Mock exam questions for practice

As promised in class, here are a few questions of the kind you might encounter in Part III of the exam (Short answer). If you like, answer the question(s) and email me your answer(s) by August 10; and we will discuss it (anonymously) during our exam review on August 12.

I have no particular answer in mind for these, but some of them are obviously more narrow in focus than others. Make sure that your answer engages specifically with the passages provided; that is, make sure to use the text of the passage to back up your claims, either through quotations or through paraphrases.

Length-wise, these short answers should be about a page to a page and a half long handwritten (or, say, half- to three-quarters of a page long typed, single spaced). In your answer, aim to be as relevant to the question and, if applicable, to the passage in question, rather than try to incorporate every possible terms or concept we learned in class.

Question 1. Discuss the following passage from David Lodge’s Thinks… as an exercise in metafiction. What is Lodge saying about his own novel and its goals through his description of Helen’s novel?

“In the first year of the new millennium Helen published a novel which one reviewer described as ‘so old-fashioned in form as to be almost experimental’. It was written in the third person, past tense, which an omniscient and sometimes intrusive narrator. It was set in a not-so-new greenfields university, and entitled Crying is a Puzzler.” (David Lodge. Thinks… Toronto: Penguin, 2002. 340).


Question 2. How do the specific qualities of this narrator affect how we read the following passage?

“He could hardly have said why, but she seemed to him a girl who would never be jealous. At the risk of exciting a somewhat derisive smile on the reader’s part, I may affirm that with regard to the women who had hitherto interested him, it very often seemed to Winterbourne among the possibilities that, given certain contingencies, he should be afraid–literally afraid–of these ladies; he had a pleasant sense that he should never be afraid of Daisy Miller. It must be added that this sentiment was not altogether flattering to Daisy; it was part of his conviction, or rather of his apprehension, that she would prove a very light young person. (Henry James. Daisy Miller. New York: Dover, 1995. 47.)


Question 3. Explain how irony is used in the following passage. Take care to explain both the irony itself, and the technical means by which it is produced.

“Now despite years of steady disarmament they’re all talking about nuclear war again, and more intensely than ever before. I wish I could put their minds at rest. It isn’t going to happen. Come on: imagine the preparations that would be needed. No one’s even started. No one’s ready.” (Martin Amis. Time’s Arrow: or, the Nature of the Offence. Toronto: Penguin, 1991. 90.)


Question 4. Discuss the use and function of anti-plots (plots that undermine masterplots) in either Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”, or Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Endings”, or the monster’s tale in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.


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