Dumbing down at universities?

This is an excerpt from an exam I took in my first year at Leeds University in 1974. I have to say that I think most of my own students (and probably those at other institutions) would have great difficulty coping with these questions.

FIRST YEAR ENGLISH LITERATURE, Paper II: Renaissance Drama, Leeds University 1974.
Closed book.
Time allowed: 3 hours. (Three questions, one hour per question).

3. Either: (a) The idea of time seems to be very important in Shakespeare’s last plays. Describe the presentation of this idea, and indicate the nature and effect of its operation. You may, if you wish, restrict your answer to any one play.
Or: (b) ‘Her [Nature’s] World is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.’ (SIR PHILIP SIDNEY). In what ways might this comment be applied to the works of the English Renaissance dramatists? Discuss at least two dramatists.
Or: (c) Outline the features which, in your view, are characteristic of Shakespeare’s ‘Romances’.

4. Either: (a) ‘The progress of the minds of the central figures towards deeper and deeper self-knowledge, the approach to the impenetrable mystery of fate perceived in the moments of intensest suffering and action, which are also the moments of clearest insight.’ (ELLIS-FERMOR). Illustrate and discuss this aspect of The Duchess of Malfi.
Or: (b) Examine, with reference to Hamlet or to The Revenger’s Tragedy, the ways in which imagery and symbolism are used to create, and sustain, a particular tragic mood.
Or: (c) What are the features which commonly distinguish the Tragedy from the Revenge Play?


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