I apologize for how late this is. I was sick before break and then wrote out most of my ideas in a journal as I was traveling—looks like I forgot to digitize them for posting until now. I’m currently stuck between two scenarios. In one, I would use Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Lazarus Project, and in the other, I would use Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Lazarus Project and The Kitchen God’s Wife.
I’ll lay out my working theses/thoughts for these two scenarios here, since they lead to ultimately different papers on related themes. The three-book paper proposal would obviously favor breadth over depth, though I expect it would still allow me to go satisfactorily in depth with the themes I’ve chosen. I have more detailed charts and graphic layouts in my notebooks, so I’ll just type out the summaries here.
- Survivor’s Guilt, Memorialization, and the Search for the Undead – In both Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Lazarus Project, we follow a protagonist on a journey. Although their ties to their subjects are different (Oskar is searching for his father, whereas Brik is searching for a historical figure with whom he identifies), both scenarios are impossible, as the subjects (and their bodies) are irretrievable. In both works, this impossibility leads the characters to search the cities that were once inhabited by the dead. The process of this search leads them to interpretive journeys, and the narratives they craft about their subjects ultimately reflect their own struggle to overcome their internal emotional burden: Oskar feels implicated his father’s death (unable to get over his grief, he finds himself tied down in a sort of dreamy, half-real state) and Brik, who left his home country rather than fight, as Rora did, faces his lack of national identity (suspended, as it were, between two states—not unlike dead/undead). I would explore all of these things by delving further into the role of photographs, artifacts, false clues, and names.
- Narratives of Survival & Death, Natives & Immigrants — Similar to the above topic, in this version would add in The Kitchen God’s Wife, and would focus more on the ways that memory and inheritance work in the three novels—through storytelling, artifacts, photographs, and cultural/religious traditions. I’m particularly interested in a sort of triangulation I could do between The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Lazarus Project (themes of crossing oceans, immigration, discovering unknown narratives, secret-keeping, mixed-race families), The Lazarus Project and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (themes of photography, memorialization, discovery, narrativization, hidden facts), and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Kitchen God’s Wife (generational divides, challenges understanding one’s parents, enshrinement, and death).
Both are great topics. It’s worth trying to write about all three, under this title: “Three Lazarus Projects.” While Hemon’s novel is obviously about the resurrection of the biblical, historical, and metaphorical Lazarus, both KAW and EL&IC are also about raising the undead: Wen Fu, Gan, Danru and Yiku, even Jimmy in the former, and Oskar’s father in the latter. Your paper would be less about immigration than about memory and the narratives generated by memorialization — a capacious phenomenon giving you plenty to explore.