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Jana Evans Braziel, Assistant Professor
229B Mc Micken Hall
Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of Cincinnati
ML 210069
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069
Office # (513) 556-0834
Fax # (513) 556-5960

Questions -- Jean Genet, The Thief's Journal

1. What analogy does Genet construct for the convict on p. 9? Describe the detailed, specific language used by Genet in constructing his analogy. How is the language symbol? Explore the meaning fully.

2. What is Genet's regard for the convict? How does he eroticize the criminal (10)? How and where does Genet seek love (11)? How is this romanticization of criminality evident in Genet's perspective of the penal colony (11-12)? How is the language eroticized and imbued with sexual imagery and puns? Look for specific examples. What does Genet feel about "abjection"?

3. How does Genet describe Stilitano (17-18)? What does Genet reveal about his character? Wherein lies Stilitano's power over Genet? What does this passage reveal about Genet himself? How is Genet's fascination with bodily fluids already evident this early in the journal? Be specific. What image symbolizes Genet's love for Stilitano? Analyze the symbolic significance of this image.

4. How does Genet describe Salvador (18)? What does Genet reveal about his character? Compare and/or contrast Stilitano and Salvador. Compare the initial delineation of Salvador (18) with the second description (23-24). What is significant about the "kiss" scene between the two lovers (24)? Describe the beggar's life that Genet and Salvador live. What are the marks of the beggar? What is Genet's attitude toward lice and sores (26-27)? Explain. How is this scrofulous condition eroticized? Analyze Genet's discussion of leprosy and masturbation -- how is this analogy relevant to his own impoverished state? How does the beggar manifest the human ideal for Genet (27)?

5. Analyze Genet's discussion of the tube of Vaseline. Why does the tube obtain such symbolic significance for Genet? What does the tube of Vaseline symbolize? Why is it so precious to Genet?

6. Describe Genet's reaction to the beggar woman who recalls his absent mother (20-21). What is his emotional response to this woman? How does he wish to express his emotions for his absent mother? What does he say that he would do? Why? What is significant about association of the word glaïeul and glaviaux (21)? How do these words connect Genet's absent mother with the criminals?

7. Analyze the moral code that Genet constructs on pp. 22-23. What does Genet mean in the line, "The beauty of a moral act depends on the beauty of its expression" (22)? How is beauty inextricably connected to language in this moral code? How is Genet's sense of morality a reversal of traditional mores? Give examples. What is "virtuous" for Genet? Compare Genet's treatment of betrayal on pp. 46-47. How and why is the traitor the paragon of virtue for Genet?

8. Analyze the scene where Genet, Salvador and Stilitano are all co-present (32-35, 41). How are the differences between the two latter men evident in this passage? What is Genet's regard for Salvador here? How does he treat Salvador? What does this scene reveal about Genet's character? What does it reveal about the nature of power and love? Be specific.

9. How are Genet's emotions intimately bound to his bodily sensations? How is Genet's eroticism explicitly sensual? How is the erotic directly linked with an intensification of the senses? Analyze the importance of Genet's sense of smell (p. 42). What senses are intensified on the following page when he describes Stilitano's body (43)?

10. Explore the power dynamics operating in Genet's and Stilitano's relationship (43). Who dominates in this relationship? How? How is Genet's fascination with Stilitano's penis directly related to the fact that Stilitano will not allow him to see it? Why? Explain. Compare the more explicit scene between Stilitano and Genet on pp. 51-53. By the way, "Stilitano" means "large knife" in Italian. How are both of these aspects illustrated by Stilitano's character?

11. What do we know about Genet's background (44)? What is the personal significance of the word gênet for Genet? How does he construct a personal origin for himself, illustrated in the fictionalized etymological account of his name? What family "tree" does Genet construct around this "floral" etymology? How is Genet's embrace of abject and humiliated existence even evident in this passage (45)?

12. Explicate the extended analogy that Genet constructs between the prison and the palace (87-89). What are the structural similarities between the two domains? How are the two integral parts of a "living system"(88) for Genet? How is Genet intimately connected with both of these realms (89-90)? Be specific. How does Genet seem to occupy both the position of self and other in this configuration (90)?

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