Friday, 6 May 2005

Comprehensive Exams Questions - The Actual Questions

The Actual Exam Questions

The following questions are the actual questions that my committee gave me for my examination:

Joint Graduate Programme in Communication & Culture

PhD Qualifying Examination

Candidate: Peter Ryan

Major Field: Technology and Practice

Minor Field: Media and Culture

Examiners: ****

Date of Exam: May 17, 2005

This is a 72-hour take home exam.

There should be no footnotes unless a direct quote is used. There should be a bibliography of all sources consulted only while writing the exam (not the list of sources used while preparing for the exam).

Answers are not to exceed ten (10) pages, typed, double spaced, for each answer.

Return a copy of your answers to each examiner ****

Answer one (1) question from each part.

A. Major General

1. What materials would you choose to teach in an introductory Communications course geared toward first-year graduate students? Specifically, why would you choose those materials and how would you organize them for study? Discuss in terms of areas of controversy and the strengths and weaknesses of various schools.

2. The domain of Cultural Studies is often generalized to research concerning how meaning is constituted within various texts, practices, and ideologies. What roles do consensus and dissent play in forming understanding of the definition of Culture from a Cultural Studies perspective? How do Cultural Studies theorists define Culture differently from other disciplines such as Communications, Literary Theory, Political Economy, and Sociology, which often are associated with Cultural Studies in interdisciplinary projects?

3. How does Habermas take up the work of the earlier members of the Frankfurt School in his definition of communicative action? Please define key terms where necessary and provide a structured, well-researched chronological response to this question based on various readings of Habermas’s public sphere and modernity.

B. Major Specific (Technology and Practice)

1. In many Political Economy critiques of technological shifts a recent distinction from previous communication technology epochs is that of “the network society.” How does neo-liberal Political Economy structure technological practices in the twenty-first century? Further, how does “the progress narrative” figure in neo-liberal ideology concerning technological changes in the twentieth century?

2. How would you characterize the present technological epoch given that some theorists describe the information age sometimes as 1) a continuation of modern formations, 2) postmodern in the terms of Frederic Jameson, or 3) hypermodern as an extension of modernity just at a faster pace? Please fully explain what these terms signify for differing theorists in the twentieth century.

C. Minor (Media and Culture)

1. Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is often described as an influential work in both the areas of contemporary art and technology. How does Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow provide a critique of modern reason during World War II in comparison with, and contrast to, such early works of Science Fiction as Dracula or Frankenstein from the Romantic period? The texts that you choose to explicate your interpretations of Gravity’s Rainbow are based entirely on your own selection criteria; however, you must use at least five other texts of literary theory from the latter half of the twentieth century in your answer.

2 In the area of North American Literary Studies, what positions have North American authors occupied in challenging cultural, economic, and political hegemonic powers? Do you view North American Literary Studies as a colonial creation within the academy that represents US domination on the continent within a NAFTA context? If not, what other factors do you see contributing to such a field as “North American Literary Studies”?

3 Broadly, how is technology used as a theme in Canadian and American fiction of the latter half of the twentieth century? How would you describe the linkage between fiction and technological change?

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