Anthology of World Literature
The first thing to do, even before you start reading, is to think about what kinds of topics interest you. Many of you are planning to go into law, medicine, politics, teaching, hospitality, science, psychology, etc. These are the areas then that you should find especially interesting or at least relevant to your own life, and each of these areas will be covered in some way in many of the texts we will be reading. Let me give some examples.
Say you are a hospitality major. The way we treat guests is a crucial aspect of our culture—this could be guests to our own home, guests to our regional area, guests from other countries, and so on. How do we receive these visitors, or how do you think we should receive them? Once you think you have your own ideas on the subject, read the texts assigned for the week. In Gilgamesh, how does the king receive Enkidu? In the Odyssey hospitality is one of the most crucial aspects of the entire poem. How is Odysseus received by the various people he meets while he is trying to get home, how is he received in his own home, and how then does he treat the suitors who had taken over his home. Similar questions could be asked about any of these texts. In your paper you could examine a single one of these texts to see what the ideal of hospitality is and what that says about the culture as a whole. What happens when this ideal is not followed? Are the gods angered? Do bad things happen? Is the text trying to enforce a particular view of hospitality upon its readers or simply reflecting the standard norms of its culture?
We can substitute any other topic in the discussion above. Perhaps you are interested in how society as a whole is governed. Is there a king, and if so, what gives the king the right to have power over his society? What happens if the king is bad? How is succession treated and who gets to decide who is the next king? Or is society governed by a group of people? Who put them in power? What rights do the lowest members of society have? Should they have any? How are slaves treated? Are there any reasons why slavery is bad or are slaves and integral and important part of society? What about women? Do they have any rights? Do they have any power and if so, over what aspects of society? Can a woman be a queen on her own, i.e., without a king? Any essay can ask any one of these questions of a particular text, or perhaps compare the answers to one of these questions as given in two texts.
You might be interested in what it takes to be a good person. You will read many texts this summer about various “heroes.” What makes a hero in today’s society? We often give the label hero quite unthinkingly to large groups of our society, police, soldiers, and so on, but how do we make this determination? Is it based on morality? Courage? Physical Strength? Intelligence? Adherence to certain religious duties? Is being a hero the same as being a good person? Can a woman be a hero, and if so, are the qualifications different?
The Norton Anthology of World Literature, package I, vols. A, B, and C, Beginnings to 1650. 3rd, edition, 2012
Euripides, Medea (Vol. A beginning on p. 783)
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Ovid, from Metamorphoses (pp. 1073-115)
Virgil, from The Aeneid Books IV, VIII (Vol. A pp. 1008-48)
The Ramayana, from Book 2 (Vol. A pp. 1176-1202)
Apuleius (Vol B. pp. 36-44)