The Mid-Term Exam

with Examples of the Best Responses

Spring 2001


Section I (Suggested Time: 15 minutes): Choose two of the following three terms, then define and explain the significance of each (5 points each; 2 X 5 = 10 points).





Sample Responses:

Kitsch describes a representation that is of a lower level or simplified. The material is watered down and turned into a subject of black and white. It is a representation for the masses, so that anyone can relate to it. Often representations of the Holocaust can fall into the category of kitsch, which completely distorts our view of the Holocaust since it is an event that in no way can be simplified. As Lanzmann points out, in these kitsch representations, "the dark sun of the Holocaust is not confronted." Examples of movies containing kitsch-like qualities are Schindler's List and The Diary of Anne Frank. The first has a semi-happy ending, or at least a hopeful one, to please the audience. Schindler's List also has an easy to follow narrative and focuses on life rather than death. In the Diary of Anne Frank, there is a presentation of the theme "good vs. evil," which simplifies the Holocaust and makes it easier for the masses to understand. As Anne states, "I believe deep down that everyone is good at heart." The movie closes with peaceful music and seagulls flying in the background. The danger of kitsch is that it prevents us from focusing on the reality of the Holocaust, and leads to distorted views and even amnesia. (Grade: 5+)


story vs. discourse


Sample Responses:

Story involves everything that happens chronologically and is not manipulated. It is the diegesis, or the reality itself. Discourse, on the other hand, is all the manipulations of a story, often times on film. For example, background music may be added, appearance can be changed through the use of lighting and camera angle, and cutting/editing can directly manipulate the real story. Story is significant in that it makes the narration more believable, and sometimes more powerful. Discourse is significant in making a Hollywood movie more enjoyable and presentable by cutting things out, making the scenes flow and adding background music to force emotions. A quality example of story is Shoah. The real testimonies by the real people are given in "real" time. The recording is exactly as the people said it involving no script and, therefore, no manipulations. The Diary of Anne Frank is a fine example of the use of discourse. In the final scene, music is added to force more emotions on the audience. There are birds outside the window but we can only hear them once we see them. Also, although we well know that Anne is dead, her voice is dubbed while the man is reading her journal. All these aspects of discourse are added to manipulate the story. (Grade: 5+)




Sample Responses:

A simulacrum is a representation of reality that ceases to be seen as a substitute and becomes instead the reality itself to the human audience. Jean Baudrillard describes it as "the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal" (Simulacra and Simulation, 1). The iconoclasts feared the use of icons in the church; the icons threatened to take the faith, trust, hope, and reverence due to God. The production of numerous movies as well as television programs on the Holocaust threaten that the cinematic event will come to replace the true intangible trauma of what occured. The realism of Schindler's List camp footage may come to be what is mourned rather than facing the event itself. An example of current attempts to transfer our emotion to cultural representations of the events include current hits such as "Temptation Island" and "Real World." An everyday example of the simulacrum danger is expressed when a patron speaks of the sadness and tragedy of Schindler's List, with no regard to the true horror of the Holocaust event itself. (Grade: 5+).

Section II (Suggested Time: 60 minutes): Choose one of the following two questions and write a detailed response in essay form. A strong essay sets up in the first paragraph a clear argument (a thesis) that ties together the three works you will examine in such a well-structured manner that each subsequent paragraph proceeds logically from the previous one. Note that there are no "right answers" to the questions below. What I am asking is that you develop your own argument that you then prove to the best of your ability. (40 points).


A) In what ways does the Holocaust affect our ability to represent and remember the past today (i.e. in our current postmodern period)? Is the Holocaust, for example, responsible for the symptoms of our current postmodern condition and how do these symptoms manifest themselves in our cultural products? Explore this question with reference to three of the works we have examined in class (Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, Alain Resnais' Night and Fog, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, Art Spiegelman's Maus, Henryk Mikolaj Górecki's Third Symphony, and Paul Celan's "Death Fugue").


B) Andreas Huyssen makes the argument that "the impulse to memorialize events like the Holocaust may actually spring from an opposite and equal desire to forget them." Is there a way that cultural representations of the Holocaust subscribe to what we have termed in class the "amnesia of representation." Do any of the works we've examined escape this problem and, if so, how so? Discuss with reference to three of the texts we have examined in class (Claude Lanzmann's I, Alain Resnais' Night and Fog, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, Art Spiegelman's Maus, Henryk Mikolaj Górecki's Symphony No. 3, and Paul Celan's "Death Fugue").