Mid-term exam results

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Mid-term exam results


Mid-term exam - answers rewritten, i.e. typed, as requested


Section I:


Choose two of three questions (35 minutes each, 35 points each). Write a short essay that develops specific examples with an eye toward making a larger point (which your reading of the texts should support).


1) Discuss the relation among Eliot’s, Woolf’s and Yeats’ “modernisms” paying particular
    attention to the way they handle time as a theme, and drawing both similarities and
    distinctions between them.

Eliot’s “modernism” represents a kind of cultural decay, a falling apart of civilization’s heritage, a dying of handed-down values having served so long as an orientation for man. His view of the universe, of life and our ‘present’ time as such is in a way pessimistic, yet not hopeless.

Unlike Woolf he disposes of an enormous, overwhelming richness of knowledge of ancient cultures (including Greek philosophy, a vast historical and in particular mythological knowledge) on whose display he thrives and seems to win a perspective nevertheless despite his being aware of the decline, the vanishing of ‘western’ (+ eastern in as far as agnosticism, hinduism and the like thinkings are concerned) values. Eliot’s view seems to be one that wants to convey to us a deprivation of European man of his performance, his achievement, culturally speaking, by the Japanese, for instance (cf. Mrs Hagashaki + other related names I can’t exactly + properly + correctly enough memorize + therefore only quote insufficiently). The world (i.e. the modern version of it) according to Eliot has arrived at a turning point after the Great War (> The Wasteland was written in 1922, I think), a moment or rather a time at which things (the rich heritage of man in general) need restructuring so as to give man world-wide a bearing (like to a ship). And only if he has got an aim, has his life got a sense.

Woolf, it appears to me, shares with Eliot the view that modern man is lost because of a loss ( or perhaps only lack?) of orientation. There is yet more hope in Eliot. He apparently loves the world (despite its present deficiencies). Woolf, in contrast to Eliot, stresses the point of the absurdity of language, this useless kind of communication through disconnected (verbally witty) replies + questions. There is a breakdown in the awareness of man. In Woolf as well as in Eliot he/she stares into an abyss (of himself/herself or whatsoever), but whereas Eliot helps him to get over this present “waste” by digging into the past to win back orientation and to give his life a sense again, Woolf is completely shattered. She discerns only “death” as a solution to bring back to her (+ likewise to everybody else) the peace of mind she has been yearning for so long and so desperately.

Now as to Yeats, he has more in common with T.S. Eliot in that he shares with him a vast knowledge of legends, sagas, and myths of any kind (in particular Irish, i.e. Celtic tales, etc.). Yeats’s world (= vision) is one visualized in various myths. His readings are therefore far more difficult, and he uses a love-making act, in which the flesh embodies the pure instincts of man as a way/mode of creating art. You don’t find this element so much + so intensified in Eliot (neither in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock nor in his Wasteland).


The credit I got for the answer to this assignment: 34 points out of 35


Section I

3) Discuss the treatment of social convention in Eliot’s Prufrock, Lawrence’s Love on
    the Farm, and George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara. How does each work use
    stylistic choices to suggest a relation to the linguistic and ritualistic aspects of social
    behavior? What are [!] the significance of these choices?


In Prufrock there is the repeated allusion to Michelangelo, the man of art during the Age of the Renaissance. Michelangelo used to be a sculpture-forming artist that re-dug into the past to re-orientate himself so as to point forward + thus inadmittedly introducing to or rather leading over to a new era > the Middle Ages come to an end.

Yet Lawrence as well as Eliot break with social convention (i.e. in the creating of art) in that they each cast aside old, traditional conventions of the form: They do not use any definite or specifically recognized rhyme or stress patterns or larger, wider poetic shapes like those of a sonnet, villanella, elegy, ballad. So you might look at their poems as complaints = elegies in what they express, in what their message is to us, but they don’t use any conventional lyrical or poetic forms (to get their ultimate message across to us).

