1-Virgil’s Aeneid and Exodus from the Hebrew Bible both tell about a somewhat reluctant, god-selected hero who leads his people out of disaster through many dangers and difficulties to the ultimate goal of a promised country (which must be fought for) and a great heritage. Compare the characters and experiences of Moses and Aeneas to see what they have in common and see if you can identify any profound ways in which they are different. This is a complex topic and you must use specific examples from both the Aeneid and Exodus to support your ideas. Use a version of Exodus from the Hebrew Bible. See links to the Hebrew Bible on the Course Materials Table on the Course Home Page. If you do this thoroughly, it can be worth double credit.
2-Gilgamesh (Ishtar and Flood), Oedipus, Job and Pentheus (Bacchae). Examine the kinds of divine justice that you find in each of these ancient stories and see if you can find common themes and/or profound differences among them. You will need to consider each story in some depth and using specific details to support your ideas. Poetentially worth double credit if very well done.
3-Samuel Butler and Robert Graves both believed that the Odyssey had been written by a woman. Robert Graves wrote a novel, Homer’s Daughter, about Nausicaa, the woman who composed the Odyssey. Get a copy of this novel, read it, and then write an essay explaining whether or not you agree that a woman could have written the Odyssey. Support your ideas with plenty of examples from both the novel and the Odyssey. Worth double credit if very well done.
|4-Double Credit. Both Gilgamesh and Genesis include a story of the Great Flood. A modern novel, Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife by Rebecca Kanner (Simon and Schuster, N.Y. 2013) explores this same Great Flood from the point of view of Noah’s unnamed wife. If you are interested, locate the book (I got my copy at the Fairfax Library) and read it. Then consider the three different flood stories and write an essay exploring some interesting and significant differences among them. This Activity is worth up to 100 points if very well done.|
|5-Double credit. The story of the creation of Adam and his expulsion from the garden of Eden has interesting parallels in the creation of Enkidu and his expulsion from the fellowship of the animals. A contemporary author, Daniel Quinn, has written an amazingly thoughtful short novel, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, which has very different interpretations of these ancient stories of human creation and the expulsion from the “garden” of innocence. Read Ishmael (A Bantam/Turner Book; 1992; paperback edition, 1995). Then write an essay comparing the three versions of human creation and expulsion from the “garden.” This Activity is worth up to 100 points if very well done.|
|6- Double credit. Anita Diamant has written a fascinating, feminist novel, The Red Tent , that retells the story of Joseph’s family from the point of view of his sister Dinah. She has an affair with a non-Hebrew living in town, who wants to marry her. The men of Joseph’s family demand that all the men of the town must be circumcised before the marriage; they agree. While the men are recovering from their circumcisions, the men of Dinah’s family go into town and murder them. This much is in the Bible, more or less. Diamant’s story goes on from there to follow Dinah into another life in Egypt, where she lives for many years and eventually meets her brother Joseph. The “red tent” itself is where the women go during their menses, for childbirth, etc. If you select this option, read the book and write a comparison/contrast of the two versions of the story of Joseph, the one in The Red Tent and the one in the Hebrew Bible . This Activity is worth up to 100 points if very well done.|
|7-Double credit. Read Shlomo DuNour’s novel Adiel (trans. Philip Simpson, The Toby Press, 2002), which is an angel’s eye view of Genesis, focusing mostly on the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s flood. DuNour’s large extended family was killed in the Holocaust, and he is using the story of the flood as an analog of the Holocaust. The narrating angel, Adiel, asks constant questions about how God both creates and destroys. Adiel finds no satisfactory answer except that God does so. Write a review of this fascinating book, considering the question of creation/destruction as presented by Adiel and compare/contrast it to either the Hebrew Bible and/or the Gilgamesh version of the flood. This Activity is worth up to 100 points if very well done.|
8- For all its extremist religious politics, Roland presents a picture of surprisingly democratic interaction between the peers and the emperor. Look closely at the way decisions are made, both at Charlemagne’s court and in the field, and describe in some detail the process of debate and consensus that guides the nobles in their actions. Can you think of any other story you have read in this course that involves such democratic processes? Or is democratic even the right word for this struggle for consensus among the aristocracy? Comment and support your ideas using specific examples from the story. If you deal in lots of comparative detail with a second story too, this can be worth double credit.
|8-Potential for double credit: There are fascinating parallels between the story of Sharazad and the story of the Biblical Esther. Both are clever, beautiful women who live in the courts of oriental despots and must use their wits to save the lives of others. Do a careful, detailed compare/contrast of these two heroines, using plenty of specific details from both stories to support your ideas. If you do this one very well, it is potentially worth double credit; be sure to mention that on your essay. Good luck.|
|9-Potential for double credit: If you are very ambitious, you might want to read or reread “Gawain and the Green Knight,” which is in your textbook or online at Sir Gawain , and compare it to “The Story of the Merchant and the Demon” in the Nights . Both are tales of keeping faith to meet with a magical fellow on New Year’s Day who intends to cut off one’s head. If you choose this one, I’ll leave you to pose your own question and figure out how to answer it in less than a book. If you do this one very well, it is potentially worth double credit; be sure to mention that on your essay. Good luck.|
|10-Potential for double credit: Read Crescent: a novel by Diana Abu-Jaber (Norton, 2003). It is a delightful double tale, partly about Iraqi exiles who work and eat at Nadia’s Cafe in West Los Angeles–their food, their loves and their longing for their homeland–and partly a magical tale in the spirit of the Arabian Nights, but ending up in Hollywood. After enjoying the book (I loved it!), explain in some detail why you think the author included the magical Arabian Nights tale along with the more realistic story of Nadia’s Cafe in West Los Angeles. What is she drawing from the Nights and how does she use it to illuminate what she calls at times the “Arab soul?” Use plenty of specific examples, both from Crescent and from the Nights to support your ideas. If you do this one very well, it is potentially worth double credit; be sure to mention that on your essay. Good luck.|
|11-Potential for double credit.According to D. L. Ashliman, “One of India’s most influential contributions to world literature, the Panchatantra … consists of five books of animal fables and magic tales (some 87 stories in all) that were compiled, in their current form, between the third and fifth centuries AD. It is believed that even then the stories were already ancient. The tales’ self-proclaimed purpose is to educate the sons of royalty.” Read a few of these stories and compare them to stories in the Nights that are told to heal a mad king. Here is a link to a selection from the Panchatantra . If you do this one very well, it is potentially worth double credit; be sure to mention that on your essay. Good luck.|
|12-Potential for double credit: Robert Irwin has written a fascinating riff on the Arabian Nights called The Arabian Nightmare . It tells of a 12th c. English scholar-wanderer who ends up in Cairo under the influence of The Father of Cats who is a corrupt teacher of dreams and sleep. There are many interwoven stories and wonders, including of course talking apes and virgins locked in enclosed gardens. If this interests you, read Irwin’s book (I don’t know if it is in print, but I got a used copy easily from Amazon Marketplace) after reading the selections from the assigned sections of the Nights . Then, compare the two sets of stories in some interesting way. If you do this one very well, it is potentially worth double credit; be sure to mention that on your essay. Good luck.|
|13- Make up an interesting question of your own that deals with some aspect of the Nights , and then answer it in fully developed detail. Please run the question by me for a quick response before you go on to write about it. I will not accept such a question unless I have approved it in advance.|
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