Late in Waiting for the Barbarians, the Magistrate complains that “Empire has created the time of history,” yet “Empire dooms itself to live in history and plot against history” (131). Explore the many meanings of history in this novel, including the magistrate’s pet interest in unearthing ruins nearby. Additionally, consider the “history” that the Third Bureau invents about the barbarians and what they intend to do in regards to the empire. How is ability to write history, or to the story of what happened here on the frontier, especially important to this book?
Here are some things to consider: What exactly is the problem of history, as the Magistrate sees it? Do his actions and his narrative (i.e. the text you are reading: his history) counteract or merely recapitulate the Empire’s history? In what ways is he running against the enterprise of imperialism? In what ways does he support it—either knowingly, or unknowingly? And how does his changing relationship with the barbarian girl help to signify his position in relation to the Empire and the history it intends to create.
You can think of each “literary analysis” assignment as a miniature essay on the book we’ve just completed. In each, I’ll pose a complex question, which you should answer with 1,000 – 1,200 words, making an argument about what you believe to be an appropriate answer. In the reading of fiction, there are often many different interpretations that can be done, very convincingly. However, in order to make your response convincing, you will need to quote directly from the text at least 4 times. Additionally, please utilize all the concepts, discussions, and in-class writing we have explored throughout the class. These are the kinds of ideas you will need to address to successfully analyze the text.
1. The literary analysis assignment should be 1,000 – 1,200 words responding to the questions posed in the prompt you select.
2. It should be titled.
3. It should have a central argument or idea, rather than skipping from one topic to the next. The thesis should be made clear from the beginning.
4. It should use at least 4 substantial quotations from the text, in addition to whatever quotations are used to pose the assignment’s central question.
5. It should cite the passages quoted using MLA format.
6. You should explicate these quotes, telling us what you think they mean. What symbolism or themes do you see there? How do they represent what we talked about in class? And how are the quotations you chose related? Do they show the same ideas? Or do they contradict each other? If so, why do you think the author created this contradiction?
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