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.
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?
“SERIOUSNESS,” SAID LEONARD COHEN in a TV interview, “is profoundly satisfying to the human soul.” The truth of that statement is borne out by the popularity of Dr Jordan Peterson, who has emerged as the most unlikely intellectual celebrity of our day. Just watch a couple of his videos – either his university lectures or his talks and interviews, it doesn’t matter – and you’ll see what I mean. This man is serious. He talks about serious things: life is painful and tragic; the monsters of malevolence and totalitarianism are not only found outside of ourselves but inside our own psyches; happiness is a worthless goal whereas meaning is supremely important; people should stop whingeing they’re victims and take responsibility for their own lives before trying to change the world.
FOR THOSE PEOPLE despairing of the millennial generation and their demands for safe spaces and trigger warnings, and their blue-haired, social justice snowflakery there are glimmers of hope that things are changing for the better. Behold Generation Z (zed to us in Blighty, zee to our friends across the Atlantic).
Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010 (roughly), are, according to various sources, including Jeff Brauer of Keystone College, socially liberal but more conservative in terms of security and economics than their predecessors. They are also the first generation who are true digital natives, in that they have no experience of a time when there was no internet. The upshot of this is that they are wired (as us oldies still say) and used to getting their information from the net rather than from the mainstream media.
Holding up Roman Britain as a time when the country was supposedly ethnically diverse and welcoming to foreigners is a way of rebuking those who want stricter controls on immigration as being both historically and morally wrong.
IT IS NOW more than twenty years since Sokal and Bricmont hoaxed the leftwing academic world with their fake paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Theory” (“transformative” is a touch of brilliance there). As scientists, both had grown sick of scientific concepts being misused by postmodernist academics to discredit the very basis of objectivity. They knew that the authors of these papers had no knowledge of understanding or the sciences but would nevertheless be accepted as creditable as long as they showed themselves to be bona fide leftists. This included references to the gods of the postwar pantheon of “fools, frauds and firebrands”, as Roger Scruton so aptly called them — Foucault, Derrida, etc.
Sokal and Bricmont thus concocted a paper out of the meaningless verbiage that typified such research at the time and submitted it to a journal called Social Text, who had it peer-reviewed and published as authentic. A furore followed the revelation that the academic world had fallen for such obvious fakery. Despite the laughter and scorn of many, there were still plenty of defenders of nonsense within academia willing to claim the hoax meant nothing at all. Eventually the waters of discord settled, the academic idiocy continued and the Sokal hoax was gratefully forgotten by its critics and left unmentioned to a new generation of left wing scribblers.
Freedom Week is an annual, one-week seminar which teaches students about classical liberal, free market, neoliberal and liberal perspectives on economics, politics, history and society. It is open to over-18s who are currently attending or about to start university. The week is entirely free to attend: there is no charge whatsoever for accommodation, food, tuition or materials. Freedom Week 2017 will be held from Monday the 3rd to Friday the 8th July.