Great Books I (Hoang) ~ Fall 2019 Prompt for Essay 1

Great Books I (Hoang) ~ Fall 2019 Prompt for Essay 1.

Basic requirements. This essay is approximately 900 words . It can be longer if necessary. Make sure to have your name and the due date in one of the corners of the first page. There should be a title on top. Make sure to include page numbers. It is best to submit the essay in .docx so I can type comments on the side. But it’s fine to use .pages or PDF too. Since this essay offers your own exposition and interpretation, you should not use any outside sources.

Rubric. It is located at Courses > Resources > Rubric on essays.
Sample essays.There are a couple of them in Courses > Resources > Sample essays for #1.

Topics. The goal of this essay is analysis of a character, a scene, or a passage in the Iliad up to Book 16. Choose any of the following topics:

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  1. Proem. Interpret the opening of the song and relate it to other parts of the text. What themes are there? What images does it employ and to what effects? How is it related to the subsequent contents in Book 1 and beyond? A strong analysis of the Proem will need to reference other passages.
  2. Achilles and/or Agamemnon in Book 1. In this essay, interpret their quarrel in the first 355 lines, especially lines 99-355. Begin by examining Agamemnon’s rationale for taking Briseis from Achilles. On what basis does he find his action justified? Next, discuss Achilles’ reaction and analyze his anger, and be attentive to his insults and his vow against Agamemnon. At the end of the essay, offeranyinsightsyougainfromyouranalysis. Youcanalsofocustheessayonjustonecharacter instead of both, and write an extended analysis on him.
  3. Two kinds of disappointment. Disappointment is among the most common experiences in human relationships, and Book 3 shows at least two kinds of disappointment in Paris for not living up to certainidealsandexpectations. Inthisessay,analyzeHector’sdisappointmenthisyoungerbrother as well as Helen’s disappointment in her husband. Here are some examples of the questions that you may consider for this essay. What is the source of each disappointment? How is each disappointment articulated? What is its significance to the disappointed person? How does the disappointment in Paris reflect the larger experience of the war for Hector and Helen? If you wish, you can focus on either Hector’s or Helen’s disappointment alone. This option gives you a chance to offer a longer analysis on either one.
  4. Who is Helen? Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena might be the most prominent goddesses in this epic, but Helen is the most important mortal female. Who is she, in your opinion, at least up to book 16?
  5. Who is the hero? Focus this essay on one character—Hector, Patroclus, Achilles, Diomedes, Ajax, Agamemnon—and explain and interpret his heroic qualities.
  6. A minor character. It is perfectly fine to write your essay on a character not named above. Your task is to highlight and interpret the significance of this character in relation to the larger story. Make sure that you do not only describe but also explain, analyze, and interpret one or more aspects about this character.
  7. Armor and identity of the warrior. Armors appear often in the Iliad, and this essay should give an interpretation of its symbolism and relationship to the warrior.
  8. Death and destruction. Since the size of this essay is short – and since we haven’t finished discussing the book – hold on to the question, “Is the Iliad an anti-war or a pro-war poem?” It is appropriate for the second essay, if you’d like to pursue it.
    For now, however, you can certainly analyze death and destruction by zooming in on a particular book or a long passage. How does Homer depict death? In how many different ways does he depict it? What are the effects of the description from the book or passage(s) that you choose for this analysis?
  9. Embassy to Achilles. Focus this essay on book 9. Interpret the strategy of Agamemnon’s embassy, the challenges it faced in appeasing Achilles, and Achilles’ reaction. How does this episode illustrate the difficulty in dealing with anger?

10. A different topic. It is possible to write your essay on a topic other than the ones above. But you should see me to discuss the viability of writing about it. Remember: the short size of this essay means that your topic should be manageable and narrow than too large.

Citations and quotations

Use MLA standards for citations if you are familiar with it. Alternatively, since you should not use secondary sources, you can simply cite a quotation in either of the following ways: by book and line number. For instance,

As Achilles states forcefully, Agamemnon commits “a disgrace” when taking a loot “from the rank and file” (1:148). It is a serious violation to the heroic code and the practice of distribution of war loots and prizes.

On quoting, see the sample essays. If quoting more than one line, it’s best to put them in block quotation (without quotation marks). For example,

In Achilles’ view, Agamemnon violates the heroic code and the practice of distribution of war loots and prizes. As he states forcefully,

Whatever we dragged from towns we plundered,
All’s been portioned out. But collect it, call it back
From the rank and file? That would be the disgrace. (1:146-148)

Great Books I (Hoang) ~ Fall 2019 Prompt for Essay 1

 
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