Assignment 2: Toward a deeper analysis

Assignment 2
  • Somewhere in the neighborhood of six pages (it’s a nice neighborhood), double spaced, single sided, formatted according to the guidelines on the syllabus.
  • First draft due Tuesday, October 11
  • Peer reviews posted online before conferences
  • Second draft due Thursday, October 20 (with a copy of the first draft with my comments)

OK – here are some prompts I’ve been thinking about, based on what we’ve talked about and the books we’ve been reading since your last papers. As always, consider these as starting points: the paper you write should grow from these questions, but ultimately should take the shape that you want it to take. Again, as always, if another approach suggests itself to you, feel free to follow it.

  • You might write a paper that compares the style of Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front with that of Joseph Heller's Catch-22. What is psychological realism good for? What is absurdist satire good for? Do they complement each other or contradict each other?

  • You might write a similar paper comparing either Remarque or Heller to Terkel -- again, on the basis of their approach to narrative. What can a book like Terkel's do that a book like Catch-22 or All Quiet cannot?
  • Try an essay in which you weigh the various arguments made by people interviewed in The Good War for dropping the atom bomb(s) in 1945. What arguments were there for dropping the bomb? What arguments were there for not dropping it? How was the bomb rationalized by people -- politicians, high-ranking officers, people in the street -- in 1945? Do their arguments still hold water today, for you? Why or why not?

  • Try an essay in which you discuss the effects of the Second World War on some group of American noncombatants – on women, on children, on those left behind. Use Terkel’s book to build a picture of the various ways the culture of America – and the lives lived by the people within that culture – changed during the war.

    (Any number of variations could come out of this prompt: you could write about the experiences of African American soldiers, or Jewish American soldiers, or Japanese American soldiers and civilians, or working women. It’s probably better to try to narrow it down a little bit. Focus deeply on one group, not on everybody.)

  • Write an essay in which you answer one question: in what ways, and on what levels, does “catch-22” function as a metaphor -- for World War II, for war itself, or for modern life?

  • Write an essay in which you consider this question: when he writes about the war, what does Joseph Heller joke about, what is he serious about, and how is the serious part related to the joke part?

That last one’s kind of elliptical, but if you think about it, it may really lead somewhere. Give it, or one of these, a shot; that should get you started. We’ll talk more in class. Onward!
Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM