, so that makes 6 hours of exam writing in two days, and I still have to defend orally tomorrow. I found out I passed my previous exam, but today's was much more vague and difficult than expected. Not sure if I can even answer some of the ones I avoided at all.

Here is, in abbreviated form, the exam I wrote today.
(For the record, I chose questions 1 from Part A and 1, 2 from Part B. These questions were incredibly general, more so than I was expecting, and although I answered in some length, I was rarely able to engage with individual texts):

Part A (choose one: refer to at least two genres and three writers)

1. In her intro to Frankenstein, Mary Shelley declares "Invention...does not consist of creating out of a void, but out of chaos." To what extent does the literary innovation of the 19th century support the claim that chaos breeds invention? Refer either to genre/form or aesthetic theory. [I used the poetics and aesthetic theories of Pater, Keats, and Wordsworth/Shelley]

2. Modernity is characterized by accelerated temporality that profoundly unhinges the present. In what way did the 19th century experience this, and what were its responses?

Part B (choose two: refer to three writers without repeating material)

1. How did the 19th century "rise" of the reader shape the period's understanding of authorship. [Discussed the the troubled relation of writer to audience and how some, such as Wordsworth, disavowed it while others, such as Byron and Dickens, indulged in it]

2. Poets wrestled with the problem of form in the century. What connection, if any, do you see between the question of form and that f the authority of poetry in the 19th century? [Discussed the Romantic fragments of Shelley/Keats, Tennyson's "In Memoriam" and EB Browning's Aurora Leigh. Amazingly, I didn't realize until I was done writing this answer that I neglected Robert Browning, but alas time was ticking].

3. The century was characterized by an understanding of large impersonal forces, which influenced social and individual formation. At the same time, middle class culture invested in models of individual agency and self help. How does this tension manifest itself in Victorian sage writing?

4. George Eliot titled one of her chapters in Middlemarch "The Dead Hand of the Past." Was the past a "dead hand" for nineteenth-century fiction?

5. Do you agree that Victorian England developed an "autoethnographic consciousness" (a consciousness shaped by the notion of oneself as the product and possessor of a distinct culture)? If so, what might be some of its implications? If not, what might its absence suggest?


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