READING RESPONSES #1-2 (The Drowned and the Saved and Life is Beautiful).
Consider the following questions (you need not answer each of them fully):
Pay attention to the role of the narrators -- Primo Levi, Guido, and Josue -- and reflect on
- How does the Holocaust become more than history, a story to be told?
- What is the mission of the narrator?
- What is the relation between telling one's story and survival?
READING RESPONSE #3 ("Diary of a Madman"):
- What is the relation between history, Confucian tradition, and cannibalism, according to the Madman?
- Is the Madman a reliable witness? Why or why not?
- Is the friend who writes the preface a reliable witness? How does the friend's preface change our understanding of the text that follows?
READING RESPONSE #4 ("Azaleas Wept Blood"):
- What are the different stages in Leng Feng's path toward madness?
- What are the possible reasons for Leng Feng's madness?
- What role does the narrator, Leng Feng's nephew, play in the story?
- What does the narrator confess to? Is it a crime?
- How does the past intrude into the present? Pay special attention to the role of specific places that remind of the past.
- Why does the narrator tell his story? What kind of storyteller is he?
READING RESPONSES #7-8 (The Reader):
- What is the significance of Hanna's request that she be read to? What other meaning does the request acquire during the trial?
- Why does Hanna choose not to testify? What is at stake for her other than "simply" that her illiteracy will be revealed?
- What is Michael's role? What choices does he make and why?
MIDTERM ESSAY Please answer one of the following questions. Make sure to structure your answer in relation to the main themes of the course (click here). NOTE: Since most reading responses have been detailed and well-written, the essay should be only 3-4 pages long; the texts chosen must include at least one novel.
- How do realistic and allegorical descriptions achieve their goal of testifying to past atrocities? How do they differ in their strategies of storytelling? Anchor your answer in two texts read in class.
- How does the distinction become blurred between judging and being judged, between witnessing from the sidelines and being complicit in the crime? Give examples from two texts read in class.
WRITING ASSIGNMENT #1 (instead of reading response #9):
- Choose a well-written paragraph (or paragraphs), a third to half a page long, from one of your previous reading responses. Rewrite it so that it reads better and makes the argument more succinctly and clearly. Print both the original and the rewritten version.
READING RESPONSES #10-11 (Grass Soup):
- Why does Zhang return to his diary and write commentaries on it? - What is the relationship between the diary and the commentaries?
- How does Zhang perceive his role as witness? What problems does he find in using language to convey his message?
READING RESPONSE #12 (In the Heat of the Sun):
- How does the film portray the Cultural Revolution? How does it address, if at all, the atrocities described in Grass Soup?
- What kind of storyteller is the narrator? How reliable is he as witness?
READING RESPONSES #14-15 (See Under: Love Parts I and II):
- What is the effect of telling the first part through Momik's 9-year-old voice?
- How does Momik try to translate the experience of "Over There" to his world? To what results?
- What is the relation between Momik and Bruno? Why does Momik want to write Bruno's story?
READING RESPONSE #16 (See Under: Love Part III):
- What is the relation between Wasserman and the story of Scheherazade? What is its importance to our understanding of Grossman's novel and of the Jewish Holocaust?


READING RESPONSE #17 (See Under: Love Part IV):
- What is the effect of telling Wasserman's life story and fictional story of Kazik through an Encyclopedia? Why does Grossman use this device?


FINAL ESSAY (no shorter than 5 pages and no longer than 7):
- Choose two passages, up to half a page each, either from two different works discussed in class, or from the single novel See Under Love. At least one work must be different from the two you chose for the midterm. Based on a close analysis of the selected passages, discuss the role of the storyteller(s) in the chosen text(s). Pay attention to some of the following questions: What does the storyteller do? How? For what purposes? What can we learn from the storyteller's position about the position of the one who bears witness? For a synopsis of themes related to storytelling, click here