When I was packing to move house earlier this year I found a box of papers in the top cupboard in my bedroom. Sitting on the top was an exam paper for Option 1, Arts for the CNAA Certificate in June 1978. I’d had three hours to answer four questions, and I’d put crosses against the ones I attempted.
These were the questions I apparently answered:
1. (Marlowe) “His own worst enemy”: does this homely phrase account for Faustus’ damnation or is it at all possible to see him as a victim of circumstances?
2. (Shakespeare): Trace the degradation in Macbeth’s character from the murder of Duncan to his own death.
3. (Milton): To what extent can “Samson Agonistes" be seen as an attempt to reconcile Biblical themes of purification through suffering with the Classical dramatic form?
4. (Dickens): Mr Jaggers announced that PIP, in consequence of his great expectations, was “to be brought up as a gentleman.” What do you think Dickens meant us to understand by “gentleman”, and which of Pip’s male acquaintances, then and thereafter, could help him to acquire real gentility?
I have no idea what I put in my answers, but I did pass. I don’t think for a minute that I could do it today.