The strange brilliance of the undergraduate mind.

I finally finished grading the final exams for my 18th-Century Novel class. This semester I taught them Oroonoko, Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, Joseph Andrews, Evelina, The Castle of Otranto, Northanger Abbey, and the Utter Cultural Importance of National Karaoke Week. The last question of the exam was this:

If any one of the characters we’ve read this semester could experience the glory of National Karaoke Week, what would he/she sing?

Some of the best answers:

“Leonora [from the embedded story ‘The Unfortunate Jilt’ in Joseph Andrews] would undoubtedly sing ‘Achey-Breaky Heart’ by Billy Ray Cyrus. And if she were too depressed to sing, I’m sure that Pamela would step in and sing ‘Like a Virgin.'”

“Joseph Andrews: ‘On the Road Again,’ ‘King of the Road.'”

“Oroonoko: ‘Buffalo Soldier’—Totally!”

“Evelina would sing ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey because she is just a small town girl.”

“Mr. B would sing ‘She Bangs’ (think the Hung boy from American Idol) to Pamela at his happiness of being able to finally have her.”

“I believe Robinson Crusoe would sing ‘All By Myself’ by Celine Dion.”

“Robinson Crusoe would sing Styx’s ‘Come Sail Away.'”

“Robinson Crusoe would sing ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns n Roses.”

“Robinson Crusoe would have sung ‘Eye of the Tiger’ while killing the cannibals.”

“Mr. B—’Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby.'”

“Evelina: ‘Who Is that Girl I See’ from Mulan.” (One of the identifications on the exam was the passage from Evelina in which she has her hair dressed in the city fashion for the first time, and she feels alienated from her own image.)

“Get ready for this. Imagine: Catherine and Henry Tilney are at their wedding reception party, which is, of course, a karaoke party. They say they have a special performance for their friends…. The orchestra starts to play the music from Grease, ‘You’re the One that I Want,’ and Catherine and Henry sing and dance and look extremely adorable. The performance is a big hit, especially with General Tilney, who decides to become a back-up singer. :)”

“Oroonoko—’Love Stinks’ by the J. Geils Band?”

“Theodore: ‘Stayin Alive’ by the Bee Gees (because this character actually lived)”

“Catherine—’Just a Girl’ by No Doubt”

“Pamela would probably sing ‘I’m Every Woman,’ but her tune would change to Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love.’ I also think Catherine would probably sing ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley.”

“I think Pamela may have sung ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by the Beatles, but only during the part that she’s locked away. Maybe after the marriage she would have sung something by the Beastie Boys, the fight for your right to party song…’cept she didn’t really get to party with all those rules…”

“Robinson Crusoe would sing ‘It’s My Prerogative’ by Bobby Brown.”

“Evelina—’I’m Coming Out'”

“I believe Robinson Crusoe would sing The Police’s ‘Sending Out an S.O.S.'”

“Evelina’s cousins, like our wonderful instructor, would sing ‘Naughty Girls [Need Love Too].'” (I believe T. T. Tucker was responsible for releasing this information to the student body.)

I particularly enjoyed how the suggestions for Pamela were pretty evenly split between a Richardsonian Pamela (Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”) and a Fieldingesque Pamela (Kanye West’s “Gold Digger,” Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps”). Could it be they actually learned something? 😉

8 thoughts on “The strange brilliance of the undergraduate mind.

  1. Haha – that’s funny! I can’t believe you are allowed to give them a question like that! 🙂 I think I would have died of shock if I’d had such a question on my 18th century lit exam when I was at uni – and then would have burst out laughing in the middle of the exam!

    • me too.

      Plus, we could be in charge of the field trip to the karaoke bar.

      Zoog — you are brilliant. If I had had a question like that at the end of an exam, I might have actually finished school 🙂

  2. You have once again edified me on cultural matters. I have thought for many many years than “I’m every woman” (and oh, god, how I loathe that song) was Whitney Houston…

  3. You need to make this a regular feature in your blog. Have your students create your blog content, via an offbeat last question on every exam.

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