Final examination. Take-away: available December 6 2006; answers due December 19 2006 at 14:00 in HC 2-11.

Choose one of the following topics, and write an essay of 3 pages (double spaced), i.e., approximately 900-950 words. Avoid using lengthy quotations from the writings you cite. A bibliography of works cited, if any, should follow on a separate page. Do not repeat writing that occurs in one of your essays or project presentations.

  1. "Intensive reading" is supposed to have been replaced by "extensive" reading in the eighteenth century. How credible do you find this claim?
  2. According to Michel De Certeau the prevailing model of reading and other media is that the public is "essentially passive." Assess the validity of this view and the value of De Certeau's challenge to it.
  3. Were people in the 18th and/or 19th centuries reading because it was fashionable or because it was intrinsically valuable?
  4. Catherine Moreland believes novels were only read by women. Was she right? Explain the cultural significance of her view.
  5. What evidence is there from readers to support or reject the concept of "literariness"?
  6. "Novels, according to the practice of the times, are the powerful engines with which the seducer attacks the female heart; and, if we judge from every day's experience, his plots are seldom fruitless" (Gentleman's Magazine 63 (April, 1793), 293-4). In the light of this comment, discuss the influence of novels in the development of reading before 1900.
  7. To what extent does sensation fiction offer a critique of contemporary society? Consider the evidence for this from its first readers or reviewers in your assessment.
  8. Reading matter has often been classified as "popular" or "high" literature. Discuss the point or points at which this distinction emerges in history and consider some of its implications for readers.
  9. What is the "reception fallacy"? Does it apply to some of the discussions of reading you have encountered on this course?
  10. What is the place of empirical study of reading in literary scholarship, and what future does it or might it have in your view?

Document created December 6th 2006