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English 302, Fall 2008

The Final


The Final is optional.  If you choose not to take the exam, you will receive a score which is the average of your midterm and term project scores. 

I will have posted this page by 6:00pm, December 11. You will have until 9pm to email me your essay.  Email your essay as texts EMBEDDED in an email, and not as attachments.  (You can embed in most email programs by blocking and copying what you have written in your word processor and then pasting that copy into the email.)

Below are 2 passages from each of the final two readings of the quarter. 

For 1 of these two paragraphs, write an essay in which you explain fully and clearly:

1. what is being argued in the passage;
2. how what is being argued fits into the argument of the article as a whole;
3. how this argument connects to an on-going critical conversation in at least one other critic we've looked at over the course of the quarter; and
4. what difference understanding this makes to you, personally, as a reader.

WORD LIMIT:  1000 words

Possible passages for the Final. 

1. Said, p. 198

One of the great pleasures for those who read and study literature is the discovery of long-standing norms in which all cultures known to me concur: such things as style and performance, the existence of good as well as lesser writers, and the exercise of preference. What has been most unacceptable during the many harangues on both sides of the so-called Western canon debate is that so many of the combatants have ears of tin, and are unable to distinguish between good writing and politically correct attitudes, as if a fifth-rate pamphlet and a great novel have more or less the same significance. Who benefits from leveling attacks on the canon? Certainly not the disadvantaged person or class whose history, if you bother to read it at all, is full of evidence that popular resistance to injustice has always derived immense benefits from literature and culture in general, and very few from invidious distinctions made between ruling-class and subservient cultures. After all, the crucial lesson of C. L. R. James’s Black Jacobins, or of E. P. Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class (with its reminder of how important Shakespeare was to nineteenth-century radical culture), is that great antiauthoritarian uprisings made their earliest advances, not by denying the humanitarian and universalist claims of the general dominant culture, but by attacking the adherents of that culture for failing to uphold their own declared standards, for failing to extend them to all, as opposed to a small fraction, of humanity.

2. Spivak, p. 340

My theoretical model is taken from Paul de Man. De Man suggests that a critical philosopher initially discovers that the basis of a truth-claim is no more than a trope. In the case of academic feminism the discovery is that to take the privileged male of the white race as a norm for universal humanity is no more than a politically interested figuration. It is a trope that passes itself off as truth, and claims that woman or the racial other is merely a kind of troping of that truth of man—in the sense that they must be understood as unlike (non identical with) it and yet with reference to it. In so far as it participates in this discovery, even the most “essentialist” feminism or race-analysis is engaged in a tropological deconstruction. De Man goes on to suggest, however, that even as it establishes the truth of this discovery, the critical philosopher’s text begins to perform the problems inherent in the very institution of epistemological production, of the production, in other words, of any “truth” at all. By this logic, varieties of feminist theory and practice must reckon with the possibility that, like any of the discursive practice, they are marked and constituted by, even as they constitute, the field of their production. If much of what I write here seems to apply as much to the general operations of imperialist disciplinary practice as to feminism, it is because I wish to point at the dangers of not acknowledging the connections between the two.