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American Literature Exam Questions Essay

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12. Discuss the characteristic features of the experimental prose in 1960-2000 on chosen examples.

Experimental literature refers to written works – often novels or magazines – that place great emphasis on innovations regarding technique and style.

Naked Lunch is a novel by William S. Burroughs, a complete American edition(1962). •The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs himself stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie William Lee. •The manner in which the novel is written the reader to see only part of the picture—as much as he wants to see.

It often happens that something mentioned in the book reappears much later producing thus a series of intratextual relationships and echoes. This idea, relating to different perspectives within a larger picture, is itself a theme which runs throughout this book. •The novel’s mix of taboo fantasies, peculiar creatures and eccentric personalities all serve to unmask mechanisms and processes of control, and have led to much controversy.

•By decentralizing the plot Burroughs produces a series of interrelated literal caricatures, satires, and parodies throughout the novel.

A Pynchon-influenced generation of writers in the 1990s, such as David Foster Wallace, who would combine some of the experimental form-play of the 60’s writers with a more emotionally-deflating irony, and a greater tendency towards accessibility and humor. Infinite Jest is a 1996 lengthy and complex work takes place in a semi-parodic future version of North America. The novel touches on the topics of tennis, substance addiction and recovery programs, depression, child abuse, family relationships, advertising and popular entertainment, film theory, and Quebec separatism. •There are frequent references to endnotes throughout the novel. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Wallace characterized their use as a method of disrupting the linearity of the text while maintaining some sense of narrative cohesion. •Acronyms are another signature device in Wallace’s work and are used frequently within the novel. •Wallace’s writing voice is a postmodern mixture of high- and low-brow linguistic traits. He juxtaposes, often within a single sentence, colloquialisms and polysyllabic, obscure, or esoteric words.

13. On the example of a chosen text by Henry James, enumerate typical features of psychological realism.

A psychological novel, also called psychological realism, is a work of prose fiction which: •places more than the usual amount of emphasis on interior characterization, and on the motives, circumstances, and internal action which springs from, and develops, external action. •The psychological novel can be called a novel of the “inner man,” so to say. In some cases, the stream of consciousness technique, as well as interior monologues, may be employed to better illustrate the inner workings of the human mind at work. Flashbacks may also be featured.

The Portrait of a Lady is a novel by Henry James (1881). This is the story of a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who “affronts her destiny” and finds it overwhelming. She inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates. It also treats in a profound way the themes of personal freedom, responsibility, betrayal, and sexuality. In this novel James had pushed the analysis of human consciousness and motivation to new levels, particularly in such passages as the famous Chapter 42, where Isabel meditates deep into the night about her marriage and the trap she seems to have fallen into. James made an in-depth account of Isabel’s deepest terrors in his preface to the New York Edition of the novel.

14. Characterize the genre of horror on the chosen example of American popular literature of 20th and 21st century.

The trait of the genre of horror is that:

•it provokes a response, emotional, psychological or physical within each individual which causes someone to react with fear. •in order for that response to be elicited there are different techniques used, such as unreal figures (phantoms, mummies, etc.), or more real situations and figures (serial killers, rapists, kidnappers). •The main ingredient within horror is that the reader can relate to it somehow and that there’s always something unexpected on its way. The whole horror genre is build up upon people’s fear of the unknown and anxieties.

‘Salem’s Lot is a 1975 horror fiction novel written by Stephen King. Ben Mears, a successful writer who grew up in the town of Jerusalem’s Lot has returned home because of his wife’s death. •Ben plans to write a book about the “Marsten House”, an abandoned mansion that gave him nightmares after a bad experience with it as a child. He unexpectedly finds out that the Marsten House is about to be inhabited by the vampire Kurt Barlow. •Over the course of the book, the town is slowly taken over by vampires, reducing it to a ghost town by day as they sleep.

•Finally, Ben and the other man succeed in destroying the master vampire Barlow, but, lucky to escape with their lives, are forced to leave the town to the crop of newly created vampires. •An epilogue has the two returning to the town a year later, intending to renew the battle. Ben, knowing that there are too many hiding places for the town’s vampires, sets some underbrush on fire in an attempt to destroy as many homes as possible thus making the vampires easier to hunt.

The Shining is a 1977 horror novel by American author Stephen King. •Jack Torrance is trying to rebuild his life accepts a job as a winter caretaker at the large, isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado where he goes with wife Wendy, and son Danny. •Danny’s clairvoyance (jasnowidztwo) makes him sensitive to supernatural forces. •The hotel has a personality in its own right, and acts as a psychic lens. Danny has premonitions of the hotel’s danger to his family and begins seeing ghosts and frightening visions from the hotel’s past, but puts up with them in the hope that they are not dangerous in the present.

•The hotel has difficulty possessing Danny, so it begins to possess Jack. Wendy discovers that they are completely isolated at the Overlook, as Jack has sabotaged the hotel’s snowmobile and smashed the CB radio in the office. She and Jack battle. Hallorann, working at a winter resort in Florida, hears Danny’s psychic call for help and rushes back to the Overlook. The hotel causes Jack to kill himself with the roque mallet. •Finally the boiler explodes, destroying the Overlook. The novel ends with Danny and Wendy summering at a resort in Maine where Hallorann, the head chef, is comforting Danny over the loss of his father.

15. Characterize the genre of sci-fi and/or cyberpunk on the chosen examples of American popular literature of 20th and 21st century.

Science fiction is a genre of fiction. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature. Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities. The settings for science fiction are often contrary to known reality, but the majority of science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief provided by potential scientific explanations to various fictional elements. These may include:

•a setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in an historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record •a setting in outer space, on other worlds, or involving aliens •stories that involve technology or scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature •stories that involve discovery or application of new scientific principles, such as time travel or new technology, such as nanotechnology, faster-than-light travel or robots, or of new and different political or social systems


Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert, published in 1965. Dune is frequently cited as the world’s best-selling science fiction novel. Set in the far future among a feudal interstellar empire where planetary fiefdoms (lenna) are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance (lojalność, hołd) to the Imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and the scion of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the “spice” melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe. The story explores the complex and multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the Empire confront each other for control of Arrakis and its “spice”.

Ender’s Game (1985) is a science fiction novel by American author Orson Scott Card. •set in Earth’s future,  •presents an endangered humankind that have barely survived two conflicts with the Formics (an insectoid alien race also known as the “Buggers”). •in preparation for an anticipated third invasion, an international fleet maintains a school to find and train future fleet commanders. The world’s most talented children, including the novel’s protagonist Ender Wiggin, are taken at a very young age to a training center known as the Battle School. There, teachers train them in the arts of war through increasingly difficult games including ones undertaken in zero gravity in the Battle Room where Ender’s tactical genius is revealed.

•Ender’s “final exam” consists of a scenario where bugger ships outnumber Ender’s fleet a thousand to one near a planetary mass. Ender orders the use of a special weapon, the Molecular Disruption Device, against the planet itself, destroying the simulated planet and all ships in orbit. Soon he finds out that all the simulations were real battles taking place with real fleets, and that he had killed all the queens on their home planet. He is not allowed to return to Earth because his special skills are too dangerous. Ender is made Governor of the first human colony on a Bugger world, and they leave together on the first colony ship.

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