Wonders of Jewish Literature and Multicultural Lit

Jewish Literature

This week’s review of different writing publications falls specifically under Jewish literature. Each of the stories share a common theme: rage. Even though each of the stories have their difference this commonality is what keeps them from being set apart from one another. After the theme has been identified we will discuss further how this theme can be taught in a Secondary English Education lesson plan.

The first story by Taduesz Borowski This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen is a story that takes place in the concentration camps of the WWII era. The main character experiences quite a bit of rage at the situation he is in. This quote best explains his feelings: “You see, my friend, you see, I don’t know why, but I am furious, simply furious with these people—furious because I must be here because of them. I feel no pity. I am not sorry they’re going to the gas chamber. Damn them all! I could throw myself at them, beat them with my fists. It must be pathological, I just can’t understand . . .” This quote, in my opinion best explains his feelings because this main character is upset that he must do so much work and suffer so much just to in the end die in the gas chamber like all the rest. The rage isn’t misplaced, of course, as this was a time filled with genocide and hatred.

The next story Deathfugue by author Paul Celan is also one that follows the theme of rage. The reason this story fits that theme is because it also takes place during the WWII era in concentration camps. The author utilizes repetitious metaphors to describe both his misery and rage with his situation. “Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night, we drink you at midday morning we drink you at evening, we drink and we drink.” I know that the quote here doesn’t display the same blatant rage that Borowski’s story does, but it’s there. This particular metaphor was used often at the beginning of each of the poem stanzas. This author was working hard to tell a story of the horror that he went through by using this consistent metaphor as symbolism for the days that past until people were led to the gas chambers.

The third and next piece of poetry writing that was read is called Tourists by Yehuda Amichai. I feel that in this story Amichai really displays his disgust and rage toward the tourists who are simply taking pictures in front of the gravestones that are to commemorate the deaths of Jews during WWII. This short poem seems to me like the author feels that the tourists at the Holocaust Memorial, Rachel’s Tomb, Herzl’s Tomb, and Ammunition Hill are all insincere in their emotions. He says in the poem that the tourists are, “laughing behind heavy curtains in hotel rooms” and that they are “putting on a serious face at the Wailing Wall” as if to say that they are joy-filled and carefree when they are not at these memorials, but are otherwise sad and serious about the commemorations around them only when they are around them. These excerpts really display his rage and distaste for those that are only visiting here and don’t know the true meaning or purpose of where they are.

In final, the story The Daydreams of a Drunk Woman by Clarice Lispector is a story that doesn’t specifically take place in a concentration camp or anything of that degree however, this character does display an open distaste, rage, and disgust with the world around her and herself. In all honesty it wasn’t just this excerpt that expertly displayed a similar rage as Borowski’s story, it was what came before this excerpt as well. This female character was seemingly despising of another woman who she felt was simply only pretending to be refined and beautiful but was more in essence (per the characters opinion) a “fishwife trying to pass herself off as a duchess.” This character could be jealous, potentially, but she even confesses in the story that she detested this woman for even just walking in the room being accompanied by a man, all dolled-up and probably not even married. The rage and disdain were imminent in this story as well. You can tell the character is more than likely an alcoholic. She isn’t happy with her husband or anything else in her life, so she is taking the rage she feels for her plight by downing others around her and herself.

Now the fun part! Finding the best method for teaching this theme in a Secondary English Education classroom (I should be hearing rounds of applause right about… now). The best idea for teaching this theme of rage to high school students would be through a method called “chapter chats” which is suggested online (Naumoff, 2017). With “chapter chats” students can discuss in small groups what they read which allows them to take ownership and lead of the discussions, they (per the teacher’s approval) brought in food to connect to something that happened in the text, and even create fun games for encouraging their other peers to recall some bits and pieces of information from the chapter. I feel this would be a great thing to incorporate. Personally, I would suggest the use of this plus an entire classroom debate about the theme where the entire classroom sits in a circle alongside myself (the teacher) who is there to encourage and mediate the discussion. Provide good points for students to think about and even bring light to the interesting thoughts that my students have. This is a great method that I can see being useful! I would even take on of Naumoff’s other ideas of students giving speeches as the characters in the stories. Naumoff states that she found her students exhibited more confidence and comfort when given the opportunity to speak and act like someone else. She found it to be a favorite amongst her Secondary Education students and I can see this being a very modern and great way to incorporate pop culture references. If you have other suggestions feel free to share in the comments below!


© Donovan G. Ward

Multicultural Literature Review

Donovan Ward from CWP View All →

I am attending college online with Grand Canyon University (GCU) for an English Teaching degree for Secondary Education. The first question I was asked when I made the decision to embark on this journey to be a teacher was, "Why do you want to be a teacher?" My response: "It is not for the money." Regardless, I am looking forward to being a teacher and am on this blog as part of a college course. I have written (never published) books and poetry of all kinds and have a love for writing in general. I have never done a blog before so we will see how this goes. Let's do this!

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