english lecture “fugitive piecedecember 2, 2010
On the Board:
Mourning = Introjection
- This story is a memoir, of Jakob and an unusually long short story (Ben). A
memoir is not a complete autobiography.
- p.191 “trace” to trace something is to outline it on the piece of paper of a
reality, of a larger picture. “trace” is to follow or track it, to look for
sings/indicators, vestiges of what was once there and is no longer there.
- Michaels juxtaposes Jakobs writing with Michaela’s fugitive sense. Trying to
set down the past is like trying to capture these delicate fleeting qualities of
Michaela’s body. The faculty of smell is closely related to memory.
- Memory is thought of as a tracing of something into the mind. When you
memorize something you repeat it, rehearse it until it’s in your mind. Trace
refers to writing and remembering.
- Scents are memories we can follow, but they are not the actual thing. But if
we read with care and empathy we can come closer to what is being
described/experience that is being described. Crucially important that 50
years after the Holocaust that we come to some kind of
understanding/compassion of the Holocaust. We must not allow ourselves to
forget that portion of the past.
- This novel as a whole is a plea for empathy, for us to put ourselves into the
position of Jakob and Ben.
- Second memoir: Ben’s memoir. Criticism of this novel = the voices of Jakob
and Ben are similar.
- Jakob is very sensual, sensitive, someone who’s warm, emotional, generous
- Ben is much less so at the beginning. He is a very sexual, detached,
sarcastic, jealous person.
- So the two characters are sharply differentiated. You can distinguish the two
- Ben is not inclined to credit other people with sensitivity, to give people the
benefit of the doubt. But gradually as his memoir progresses he does so and
we see a character deeper in understanding/empathy/compassion. We see a
development happening with Ben here.
- We might begin like Ben in a skeptical position about this novel, but as
readers, if we use our imagination, we can come to a sense of
compassion/other people’s suffering/traumas.
- From Michaels point of view, it’s our responsibility and our duty to do that. If
we don’t exercise compassion/empathy, the horrors of the Holocaust will be
forgotten and could well happen again.
- The encouragement of empathy is one of the great things that literature
does. If more people exercised their imagination, we would have a lot fewer
problems in the world. english lecture “fugitive piecedecember 2, 2010
- p.221-222: Ben thinks back to moments in his life. You can’t bring bog
people back to life, but people can be brought back into life. He links the bog
people to his mother, linking past to present.
- These bog people are footprints, it’s up to us to imagine what they
were/what happened to them.
- Use imagination to look into the thoughts and feelings of other people. Ben
comes to empathize with his parents, their experiences, their traumatic past.
- Love allows you to participate in the experiences of another human as
directly as you possibly can. Emotionally, spiritually as well as physically.
- Loss and sadness are a part of the human condition, they should be
protected/nurtured, not pushed to one side.
- Freud articulates a period of grief and how we deal with grief. How do you
deal with grief? Two clues in the text that look towards theory of grief:
- p.208: Ben remembers accusing his wife Naomi of not being able to
get over her parents deaths. Living in mourning for them. Mourning is
a kind of pathology, a psychological problem
- p.208: Ben says he lives with his parents in a green melancholia of
fog. You can distinguish between two responses to the death of a
loved person/loss of cherished object. Sometimes this terminology is
reversed so it can be confusing. You can either if you are mourning,
you can introject the lost ob