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Tutor profile: Jonathan W.

Jonathan W.
Tutor for 18 months, publishing editor

Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

Correct the following sentence: "I don't love movies novels and TV, but I sometimes engage with it."

Jonathan W.
Answer:

There is a comma (or, arguably, two commas) missing from the first clause, and the second clause uses a singular pronoun when it should use a plural. Also, because the first clause is framed as a negative, the conjunction should be "or" instead of "and". The sentence should be: "I don't love movies, novels, or TV, but I sometimes engage with them."

Subject: Literature

TutorMe
Question:

How does the narration written by Roth, Vonnegut, and Díaz in American Pastoral, Slaughterhouse Five, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (respectively) differ from that employed by Proust in "In Search of Lost Time"? What literary movements does this contrast represent? What major events of the 20th century may have influenced this stylistic evolution?

Jonathan W.
Answer:

The narrators of AP, SF, and TBWLOW are all, like the narrator of ISLT, thinly disguised stand-ins for the authors themselves. But, while Proust undoubtedly influenced the narrative choices of the more contemporary writers in question, the central difference between Proust and them is that Proust lays claim to a certain grounded objectivity and clarity in his narration of his (protagonist's) past, while the later writers all infuse a traumatized ambiguity, a deliberately postmodernist murkiness, into the aesthetic power of their narration. Roth's Zuckerman is making up the events of AP as a desperate effort to fill in the gaps of a life he can't help but obsess over. Vonnegut himself seems to open and then interrupt the narrative of SF, but the story is an externalization of his trauma in WWII, and this is made clear by the ambiguity of the science-fictional elements. Being "unstuck in time" is Vonnegut's allegory for PTSD, whereby a shell-shocked veteran cannot help but returning, in the theater of their mind, to their traumatic experiences and fantasizing about fantastical escapes from such a predicament. Díaz's Yunior, like Zuckerman and Vonnegut, narrates the life of another person with an omniscience that would be impossible in real life, but is supplemented with science-fictional and fantasy elements, and it is left to the reader to decide whether these elements are "real", or if they're simply a fabrication by the narrator borne of a need for meaning in a seemingly indifferent universe. Proust's mission statement is: "Let me tell you what happened, what I remember, as accurately as I can, and I will make it as aesthetically pleasurable to read about as I can". His more recent disciples, however, have mission statements that read as "The past is unknowable, memory unreliable. Because of this we acknowledge our inability to faithfully reproduce reality, and will aesthetically capitalize on that inescapable ambiguity". This embodies a shift from Modernist (positivist) to Postmodernist (Interpretivist) methods of narration and form. The major World Wars of the 20th century certainly influenced this shift, as world politics came to be seen as increasingly precarious, and modern industry as a potential means for mass destruction as opposed to simply a vehicle for liberal-humanistic progress, as many during Proust's time believed it could be. Postmodernism, and the unreliable narrator as a narrative device, took hold as more in-tune with the moral ambiguities foregrounded by WWII but especially the Vietnam War, as well as 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror waged by the United States and its allies. No longer were there simply "good" guys and "bad" guys, nor was there one "objective truth," and the ambiguity (moral, verisimilitudinous, etc.) of the narration in AP, SF, and TBWLOW reflects this.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

In the following sentence, which noun is modified by the prepositional phrase? Specify both the noun and the prepositional phrase in your answer. "Mariana told her cousins a great joke about bumble bees."

Jonathan W.
Answer:

The noun "joke" is modified by the prepositional phrase "about bumble bees." This is because it is the only noun of the 3 in the sentence (preceding the prepositional phrase) that is directly elucidated further by the prepositional, or adjectival, phrase. "Joke" is supplemented with a non-required specificity that modifies what would otherwise be ambiguous (i.e., we otherwise wouldn't know exactly what the joke was about).

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