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Final Exam Review

Page history last edited by Eric Leonidas 5 years, 9 months ago

English 398: Theory Review


For the final exam, please make sure you know the HIL definition (unless otherwise noted) for the terms listed for each section.  In addition, be sure you can identify a theory not only by the concepts employed but also by the kinds of questions a critic would ask.  Finally, asked to “apply” a theory, make sure you know what type of question to ask of a literary text.


New Criticism



  • ·       Paradox
  • ·       Ambiguity
  • ·       Tension
  • ·       Irony
  • ·       Unity
  • ·       Affective fallacy
  • ·       Intentional fallacy


  • ·       What tensions, ambiguities, or paradoxes exist in the text (at the level of word, image/symbol, structure, etc.)?
  • ·       What repeating words, images, motifs or patterns are there?  How does the repetition of these create tension and/or unity?
  • ·       What is the central paradox or irony?  If so, how does the text “reconcile,” such that the two elements or understandings are held in harmony or “productive tension”?





  • ·       Binary Oppositions
  • ·       Langue
  • ·       Parole
  • ·       Semiology/semiotics
  • ·       Sign, signifier, signified
  • ·       Discourse


  • ·       What larger structure (genre, theme, treatment, structure, etc.) is this text an example of?  How is it similar and different from others it can be compared to?
  • ·       Where can the narrative be broken into smaller segments or “mythemes”?





  • ·       Double Reading
  • ·       Undecidabiliy
  • ·       logocentrism
  • ·       Différence


  • ·       What specific signs (words, phrases, images, grammar) is the text’s meaning dependent on?
  • ·       Where are those signs unreliable?
  • ·       What outside the text (an author, an institution, a cultural authority, a god, etc.) “guarantees” a text’s meaning?
  • ·       What values or assumptions seem implicit in a text’s use of language?  How does linguistic ambiguity create uncertainty in such values?





  • ·       Unconcious
  • ·       Repression
  • ·       Defense
  • ·       Psychoanalysis
  • ·       Freudian id/ego/superego
  • ·       Dream work
  • ·       Phallus


  • ·       What seems repressed in a text, either by its characters or by the form of the text itself?
  • ·       What kinds of defense are deployed against repressed urges or identifications?
  • ·       Where do you see the repressed re-emerging, either in the form of displacement or sublimation or some other expression of unconscious?
  • ·       What represents authority or the need to repress in the text?  How does this authority function, and what are the effects on the “self”?





  • ·       Misogyny
  • ·       Patriarchy
  • ·       First-, second-, third-wave (or post-wave) Feminism
  • ·       Images of women
  • ·       Prescriptive criticism
  • ·       The canon
  • ·       Subjectivity, subject
  • ·       Objectivity, object
  • ·       Gaze


  • ·       What types of roles do women have in texts?
  • ·       Do women seem framed positively or negatively?
  • ·       What stereotypes, either of men or women, appear?  Are they ever challenged?
  • ·       What seem to be the norms for women established in the text (or common in the text’s historical moment)?  Do female characters conform to or resist those norms?
  • ·       Is feminine imagery used?  How, or to what end?
  • ·       How do women speak?  Do they sound like the men, or different?  How does speech relate to cultural power?



New Historicism



  • ·       Culture
  • ·       Ideology (from class discussion)
  • ·       Discourse (from class discussion)
  • ·       Subversion
  • ·       Containment


  • ·       What kinds of behavior or social norms and conventions does the text reinforce?
  • ·       Why might readers at a particular place or point in time find the text compelling?
  • ·       Who has power in the text?  How is power exerted?  What restrains subjects from resisting the effects of power?
  • ·       Where does power borrow from other modes of “discourse” (such as art, theater, economics, history, psychology, medicine, biology, etc.)?
  • ·       Whose freedom of thought or movement in constrained in the text?  Does anyone manage to “transgress” against such constraint, and are there lasting effects of resistance or is it ultimately “contained”?






  • Colony
  • Colonial discourse
  • Orientalism
  • Hybrid
  • Mimicry
  • Subaltern
  • Hegemony



  • In what terms does a text figure a “clash” of cultures: is one superior and inferior? “Advanced” and “backward”?  Civilized and savage?  Pious and impious?
  • What is privileged or valued in each culture?  What is devalued?
  • Who in a text is identified as “other,” what are the markers of that “otherness,” and how does the identification of such benefit or otherwise affect the dominant identity?
  • What is the source of the colonizing culture’s power?  How does it enforce its values?  Where, if anywhere, do you see the colonized resisting?
  • Over the course of a text, what changes in the colonizer or colonized’s self-image?


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