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Cornell University

Discovery Questions

Congratulations to the 2014 Reading Project contest winners!

2014 winning essays (pdf)

Please write a one-page response to one of the study questions below to be turned in at your small group discussion on Monday 25 August. The 10 best essays will receive a Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader.

Make sure to acknowledge any resource you use in your essay. If you use an idea, paraphrase any language, or include a direct quotation (including from Clash of Civilizations…), include information about the source in parentheses at the end of that sentence. At the end of your paper, please also include a list of all the sources you consulted. List each source using the following format:

For books:
Author-last name first. “Title.” Journal or Book Title. Place of publication: date of publication.

For web sites:
Author-last name first. “Title.” Journal/organization/web resource title. Date of posting. Date that you accessed this site. URL.

1. Pizza

Describe the use of pizza and other descriptions of food in the first chapter, “The Truth According to Parviz Mansoor Samadi.” How does Parviz’s description of food reflect his feelings about his experience as an immigrant in Rome?

2. Elevator

Describe three different activities that go on in the elevator in the Piazza Vittorio, according to the witness/characters. Why is the elevator the center of attention in this novel?

3. Foreigner

Quote two passages referring to “foreigners” from the testimony of Benedetta Esposito, Johan Van Marten, or Sandro Dandini. According to the passages you’ve quoted, what is a foreigner? In the novel as a whole, who would you say is not a foreigner?

4. Racist

—Quote two witnesses/characters who refer to racists: “I’m not a racist,” “you’re a racist,” “he’s not a racist.” What do these quotes show you about the idea of race for these characters, and in this novel?

5. Dog

Describe Elisabetta Fabiani’s attitude towards and plans for Valentino. How does the dog connect the characters with and separate them from one another? Why is the dog an important being in this novel?

6. Wolf

Find the references to the “wolf” in the testimony of Antonio Marini and the Sixth Wail that follows. Why does the wolf appear, and what feelings does the reference to the wolf create, in this section and in the novel generally?

7. Film

Quote two references to film or TV from Maria Cristina Gonzalez’s testimony, Mauro Bettarini’s testimony, or the Seventh, Eighth, or Ninth Wail. What do these passages show you about how film is relevant to the characters and action of the novel? What will Johan Van Marten’s movie Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in the Piazza Vittorio be about?

8. Truth

Quote three significant passages in the novel that focus on “the truth.” What does “the truth” mean in these passages? What does the novel tell you about “the truth”?

9. The Thousand and One Nights

Consider Stefania Massaro’s and Amedeo’s references to the story of Sheherezade in the Thousand and One Nights (106 and 131). How does Sheherezade’s story compare to Amedeo’s? What happens to Amedeo at the end of his own Thousand and One Nights story?

10. Nightmares

Consider the nightmares that Amedeo describes in his Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Final Wail entries. Why do his nightmares “take place in an elevator” (91)? How is The Clash of Civilizations like, or unlike, a nightmare?