The Citadel

The Military College of South Carolina

College of Charleston and The Citadel Joint M.A. in English Comprehensive Exam 2015-16

For this exam, you will write one 750-word essay about each of the following texts:

     • Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales (c. 1390)

     • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

     • Jane Austen, Emma (1815)

     • Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855)

     • Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977)

     • Brian Friel, Translations (1980)

You will write about each one of these texts in response to one of the three prompts below (two essays for each prompt), although you will not find out which literary text will be paired with which prompt until the day of the exam. Thus, you will have to come to the test prepared to discuss each of the texts in response to any of the three possible prompts. You may bring one page (8½ x 11; front and back) of notes that you must hand in with the exam.


I. Critical Conversation (two essays)

Identify and accurately describe a recent critical argument or tightly constructed conversation about Text X. Be sure to introduce and summarize at least 4 and no more than 6 relevant books or articles, paying special attention not only to the main points of each but also to its time period and context. Once you have sufficiently outlined the argument or conversation, clarify which contribution(s) you find the most convincing or effective, and why.

II. Application of Theoretical Approach (two essays)

Choose one of any established literary theory that continues to generate critical accounts of literary and cultural artifacts (e.g., feminism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, new historicism, queer theory, ecocriticism, etc.) Devise an argument about Text X that uses certain principles and/or strategies common to the body of theory that you have chosen.

Be sure to explain these principles / strategies (referring, if appropriate, to particular theorists or their works), state a thesis that reflects an understanding of them, and develop an interpretation of the work that integrates analysis of primary evidence from the perspective of the theory. You may not apply the same theory in both essays.

III. Pedagogical Approach (two essays)

Consider how you would teach Text X at either the college or secondary school level. Devise a unified and interesting approach to the text, discussing specifically which aspects of it you would highlight and how you would foster insight about them.

The central question here is how you might enrich the text, generating interest and enthusiasm by moving beyond straightforward textual analysis. What ancillary materials might you bring into the classroom, or assign as part of the reading? Could you bring out elements of the text by studying visual or musical contexts? Are there social, historical, political, or other contexts that could be presented that bear on the interpretation of the text? You should refer very specifically to features of the text and its contexts (using quotation and detailed analysis) as you describe the ideas that you want to convey.

Note especially that your plan should be unified; it should not offer a bunch of relatively distinct interventions but rather develop a consistent series of classes (involving discussions, presentations, lectures, exercises, etc.) designed to illuminate a particular aspect of the text.

It is very important to understand that we are not looking for a "lesson plan" but rather for an analytical essay describing a pedagogical approach. You will find it very useful to explore the volumes published in the MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature series ( These volumes includes numerous essays, each of which constructs the sort of unified pedagogical approach that this prompt encourages you to develop.

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