Literary Criticism

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Engl 435/635
Literary Criticism
Fall 200Prof. E.K. Sparks
                            Midterm Exam: Essay Questions

Directions: Pick one broad question to answer. Go through the Core List for the first half of the
course. Generally following a chronological order, outline an answer which fairly characterizes the
diversity as well as the similarities in viewpoints.
   It is, of course, impossible to cover everything we have dealt with in the course. You should,
however, aim to give a thorough accounting of the historical development/change in the aspect you
choose to discuss. Your final essay should include 8 -10 works we've read.
  Exams should be at least 4-6 (1000-1500 wds.) long. Quotations from Kaplan and Baldick (Oxford
Dict. Of Lit Terms) should be in MLA style and should have parenthetical page numbers. You may
use additional sources, including Bressler and websites, but will need to do a Works Cited Page for
those. I am assuming all these will be typed. Hard copy is due by 4:30 Friday, Sept 24 th (613 Strode).

1. MIM Compare and contrast our critics in terms of what they think art imitates or should
imitate. How do their definitions of reality and nature change over time? Can you see a
historical development in the critics?

2. RHET Discuss the attitude towards the reader in literary criticism, beginning with the
Greeks (Plato and Aristotle) and leading into the Romantics. What is the relative importance of
the reader as compared to the text, the author, and/or other determinants of meaning? How
does poetry work? What are its effects and how does the poet achieve them? Can you perceive
any general trends in the pattern of historical development?

3. RHET – trace the attitude towards emotions and pleasure in the appreciation and moral
function of art in our critics. Do you see a pattern of evolution; can you divide our critics into
parties in terms of who is for emotion and who against it?

4. PRAG How has the definition of the fundamental function of literature changed through
the works we have read? What do critics think literature should do? How has that task
changed historically? How do critics think literature accomplishes its ends? What does it do
to its audience? Start out with Aristotle, then jump to New Critics.

5. EXPRS Discuss the attitude towards the author in the critical works we have read. How do
various critics address the author? How much do they esteem authors? How do they think the
creative process works?

6. What is the assumed nature of man (humans) in the critics we have read? What faculties of
mind do humans posses? Which faculties are most important and why?

7. What is the idea of “organic unity”? Where does it show up in the critics we have read?
Do you see an evolution in this idea?

8. When you look at all the scattered ideas and bits of advice about writing poetry in these
various essays, which critics seem to have the most to offer in practical terms? What do we
learn about the work of art from our various critics? Do you get a sense of what they are
looking for in great art? Can you see any patterns of similarity or development?

				
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