Lawrence’s Love on the Farm is purely and exclusively restricted to a one-man experience, which serves as a prototype/archetype of an experience we might all share if we only looked for it (because art is something that does not “happen’ instantaneously, you must search for it with your senses, in particular your feelings). Whereas, naturally, Eliot’s and Lawrence’s poems are full of imagery we have to decipher, to uncover, to lay bare so as to probe into them and see what is underneath them, (the novel Major Barbara) Woolf[1] uses not even cryptic descriptions in her incoherent interior monologues functioning very often as dialogues through which we get certain information imparted to us. But it is more the unconventional “stream of consciousness” technique resembling this broken down communication (between men) that can be regarded new + beyond “convention”.

What she has in common – ritualistically perhaps – with Lawrence and Eliot is this loose sequence, this added up compilation of ideas, reminiscences. So what happens in Woolf is not exterior, external “action”, the plot – if there is any that can justifiably be called as such – is strung to the mind of the single characters that cannot be called (in a conventional way) “protagonists” or “antagonists”.

So all three of them do not stick to any ritualistic pattern in the sense of conventionality.


Credit: 31 points out of 35


Forgive me if – contrary to my original intention – I decide to let you know the answers I ‘jotted down’ to the four questions from part/section II of this three-divided exam. After re-reading the responses I took down then (about 13 years back from now) I find they are just superb and as such worth publishing. I’m sure you will agree with me upon reading and hopefully enjoying them, too.


Section II


Short Answers (choose 4 of 5, 5 points each; 15 minutes):

Name the work in which the following characters are found and briefly (1 or 2 sentences!) describe their significance to the themes of the work.


2. Ladies who talk of Michelangelo

This is a reference to (or rather quotation from) Prufrock. It is part of a significant refrain recurrently winding itself through this ballad or rather epos-like poem. It stands like Michelangelo for superb culture and the beginning of a new age.


3. the “rough beast” with lion body and the head of a man, and “a gaze blank and pitiless
as the sun”

… taken from one of Yeats’s poems, presumably taken from “The Second Coming”. The Sphinx represents the Anti-Christ, the Apocalypse re-interpreted in another sense. The beast’s “pitiless” “gaze” points forward to the apocalyptic event of “Christ’s second coming”, only that here it is a serpent taking up the form of a sphinx-like devil. Another kind of doom dawns upon us through / in this poem.

The quotation is certainly not taken from “Sailing to Byzantium”, as this poem is more hopeful because the author / narrator (Yeats) sails to the ancient town of Byzantium to touch up with a blend of Greek, Osman Empire-related (Islam), Roman and eastern philosophy (> gnosis), knowledge to win wisdom from + gain re-orientation and an incentive for a further creation of art.


4. Breugel’s Icarus

… is taken from W. H. Auden’s Musée des Beaux Arts. Unlike the ‘old masters’, a portrait referred to in the preceding stanza or part, Icarus did not stick to convention. He reached out for heaven (or the sky) – just to free himself, also in a figurative sense – and was punished by the Gods for his hubris.


5. The “personage” in the motor car

… refers to the shooting incident in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway right in the opening passages to her experimental novel. None of the persons that incidentally stand around when the accident happens knows whether this attempt of an assassination of a member of the royal family or the prime minister is an attack, an assault on the monarchy as such. Presumably this incident stands for the irrevocable decline and dissolution or breaking apart of the old British Empire. So the old world of conventions, customs, habits (Virginia) Mrs. Dalloway was used / accustomed to and familiar with is disappearing (all of a sudden in one shot like the “striking” of the clock of Big Ben).


For the answers to these (4) assignments I got the full credit of 20 points.


It may suffice to say that all in all I received 92.5 points out of a hundred.

[1] Here I was obviously confused, mistaking Shaw”s drama of Major Barbara for
Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway – in the heat of the action, I suppose.
Terribly sorry for this. (Please take my apologies for it.)