Contemporary Lit prompt: If we mean to contemplate the contemporary in any definitive sense, we need to compare. Suman Gupta suggests, in Contemporary Literature: The Basics, that all contemporary texts are intertextual. This word, to him, has a great deal of significance and manifests as a way of reading the contemporary. He suggests that “contemporary readers…already bring a wide awareness of literature to our readings–we generally do this as a matter of course and inevitably. The argument is also that being systematic and informed involves being aware of what we already do, and cultivating such a broad awareness self-consciously” (39-40). Gupta is here suggesting an inclusive view of the contemporary as a part of a globalized world. But, the system he means to explore involves comparison as well as intertextuality. In other words, our knowledge of Everything Is Illuminated affects our knowledge of White Teeth before we even begin reading Zadie Smith’s novel. One avenue for comparison is humor. Both authors employ it, but in very different ways. Offer, again in a one to two page response, your take on how humor is presented differently and why that might matter. The second part here, “why that might matter” can consider how we in the contemporary find things funny and what that says about us, or it could explore how humor is used to create different effects in the novel’s plot, or it could suggest something about concerns with sincerity, or something else completely.   

My Response: I enjoy the humor in both Everything Is Illuminated and White Teeth but I enjoy them in different ways. The humor in Everything Is Illuminated has more of a tendency to be a dark humor that makes me laugh out loud while in a room full of people and receive several blank stares or looks that show people think I’m crazy. I find myself laughing at things that I wouldn’t normally laugh at, things that in an everyday situation would be inappropriate to laugh at. The reason I laugh at them is they are conveyed and explained in such a way that as dark as they may be they seem funny and appropriate things to laugh at. The humor in White Teeth has a tendency to be more ironic humor, to find more of the irony in everyday situations, humor that makes me smile and laugh inside my head where no one can hear it. It causes me to find irony and humor in everyday situations that wouldn’t normally be humorous. Both of these kinds of humor in these books makes think more about situations in my life and how I can find humor in everything no matter how dark the situation may seem. They cause me to reevaluate how I view my life and the situations I find myself in and it helps me to realize I can laugh at myself and smile about things in the midst of very hard and seemingly hard and dark times in my life. The dark humor of Everything Is Illuminated helps to see the funny things and the happy things in my mistakes helps me to laugh at them and at how funny it truly was that I made those mistakes. One example being when Alex, his grandfather, and Jonathan were in the restaurant and the potato fell on the floor and they all started laughing after grandfather picked it up. This helps me to see that when I trip or drop my books I should laugh and not be embarrassed because it’s more funny then embarrassing. Meanwhile the ironic humor in White Teeth helps me to find the irony in everyday life and how it should make me smile even if I don’t think I’ll make it. One example I can think of  is the fact that forty-seven year old Archie married nineteen year old Clara six weeks after they met. It helps me to remember that when something doesn’t work out for me something better will come along that does work out but it may come in worse packaging.

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