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The third essay (min. 1500 words) needs to be concerned with the books from the period following WWII (i.e., the cold War), Choose either The Joke or Austerlitz for your topic, following one of the prompts below (Austerlitz to be supplied later):

The Joke:

  • Irony is used to describe at least three categories of discourse: dramatic irony, in which a character on stage says something without understanding its full significance (not applicable in this case); situational irony, in which events play out very differently from what was intended; or verbal irony, in which a character says something opposite to her / his real meaning. Find one incident or one pattern of incidents from The Joke which is an example of situational irony, and discuss its importance to the novel and to the author's apparent world view.
  • Kitsch is the term used to describe art which is bad in specific ways (sentimental, manipulative, over the top). The Jokeprovides multiple examples of kitsch used for political purposes (Julius Fucik's heroism, Helena's radio reporting, the co-optation of folk art). Choose one of these, and drawing upon for relevant information outside the novel, discuss how those in power make use of kitsch.


  • Several topics discussed by Austerlitz pertain to the emergence of memory. Choose one of these and describe how it pertains to the wider concerns of the novel generally and, if relevant, to Austerlitz personally.
  • Sebald makes unusual use of photographs in the novel. Classify these, exploring their relation to the nearby prose account. What effect does Sebald's use of photographs have?

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Engl 205 20th-c. Central European Literature G. Thompson In evaluating papers for Engl 205, I will be generally guided by the rubric used for assessing papers by the English department’s general education committee. The rubric speaks to four areas of concern • Interpretation • Organization and paragraphs • Style and sentences • Conventions Interpretation: the paper needs to have a clear purpose, presented in a wellstated main claim. Take some time with the main claim or thesis—usually but not always at the end of the introduction. The paragraphs of the paper need to connect logically to the main claim—you should be able to pull out your main claim, topic sentences from the body, onto a separate page and they would present an outline of the paper. The purpose of an interpretive paper is to speak to the book’s meaning. If you find yourself summarizing what happens or describing a character, make sure that you tie it back to your main point or supporting points. If you just retell the story, that’s not what the assignment asks for. Don’t be too ambitious, and don’t make too large a claim for what you have to say. Organization and paragraphs: a paper of 1500-2000 words will probably divide into 5-8 paragraphs, each of which has its own function. The introduction should lead up to the main point by giving some sense of what the subject is and why it matters. You may assume a reader who knows the book you are writing about, but do not make reference to what has gone on in class—you should write the paper as though addressing an audience that has not been part of Engl 205. Paragraphs in the body of the paper should relate to your main point, perhaps by dividing into categories, perhaps through chronology, perhaps by illustration . . . but there should be a clear purpose to each of them as to how it relates to the whole. Paragraphs should hold together—one paragraph, one idea. Use transitions to connect your thoughts throughout the paper. Style and sentences. Try for a middle tone, neither too formal nor too informal. First person is OK, but keep the focus on the topic, not on yourself. Do not address the audience directly. Be sure to illustrate your observations by quoting from the book. Always follow the quotation by some explanation for why you quoted it. Humanities papers generally follow MLA guidelines. As these have been updated recently, you should check conventions carefully. One place to do so is the Purdue OWL. Conventions. Some of these are mentioned above: • The paper is a free-standing document. Don’t mention discussions in class. • Address the paper to someone who knows the book. No need to summarize just to tell what happened—if you do summarize something from the book, connect it to your main claim. • Quotation—long quotes (five lines of text) should be in block format— indent one tab, and do not add quotation marks. Shorter quotes (< 5 lines) should be placed inside of quotation marks and integrated into your paragraphs. • Italics, quotes. Titles of novels should be in italics—The Radetzky March. Titles of stories go in quotes—“The People Who Walked On.” • Give your paper a title which calls attention to your topic in an interesting way. Title should go centered on the first page. • Identify yourself—title, name, date, class for which the paper is written. • Read over your draft, cold, to catch obvious errors. Watch out for misspelling the author’s or main characters’ names. Pay attention to homonyms (its / it’s, there / their / they’re). In general, make your paper look like you took some trouble to write it well and to edit it. • I expect that, for an A paper, you will be looking for some worthwhile academic sources—don’t rely exclusively on popular sources, as doing so is a bit lazy. • Look for specific incidents or passages which you can discuss in detail that will make your overall point. If you stay too general things sound too vague, and you don’t have illustrations enough to be convincing. • Pet peeve: misused apostrophes. Apostrophes are used in English for two purposes, missing words in contractions and possession of nouns. They do not belong in plurals, and they do not belong in possessive pronouns. Also, distinguish plural possessives from singular possessives: the Nazis’ plans, not the Nazi’s plans (unless you are speaking about only one Nazi).
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The Joke is one book that can be said to have a philosophy of accidents, of inadvertence
and the perversity that life can offer to individuals. It is a view that informs most of the
perspective that pervades in the novel, but one aspect that needs to be argued is that life is a bag
of contradictions. However, it is the contradiction of life that can make an individual deviate
from the objectivity of life to the trivialities that end up in a catastrophic manner. What needs to
be noted is that there is the use of irony, and this irony mainly arises from the different
perceptions that are held by the characters in the novel. The implication being that the life is seen
and defined not from the issues that one would hold as vital or integral but from the aspects of
divergence, of the difference of opinions, and these, they can determine the type of life that one
leads, and even the type of life that a nation takes.

Jahn Ludvik is a sarcastic man whose life seems to be defined by jokes. He is a man who
ends up living jokingly, and this is because of the situational irony that arises from his use of
jokes. Ludvik has a girlfriend who is named Marketa, and the two were immersed in the ideals of
the Socialist Party. In the description that Ludvik offers on Marketa, he says ‘And because my
body had dissolved in space and all I could feel was the touch of her fingers on my face, I
imagined that the gentle hands holding (turning, stroking) my head did so as if it were unattached
to my body, as...

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