Jana Evans Braziel, Assistant Professor
229B Mc Micken Hall
Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069
Office # (513) 556-0834
Fax # (513) 556-5960
Borowski's "This Way. . .," Christa Wolf's "Exchanging Glances," and Wiesel's Night
In the autobiographical works by Wiesel and Wolf, the story centers around the events of WWII: both writers were teenagers at the time of the events that are narrated -- how does the innocence of each become polluted by the autrocities surrounding them? how are their prespectives corrupted by the political and criminal events surrounding the Third Reich and the Holocaust? How is their naiveté shattered by the tragedy of the War?
Using Wolf's title, "Exchanging Glances," analyze the theme of vision in each of the texts: how is the gaze an act of power and appropriation? how does the gaze fix the perception of the other, the one being gazed upon? how does each writer explore the dynamics of gaze -- both looking at other people and being surveyed by others?
Given the youth of the two writers (at the time of the narrative events), what emotions do the two texts arouse: anger, sympathy, frustration, sadness? Is Christa Wolf, despite her age, culpable for the crimes of the German Nazis? Is she also a victim of institutional, political crime? Explain. Use examples from the story to clarify your point and bolster your argument.
Discuss the importance of the characters Moshe the Beadle and Madame Schächter in Wiesel's Night: what role does each character serve in the novel? Do they exhibit similar characteristics in their responses to the deportation and murder of the Jewish people? How are the two characters different? How does the madness of Madame Schäcther and the silence of Moshe affect the young Wiesel? How do these two characters become emblematic for the dilemma that the Holocaust survivor feels -- specifically, the tension between speech and silence?
Discuss hysteria, madness, silence and laughter as expressions in the face of uncertainty, particulary in relation to Christa Wolf, M. Schäcther and Moshe the Beadle, but also Tadeusz and the "fat" Frenchman of the "Canada" camp.
Discuss human relations as revealed by all three authors -- Borowski, Wiesel, and Wolf. What do the writers reveal about evil? About human nature? How are familial relationships described by the three writers, particularly by Borowski and Wiesel, in the face of the Holocaust?
Both Christa Wolf and Elie Wiesel write about the experience of feeling oneself a stranger or a foreigner: how is the experience of each writer similar? how different? What creates this psychic split within each writer? how does each writer delineate this split subjectivityóin relation to body, to soul? With respect to gender? how does this ëschismí become symbolic for all experiences of alterity, whether a confrontation with the self or a foreigner, a stranger? how does the experience of the war dehumanize all human relations?
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