What do you absolutely have to know?

No, this isn’t one of those deep philosophic questions; I’m referring very pragmatically to the upcoming exam. We’ll go over this in detail on Monday, but here are a few things that you must know (and by “know” I mean that you should not only understand the terms, but that you can explain them and use them to make your answers stronger: it’s one thing to know what “third-person narration” is, but a much better thing to be able to talk about some of the implications of third-person versus, say, first-person narration). For definitions, see the Glossary.

Also, best to mention here that I won’t be in the office on Tuesday morning.

Here’s what you absolutely need to know:

– the difference between “story” and “discourse”

– the basic constituent elements of Narrative–the short list of elements that make a text a narrative

-the fact that a narrator is not exactly the same thing as the author, even in autobiographical narratives

– the five or so most common narrative voices. You also have some ability to talk about how a particular voice influences the meaning of a passage/text (it isn’t enough to claim that “voice influences meaning”– this is an empty statement, a truism; you must be able to explain what kind of influence, depending, of course, on the particular passage at hand). Being able to tell apart first- from third-person narration is a basic expectation, as is being able to tell apart very different types of third-person narrators (particularly objective vs omniscient).

– the most used technical terms in the glossary. The more certain technical terms and concepts came up in the lectures and blog-posts, the more likely it is that you will find them useful to know and understand for the exam. To give a quick hypothetical example, you’re far more likely to benefit from understanding what an “intertext” is (it’s a term that’s frequently arisen in class) than a “paratext” (which has never come up in lecture).

Obviously, these are not the only things you need to know, but they are the basic essentials. There are also something things you don’t necessarily have to know. I’m not saying knowing these things can’t be useful; I’m just saying it’s not necessary. You don’t need to know

– any quotations by heart. You can and in some cases must refer to specific instances in a book, story or film, but obviously you’re not expected to be able to quote it exactly. A paraphrase should suffice, or a specific word if that particular word is relevant.

– details like authors’ birth/death dates, place of birth, other works, scandals they were involved in, etc…

– anything about the many texts that I may have mentioned but that weren’t on the syllabus (“Books and Schedule”). Though I often referred to Lolita, for example, you aren’t expected to know anything about it for the exam. As a freebie, you can rest easy that there is nothing on the exam related to the David Eagleman and other time-perception articles, or one the scholarly articles we discussed last week.

– full names or exact spellings. For the passage identifications, you will have to name the author and the title of the work, but as long as these are unambiguously specific and correct, it’s okay if you give only the last name (e.g., “Hemingway” instead of “Ernest Hemingway”), though first name only is a bit more problematic. It’s also okay if you misspell the name or title  somewhat (e.g., “Ondatche” is close enough to “Ondaatje” to be unambiguous, or “Alexi” instead of “Alexie”). Do be careful with the spelling of technical terms, for some misspellings can be confusing or even misleading. For example, writing “vocalization” when you mean “focalization” is likely to be read as a mistake, because “vocalization” seems to refer to the activity of “verbalizing,” which is what the narrator (the “verbalizer”) does, not the “focalizer.”

Best of luck with your studying. Remember that you are encouraged, for Monday, to submit answers to the mock exam questions I posted last week.


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