Pick one question from each of the numbered sections below and answer that question in essay form. This is an open-book, open-notes exam. You should spend about half an hour on each answer, and you may turn the answers in as email (send to firstname.lastname@example.org and not to the class list!), hard copy (handwritten if legible, or typed), html via the web (mail me the URL).
Exams are due by class meeting time (2 p.m.) on Thursday after spring break, April 20th. Exams handed in after that time will be considered late; if you have already taken a late paper, then a half grade will be deducted for each day (weekends included) it is late, starting with the 21st. If you have not taken a late assignment, and you choose to take one on this assignment, you must hand the exam in by the 27th; later than that, and the same half-grade penalty will apply for each day beyond the 27th.
a. On page 214, Brock tells Frenesi "You're the medium Weed and I use to communicate..." Have a look at this passage, and then discuss the relationship of sex to power in Vineland.
b.On page 174, Takeshi explains that "In traditional karmic adjustment...sometimes it had taken centuries. Death was the driving pulse--everything had moved as slowly as the cycles of birth and death, but this proved to be too slow for enough people to begin, eventually, to provide a market niche. There arose a system of deferment, of borrowing against karmic futures. Death, in Modern Karmic Adjustment, got removed from the process." Discuss the implications of borrowing against karmic futures, with respect to the idea (discussed in class and represented in the Thanatoids) that ghosts represent the debt of the living to those not yet born or no longer living.
c. In his essay on Vineland, James Berger says that "Vineland returns to the 1960s not as to a site of original wholeness and plenitude, but, rather, as to a site of catastrophe, betrayal, and cultural trauma." Agree or disagree, using evidence from the novel to support your response.
a. On pp. 147-148, Powers says "knowledge is physical....it's not what your mother reads you. It's the weight of her arm around you;" but shortly thereafter he adds: "Knowledge is temporal. It's about time." Lentz adds that "Human knowledge is social....Knowing entails testing knowledge against others." You may have your own characterizations of knowledge to add to these. What kind of knowledge does Helen have, and what does she lack?
b. Discuss the Emily Dickinson poem printed at the beginning of this novel in relation to the novel's central concern with the nature of human intelligence.
c. What does Helen mean when she says, in her answer to the test, "this is an awful place to be dropped down halfway"?
a. Why does this book use footnotes?
b. Give a few examples to define Howie's aesthetics, and explain them.
c. Why is this book called The Mezzanine?