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Literature

What follows is your first major assignment. The directions for submitting your work are below the questions. PLEASE READ EVERYTHING HERE CAREFULLY.
Pick ONLY ONE of the questions below and develop an essay response in approximately 750 words (3 to 5 double-spaced pages). Make it clear which question you are addressing. Provide a title and a well-organized introductory paragraph. An effective tactic is to re-word the assignment question in that introductory paragraph so that it becomes your thesis statement. As you then go on make a case defending the position that you have taken, be sure to use supporting evidence from the text(s) for each point that you wish to make. A summarizing conclusion should round things out.
Should Odysseus and Agamemnon have expected the kind of homecomings they got; how much responsibility did each have for what happened during his absence, and did they get the endings they deserved?

How do you think Sappho would view the women from the legends of the Trojan War — Penelope, Helen, and Clytemnestra? What might she admire about each of them and what might she dislike?

How are the lives of Telemachus and Orestes shaped by their obligations to their legendary fathers? For example, you might discuss how the boys are different and how are they similar? What are some of the dangers, responsibilities, and decisions each faces, and do the gods make things harder or easier on them?

Turn the previous question around and consider how Penelope and Clytemnestra shape the lives of Telemachus and Orestes. For example, does Penelope’s refusal to choose one of the suitors have anything to do with her son? When Clytemnestra is plotting her revenge for the death of her daughter Iphigenia, is she concerned for her son as well?

Your very first study question concerned “threats to the integrity of the family” in The Odyssey. Consider what would happen if Penelope, the Queen of Ithaca, agreed to marry one of the suitors. This would mean that she was acknowledging that her king and husband, Odysseus, was dead. So who would be the new king? Who would have a claim to the throne and how could that person or people ensure theirs would be recognized? How might this situation present a “threat to the integrity of the family?”

Compare Jocasta, Penelope, and Clytemnestra as mothers and/or wives. You can pick two or use all three.

In Sophocles’ “Oedipus The King,” the oracle of Apollo tells Oedipus what he will do. In the plays of Aeschylus’ “Oresteia,” the god tells Orestes what he must do. What’s the difference and how does it influence the actions, choices, and feelings of these characters?

If these stories were made into movies today, pick some details you think might be changed for a modern audience and explain why. You might consider things like who lives and who dies, the choices and actions of major characters, changes in romantic relationships, how things end, and so on.

As you read these poems and plays, you may have found some things that seemed very strange. For instance, when Telemachus visits Sparta he finds Menelaus and Helen back together as happy as can be even though she had earlier left her husband for another man and caused a horrible war that killed thousands of people. In “Oedipus,” when Laius receives a prophecy that his son will eventually kill him, his wife Jocasta instantly agrees the child, her child, must die. Today, these episodes might seem incompatible with our sense of justice or morality. Did you note anything else in these stories that was similarly disturbing and out of step with our contemporary views?

 

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