Topics for Paper #1
Ideally, you should learn something about a work of literature by writing
on it; my subjects are therefore geared to make you reread and think
(papers written on the basis of notes or of memory are inevitably weak). You
are encouraged to choose your own subject, but you must talk it over
it with me if you do (to prevent unforeseen suicides). Bear in mind that this
is not a long paper (1500 words). The first impulse of most students is to pick
the largest possible topic and deal with it superficially (that takes the least
thought). I expect a topic that is not too large, dealt with in detail
(analyze both the problem and the poem), with specific references
to the poem(s).
Remember that these are topics. You will have to turn them
into theses (see the page on theses,
under Writing Guide). EVERY paper must have a
point, and that point must be discussable ( i.e., it must be possible to
disagree with your thesis, so pure description or story telling won't do).
If you have any doubts about what this means or how to do it, see me.
A few suggestions (do not take over my wording in your paper):
You could analyze:
- Penelope's state of mind in the final books of the Odyssey
(what does she know/suspect? when? how do you know?)
- a particular episode, such as the encounter of Odysseus and his men
with Kirke or with the Kyklopes
- the many meanings of homecoming in the Odyssey
- Telemakhos as a hero in the making
- the relations between gods and men in the Odyssey or in one or
more of the Greek plays
- the (fake) stories Odysseus tells (why does he tell each one in the
form he does? why does his "story" keep changing?)
- Medea's motives--or the character of Medea (what makes her tick?) Is
she a hero or a villain? Neither? Both?
- Antigone's motives--is she strong? excessive? in her determination
- Aristophanes' view of society. Is it realistic or idealistic?
Or you could discuss:
- Greek culture as reflected in Homer
- guile, strategy, tactics, skill in the Odyssey
- piety and impiety (or passion and self control)
- the lack of suspense in the Odyssey--why does Homer do it the
way he does?
- the role of Poseidon in the Odyssey
- Dramatic irony in the final books of the Odyssey
- the role of the gods in Euripides' Medea
- Socrates' view of love (huge subject)
- Socrates as hero
- Who is the main character in Sophocles' Antigone? Why do you
Or you could compare (see page on Comparison
- households--but no more than two (Nestor's, Menelaos's, Alkinoos's,
Eumaios's, Kirke's, Kalypso's, Odysseys's--before or after)
- fathers and sons (other than or in addition to Odysseus and
Telemakhos--but no more than two)
- the swineherd and the cowherd (or the goatherd)
- Menelaos and Alkinoos
- