english literature

Sample writing assignment: Kitsch in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. As always, in this assignment, I will be looking for a clear argument, strong textual evidence, and a well-formatted and written response. Please be sure to provide a Works Cited. This can be in any form you are most comfortable with (AP, MLA, Chicago, Oxford, etc.), but should make it clear what is being referred to and where that item can be found. Please note: the 250-word limit (plus or minus 10%) applies only to the text of your argument. It does not include the works cited or the heading information. Sample question: What does Kundera mean by the term “kitsch”? A. Student Writing Assignment, Module 5 Kundera defines kitsch as an aesthetic ideal that “excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in in human existence” (248). What he means by this is that some forms of art and culture refuse to accept the literal and figurative existence of shit in human life. Rather, they seek to overlook or avoid issues that might expose unpleasant aspects of being, preferring instead to offer a saccharine version of reality. Kundera gives as an example of this an American senator sitting in his car, talking to Sabina and surveying a group of children running around on the grass. The senator comments “that’s what I call happiness” (250). What makes this kitsch is that the senator is not really commenting on the state of the children’s emotions: he is contrasting the freedom he sees in America with the lack of freedom he assumes Sabina experienced in Czechoslovakia. In other words, he is making a comment that affirms how good his life and country is, but that fails to take into account the reality of the situation. Kundera suggests, instead, that children do run around and play in Communist societies. It’s the senator’s choice not to recognize this, according to Kundera, that makes his comment kitsch. For Kundera, kitsch occurs when the “dictatorship of the heart” (250) reigns supreme – in other words, when we allow our feelings to carry us away with warm fuzzy feelings and forget the reality of the situation. The senator was carried away with his words and failed to consider that many children in Czechoslovakia ran around and had just as much fun as American children. [270 words] Works Cited. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, tr. Michael Henry Heim (New York: HarperCollins, 1984; reissued in Harper Perennial Classics edition 1999).

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