Monday, November 24, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
The book should be finished tomorrow, and you should be ready for a reading check on the whole book. Consider: in the end, who wins? How do you know?
Also, consider your new project ideas for The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Powerpoint, portrait, or speech.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
1. Contrast Tereza's views on privacy to those of Sabina in Part III.
2. Remember the backdrop for this novel is a country under totalitarian communist domination. How do you think each of the novel's main characters (or choose one) illustrates an approach or
adaptation to foreign oppression of the country he or she loves? (Use details from Part III).
3. Read the final line of Chapter 6 on page 140. Using Tereza's experience as a model for thought, consider this question: Does oppressive rule relieve a person of certain ethical or moral
responsibilities? Does mandatory school relieve you of responsibility for your work?
4. Contrast IV: 25: 165-166 with Buendia's attempts to stick names to objects in 100 Years.
5. What is important (heavy, light, returning?) about the benches in the river?
6. What do you make of the scene of the shootings on Petrin Hill, presented as real though obviously only imagined, on pages 146-150? What is the meaning and purpose of this scene?
7. Structure: The novel consists of seven parts with this number of chapters in each part, respectively: 17, 29, 11, 29, 23, 29, 7. Does this series of prime numbers suggest or develop any existing theme within the novel?
1. Compare and contrast Tereza's ideas about the soul (41), Sabina's ideas about privacy (112-113), and Tomas's experience with the secret police in Czechoslovakia (Part V). What light does his experience shed light on Tereza and Sabina's desire to find or protect their individuality?
2. See the passage on page 226-228 and focus on the imagery associated with Tereza that implies a comparison with Oedipus. Has Tereza, in some way, married her own mother? Remember Tomas's letter to the editor, guilt, and "soul and body" to develop your response.
3. Tomas, impelled to be a doctor, becomes a window washer by "an unspoken vow of fidelity." Fidelity to what? Hasn't he betrayed himself? Was it his choice?
4. Read V: Chapter 9 and then 221 from "Staring impotently…" to "Let us return to Tomas." Why is Tomas such a prolific womanizer? Why do you think the author or narrator has made sex into such a prominent metaphor in the novel? Is Tomas a kind of Faust character?
5. Read the last two paragraphs of 206-207. Compare and contrast this passage with the one on Sabina's views of beauty by mistake (bottom of 101 and top of 102) and Tereza's in the last paragraph on 78 (which is informed by the narration in 11:51-52).
6. In what ways has metaphor changed Tomas's life?
7. Compare and contrast Tomas on 200 with Tereza on 41.
8. Explain how "Love is our freedom" (236) and Tomas's affairs "enslavement" (234) when heretofore he has seemed burdened by compassion for Tereza. Is Tomas's life looking like Beethoven's development of "Es muss sein!" – moving from light to serious, from joke to metaphysical truth – or like Parmenides's development from heavy to light? (195-196)
1. Define kitsch in three ways as derived from Kundera's novel. Are you a fan of kitsch, or do you aspire to something else in your life?
2. What is kitschy about Franz's burial? About Tomas's burial?
3. Franz, the western intellectual, has left his wife and daughter, found a true love in his student with big glasses, and gone on a political quest because of his image of Sabina's regard. Has Tomas, the Czech doctor, done the same thing? What are the key similarities between Franz and Tomas? What is the most important difference?
4. What is Franz's conception of the Grand March? How do you think Sabina would regard it?
5. What do rumblings in the stomach, the body, communism, marches,
hidden sewers, and kitsch have to do with each other?
6. Is "United We Stand," like "the barbarity of communism" and "our traditional values" and "President Carter" or "President Bush," an example of American kitsch? How would Kundera place this phrase in his system of unusual dichotomies?
7. One of Kundera's methods is to take opposing poles of existence, like lightness and weight, and toy with that oppositional relation. One way he toys with oppositions is to suggest alternative oppositions. We tend to think of two primary poles of good and evil, of God and the devil. Kundera reformulates this opposition into the sacred and the scatological. First, explain the effect of this reformulation on your understanding; then do it yourself: reformulate an accepted opposition into a new one. For instance, a common dichotomy is love and hate, but I might, based on a different understanding of the primacy of love, reformulate the opposition into love and apathy. Do it yourself with a commonly assumed set of opposites and consider the difference it makes in your understanding of one of the terms.