Possible Preliminary Exam Questions

Today I've been poring over pages and pages of past preliminary exam questions and devising my own to send to my committee for consideration. Most of the questions are derived from the old exams, slightly tweaked to accommodate my interests. I wrote a few of them myself. Any suggestions? [Edited to add links to the reading lists: rhetorical theory and tech comm theory and research. Gender and CMC list is coming.]

Rhetorical Theory

  1. Consider Cicero's De Oratore as a response to Plato's critique in the Gorgias.
  2. What does Cicero mean by “eloquence”? Does the concept have implications for the understanding and teaching of rhetoric today?
  3. Select two canonical works by classical male theorists, e.g. Gorgias's “Encomium of Helen,” Plato's Gorgias or Phaedrus, Aristotle's Rhetoric, Cicero's De Oratore, and indicate how you would teach them from a feminist perspective. In each case, indicate why you are doing what you do.
  4. Select two canonical works by modern theorists, e.g. Burke's Rhetoric of Motives, Habermas' “What Is Universal Pragmatics?”, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's The New Rhetoric, Bakhtin's “The Problem of Speech Genres,” and indicate how you would teach them from a feminist perspective. In each case, indicate why you are doing what you do.
  5. Burke directly addresses technology as a social commentator, a philosopher, and a rhetorical theorist. Discuss his approach to technology in each of these roles and comment on its importance to rhetoric as practiced by bloggers.
  6. What theoretical concepts within the rhetorical tradition are most important to the creation of an adequate rhetorical theory of blogging practices? What, if any, traditional concepts does this new technology render obsolete? (More detailed treatment of fewer concepts is preferred to less detail and more concepts.)
  7. Assume that nothing of the Aristotelian corpus survived except the Rhetoric and that we knew nothing of Aristotle's political views. Agree or disagree with this statement: “It is difficult to imagine a theory of rhetoric less congruent with modern feminism(s) than that set forth in the Rhetoric.” Defend your view by making specific reference to Aristotle's text.

Technical Communication Theory and Research

  1. Using examples from your reading list, evaluate the status of empirical and interpretive approaches to research in technical communication. Is one approach privileged over the other? If so, why do you think this is the case?
  2. Several works on our list focus on gender as a category relevant to understanding teaching. We might take gender as an issue significant in itself, and/or as a synecdoche for issues of marginalization generally. What works from the list have been most useful to you in forming your teaching practice to address issues of marginalization (or inequity/power generally). How have they helped? If you can give examples of classroom practices you've implemented, or problems you've faced/solved, feel welcome to do so.
  3. Technical communication scholars and practitioners have given considerable thought to the kinds of literacy necessary to meet the challenges of this technological era. How do the authors on your list define literacy? Do you agree with their definitions?
  4. What are the major methodological issues facing researchers in technical communication, and how are they addressing these? What are the biggest challenges and what are your recommendations?
  5. Discuss the relationship between the study of gender and research in technical communication. What new research questions can be posed when scholars in the field take gender roles and concerns into consideration? In particular, address the resistance that a scholar might encounter in using a feminist perspective to approach technical communication and what might be gained if such a perspective is incorporated into a scholar's approach or methodology. Use an example of at least one specific research study to support your answer.

Gender and Computer-Mediated Communication

  1. It is a common assumption that studying gender online is more problematic than studying gender face-to-face because the researcher will never know if his or her participants are "really" women or "really" men. Using poststructuralist theories of gender, problematize the authentication impulse and set forth the working theory of gender you will use in your research.
  2. What is meant by a feminist rhetorical approach to computer-mediated communication? What are some of the problems/issues to be encountered by feminists undertaking the task of performing rhetorical analyses of CMC? What unique insights might a feminist rhetorical stance contribute to our understandings of technology and culture? Do you see the role of such work as solely to offer critiques—if not, what else might such work have as its goals?
  3. How have feminist scholars in computer-mediated communication adopted, modified, extended, or challenged the work done by poststructuralist feminist theorists such as Butler, Scott, and Young? Describe by selecting a few of these adaptations, modifications, extensions, and challenges. What gaps still remain in understanding how men and women communicate online?
  4. Computer-mediated communication promises to make communication democratic; those who have been silenced (primarily women and minority communities) can now make their voices heard through the use of CMC technology. Review the research that explores these issues and the results of these studies. Has that promise been realized? Does CMC enable women and other groups to speak without discrimination, to participate equally in discourse communities? Finally, identify the next stage of studies that should be done to enhance, test, or expand our understanding of these issues.
  5. Using feminist theory from your reading list, set forth a definition of feminist research design.What are the theoretical assumptions, relationships between researchers and participants, and goals of such research?


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Clancy, reading this list jus

Clancy, reading this list just makes me glad my prelim exams are in the past!



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