Rhetoric & Composition: Sample Exam Lists & Questions

Sample Exam List One                ►Sample Exam List Two

Please note that these questions were tailored to students’ reading lists. While the specifics will differ from one student’s exam to another, these questions represent the kind of thinking and writing expected in the qualifying exams.

►Kenneth Burke, especially in A Rhetoric of Motives, examines ways in which language and other media function to promote identification with particular individuals, groups, or positions.  He writes:  “A is not identical with his colleague B.  But insofar as their interests are joined, A is identified with B.  Or he may identify himself with B even when their interests are not joined, if he assumes that they are, or is persuaded to believe so.”  Applying Burke’s concept of identification to four or five contemporary works in composition studies on your list, what do you take to be the predominant idea or argument that the authors wish their readers to identify with?

►Offer an account of composition’s mission (or competing missions) by using readings from your Performativity list. In other words, how might performativity offer a framework of analysis for studying the field of composition, its preoccupations and major areas of interest and investment? What do we learn, for instance, when we read Berthoff, Elbow, or Bartholomae’s work (among other possible foci) through the lens of performativity? What, if any, new insights can we gain from this pairing?

►Write an abbreviated genealogy of “emotion” (and, where appropriate, its cognate terms) by drawing on the work of writers from your Rhetoric and Textuality list. Understanding “genealogy” to signify a line of development, sketch out the complementary and competing conceptions of emotion that appear in your readings. End by offering a working theory of emotion, which may include ideas you synthesize from the readings, that helps to explain the complex relationship between teaching, writing, and feeling.

►Apply Porter et al.’s concept of institutional critique to discussions in any five readings on your archives / genre list. How might a concept of institutions relate to archives, and how might institutional critique inform rhetorical conversations on the design, creation, and management of digital archives? Where might this conceptual relationship break down? What are some possible theoretical limitations?

►In your rationale you write that for Scholes “bad” reading or misreading occurs when (as you put it) “a reader is unwilling or unable to separate herself from herself” and thus fails to imagine herself in the place of another and to understand views that differ from her own. That is one conception of misreading (that is, of failure). Discuss and assess how four or five theorists on your list (at least three of them from the narrative theory and reader response area; Scholes may be one of them) conceptualize misreading or misinterpretation in relation to textual interpretation and/or what Anderson calls “self-interpretation” (11). How might these varying conceptualizations inform your effort to develop “a clearer understanding of how students interact with the texts they read and write, and what such interactions might reveal about a student’s self-concept”?