Discussion Questions for Book Talk

human stain
Please join us for the scheduled talk on Philip Roth’s The Human Stain to be held Wednesday, June 2, at 6:30 p.m. in the small meeting room on the 2nd floor. The talk is last in the series on the theme of life and strife in literature, sponsored by the West End Library Friends. The presenter is Ori Z. Soltes, resident scholar in theology and fine arts at Georgetown University.  Discussion questions are as follows:

1 How does our theme—life and strife—engage the matter of self as the latter intersects that of family and community?

2 What is the relationship between history and personal memory in the shaping of this story?

3 What is the relationship between fact and truth as this story plays out?

4 What is the role of knowledge in the novel—what kinds of knowledge are being juggled here, both generally and at specific moments?

5 How does the obvious theme of identity intersect the issue of research, scholarship and university life?

6 What is the relationship between the university world and the world at large with respect to socio-economic and cultural issues—and how do these issues, laid out in this novel, compare with the same issues as they were addressed by DH Lawrence in Women in Love?

7 How does Roth play among the issues of race, religion and culture in this novel and how do these issues intersect the matter of love and strife?

8 How does Roth engage with a sense of irony the specifics of Black-Jewish relations within the larger picture of diverse racial, ethnic, religious, general and other group-to-group relations—and the matter of love and strife—in American history?

9 How does the role of the author as a character in the novel compare to that role in Elie Wiesel’s
Day (aka The Accident)?

10 How does Coleman compare as a “hero” with Achilles in The Iliad or Rodrigue in The Cid? What do they all have in common and how do they differ, both in terms of who they are and in terms of the role they are intended to play for their audiences?