LITS3303 EXAM ADVICE, 2008-2009

1.    Given that the term paper examines your knowledge of Module One: Marxism, the final exam is based on Module Two: Psychoanalysis and Module Three: Phenomenology / Existentialism / Hermeneutics.  Of course, some things discussed in Module One may be relevant to what we did in Modules Two and Three, so it might be important to bear some of those in mind as well.  But your main focus should be on Modules Two and Three.

2.    There are SIX questions in all to choose from.  The exam is divided into THREE sections: Section A: General; Section B: Psychoanalysis; and Section C: Phenomenology / Existentialism / Hermeneutics.  You are required to answer TWO questions, each drawn from a different section.  Here are the instructions as they will appear on the exam:

  • Answer TWO questions, each from a different section.
  • In each answer, you should refer closely to the arguments advanced by the theorists in question.
  • Do not repeat substantially the same material in both answers.

3.    Each question asks you to compare the views of at least TWO theorists studied on one topic.

4.    Section A: General includes two questions, each on a topic of a general nature addressed in the course as a whole and which you are asked to discuss with reference to ONE Psychoanalytic and ONE Phenomenological / Existentialist / Hermeneutical theorist studied this semester.

5.    Section B: Psychoanalysis includes two questions based on the following topics and sub-topics addressed in the course of Module Two:

  • Freudian Psychoanalysis:

    • Freud's conception of the psyche;

    • Freud's views on the relationship between the literary text and i) the Author and ii) the Reader in "Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming";

    • Trilling's conception, influenced by 'ego-psychology,' of literature in "Freud and Literature";

    • Bloom's view of Literary History as something akin to an oedipal romance (consisting of rejection, disavowal, repetition) in The Anxiety of Influence;

  • Jungian Analytical Psychology:

    • Jung's conception of the psyche (how is it similar to / different from Freud's?);

    • Jung's view of literature in "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry" as a therapeutic mechanism which, by allowing us to tap into the collective unconscious, meets the unconscious needs of a given age or people (how is this view different from the Freudian view articulated by Freud, Trilling and/or Bloom?);

  • Psychoanalytic Post-colonial Theory:

    • Fanon's Black Skin White Masks: "The Psychopathology of the Negro" -- Fanon's engagement with both Freudian psychoanalysis and Jungian Analytical Psychology in an effort to conceptualise the identity of the 'Antillean';

    • Ren Mnil's conception of literary history in "The Situation of Poetry in the Caribbean";
    • Harris's quasi-Jungian view of Caribbean literature and culture in "History, Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and Guianas";

6.    Section C: Phenomenology / Existentialism / Hermeneutics includes two questions based on the following topics and sub-topics addressed in the course of Module Three :

  • Phenomenology:

    • Husserl's conception of a 'pure' or 'transcendental' phenomenology in "Phenomenology";

    • Iser on the precise process by which we make sense, bit by bit, of a text in "The Reading Process";

  • Existentialism:

    • Sartre's overview of existentialism in Existentialism and Humanism;

    • Sartre's view of literature as a dialectic of author and reader in "Why Write?";

  • Hermeneutics:

    • Gadamer on the way in which the cultural tradition we inherit necessarily shapes all our attempts to interpret the products of that tradition as well as those not of that tradition -- our 'historically effected' consciousness is caught between two 'horizons,' that of the text to be interpreted and the tradition which joins text and interpreter alike;

  • Phenomenological / Existentialist / Hermeneutical Post-colonial Theory:

    • Fanon's adaptation of key phenomenological concepts to Postcolonial ends in:

      • Black Skin White Masks:

        • Ch. 1: "The Negro and Language"

        • Ch. 5: "The Fact of Blackness"

        • Ch. 7: "The Negro and Recognition"

      • The Wretched of the Earth

        • Ch. 1: "Concerning Violence"

        • Ch. 4: "On National Culture"

    • Lamming on the relation of the negro writer to the socio-historical context in and for which he writes in "The Negro Writer and his World."

7.    I would advise you to choose TWO of the sections described above and revise all the topics listed therein by

  • familiarising yourself with the school of thought studied in this module by

    • consulting the relevant PhilWeb page devoted to that school; and

    • studying some of the secondary sources listed there;

  • carefully, in the case of each theorist,

    • studying the primary sources in question in conjunction with my own summaries / notes;

    • trying to recall the argument advanced in each essay;

    • consulting relevant secondary sources for the light that these may shed on the views of the theorist in question (for suggested readings, consult the relevant PhilWeb pages); and

    • comparing and contrasting the point of view of particular theorists.

Remember that the goal is not merely to paraphrase the argument of a particular theorist but to marshall that information in order to answer the particular question asked. 

8.   Some additional useful advice:

  • One way to get a handle on a particular theory is to consider the implications of the argument in question for your own work as a theorist and critic: how has it changed how you think about the nature of human identity, or the nature of knowledge, or the criticism of literature, etc.?  How has it also accordingly changed what you do as a literary critic? 

  • Another way to grasp a theory is to study a practical application of it.  For example, if you are trying to come to grips with Freud's model of the psyche and the applicability of psychoanalysis to literary criticism more generally, it might be useful to read Marie Bonaparte's famous psychoanalytic study of Edgar Allan Poe.

  • Last but not least, remember that the secret in doing well in any exam is to anticipate the kind of questions which may be asked.  To this end, prepare thoroughly: study the PAST EXAM PAPERS in this course and try, in the case of each topic and each theorist, to recall my emphases (and even hints), to put your finger on the main issues at stake and, thus, to figure out the kind of question which may be asked of you.


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