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AMERICAN LIT 11.6.12.pdf

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McGill University
English (Arts)
ENGL 227
Thomas Heise

6/11/12 The History of Love - Day 1 Background: Nicole Krauss • Novels • The History of Love - Krauss’s second novel • first: A Man Walks into a Room • stylistically similar to Don DeLillo, esp. aspects of the 1970’s • most recent: The Grey House • Awards • Orange Prize for Fiction • worldwide women’s award • National Book Award • one of USA’s three major book awards • other two: National Book Critic’s Circle Award • Pulitzer Prize • Top 20 under 40 from the New Yorker • Jewish-American writers • Krauss a part of this new generation • third generation from the holocaust • must use an almost entirely mediated lens • comes to this generation from stories/grandparents • many subjects are clearly beyond imagination • How can a younger generation of writers relate to these events? Background: Writing in the Holocaust • Theodor Adorno • “Aporetic” • “…a doubt, real or professed, about what to do or say.” “I have no wish to soften the saying that to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric; it expresses in negative form the impulse which inspires committed literature.” - Adorno • language can’t express the change of the Holocaust • Krauss, as a third gen. Holocaust writer, is moving at a constant distance away from the event to the time of her writing • idea: literature is impossible in one way but necessary in this culture • there is no writing after the Holocaust that can adequately express the truth - but in that respect, it is necessary to happen Novel Study Setting • Nicole Krauss’s New York • is not multiethnic or multilingual • almost everyone is Jewish • narrowly-focused imagination Character: Leo Gursky • “My heart is weak and unreliable…” - p.10 • comparable to Bill Gray’s typewriter passage • proves that he has a bodily reality • Leo combats extinction by being noticed in a world that wants to ignore him • contrasts Bill Gray, who hasn’t been photographed yet will probably become more famous • if Leo disappears, he is not going to be remembered • “Sometimes when I’m out…” - p. 3 • tries to describe his body type on the phone to the person requesting a nude model; they are not interested • contrasts Brita - who travels to photograph Bill Gray Topic: Leo’s Writing in the Novel • Leo speaks of how unreal the truth can be - and how real fantasy can be • fantasy is a story not unlike the truth • “And because I’d accepted that what I once believed was possible was impossible…” - p. 9 • his writing is urged on by the possibility that no one will read it • by moving through the impossible, one can write about the Holocaust • the embodiment of writing is a way of combating the distance that the Holocaust creates • idea: the impossibleness of fantasy • “There are passages of my book I know by heart. That is not an expression that I use lightly.” - p.10 • signals the resistance to figurative language - but then becomes literal (his physical heart) • speaks of the inadequate nature of language - there is a need to embody language and make it important • attempts to make memories physical in a book that is several generations removed from the Holocaust • there is a gap in the ancestry - passage seeks to make it traceable Films: Comparisons to Crash, Short Cuts, and Magnolia • common theme
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