Ik heb een MOOC bij Coursera gevolgd rondom Griekse en Romeinse Mythen. De docent op afstand is Peter Struck, een zeer begeesterd verteller met een subtiel gevoel voor humor. Een mooi pakket: literatuurbronnen, video-ondersteuning, quizzen bij iedere sessie, 2 schriftelijke essays met Peer-beoordeling door per essay vijf wisselende personen, live-sessies met de docent en docent assistent en een levendige forumdiscussie.
Essay 1 Please select just ONE of the following, and note clearly in your answer which question you are addressing.
1. Some scholars have claimed that book 24 is a late addition to the Odyssey by a later editor and was never intended by Homer to be part of the epic. Using only Homer’s poetry as evidence, they wonder how well (or not well) it serves as a conclusion to the story and whether book 23 could serve as a better one. Weigh in yourself on this question. Would the Odyssey make more sense as a story if it ended with book 23? Why or why not? Justify your position using specific evidence from the epic. Analyze the main themes of book 23 and book 24 and evaluate how they relate or do not relate to the main themes of the story as a whole. Then construct a case either that 23 or 24 makes a better conclusion.
2. Professor Struck has analyzed parts of the Odyssey using the theory of Functionalism. In this theory, a myth serves to legitimize social values and norms (such as the practice of xenia). Choose one episode from the Odyssey that was not given a Functionalist reading in lecture, and analyze this episode through a Functionalist lens. It is up to you to decide how long or short an episode is. What social norm does this episode legitimize? Be sure to spell out your reasoning very carefully. The best answers to this question will move from the evidence to your conclusion with careful attention to detail. Avoid generalities.
3. Professor Struck has analyzed parts of the Odyssey using the theory of Structuralism. In this theory, a myth reflects the basic binary hardwiring that structures human thought. Choose one episode from the Odyssey that was not given a Structuralist reading in lecture, and analyze this episode through a Structuralist lens. It is up to you to decide how long or short an episode is. Propose an answer to the question of what binary opposition lies underneath this part of the story and provides the best insight into what is really at stake in it. Remember the best candidates for structuralist binaries are anchored to the deepest parts of the “grammar” by which a culture organizes itself. Look for the most rudimentary parts of human experience. Binaries drawn from biological processes are particularly useful – for example, binaries that show the cultural “processing” of things like reproduction, kinship relations, metabolism, adolescence, death, etc. The best answers to this question will move from the evidence to your conclusion with careful attention to detail. Avoid generalities.
4. The Odyssey begins in the middle of a long chronological arc, and continues to play with ideas of past, present, and future throughout. However, the actual narrative limit of the epic, from the first council of the gods in book 1 through Athena’s intervention to bring an end to the violence and the end of the epic, only takes about 40 days. What does this temporal framework – with a large swath of time compressed into a finite number of days – add to the epic, or take away from it? Analyze the idea of time in the Odyssey and argue for its significance for the making of myth.
Essay 2 Please select just ONE of the following, and note clearly in your answer which question you are addressing.
- In this course, we have introduced Functionalism, Structuralism, Freudianism, and Myth and Ritual theory as tools to examine our myths. Choose one of these tools and use it to analyze one episode in the Greek tragedies or the portions of Vergil’s Aeneid or Ovid’s Metamorphoses that we have read for this class. It is up to you to decide how long or short an episode is. The best answers to this question will demonstrate a thorough understanding of the theoretical tool, and will use it to reveal something new in the episode under consideration. You may NOT repeat a specific result, using one of these theoretical tools, set out in lecture. Move from the evidence to your conclusion with careful attention to detail. Avoid generalities.
- In tragedies, the worlds of the divine and the human often come into direct contact, but in different ways in each tragedy. Choose one tragedy and analyze how it imagines the relationship between humans and the divine.
- We’ve seen numerous kinds of relationships under scrutiny in the myths we have studied: (1) relationships between humans and the divine; (2) familial relationships, e.g., fathers and sons, husbands and wives, mothers and sons, etc.; (3) relationships between individuals and communities; (4) relationships between the individual and himself/herself. For this essay, you need to decide which ONE of these 4 types of relationships is most important for the myths we have read, and explore why it is so. Of course, a wise person will see that there is at least some importance in all of them, but for this question, you must choose the most important ONE, and then explore why it is.
- From Odysseus’ halls in Ithaca, to the court of the Areopagus at Athens that tries Orestes, to the debate over the arms of Achilles in Ovid, the myths we have read have debated the concept of justice. First explore the different definitions of justice worked out in the myths, then decide which one has the most merit. Explore the definitions using detailed evidence from the texts, and argue for your choice using careful, explicit reasoning.
- Greek Tragedies, Volume 1, David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, trans. (Chicago)
- Greek Tragedies, Volume 3, David Grene and Richmond Lattimore , trans. (Chicago)
- Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days, M. L. West, trans. (Oxford)
- Homeric Hymns, Sarah Ruden, trans. (Hackett)
- Homer, The Odyssey, Robert Fagles, trans. (Penguin)
- Virgil, The Aeneid, Robert Fitzgerald, trans. (Vintage)
- Ovid, Metamorphoses, David Raeburn, trans. (Penguin)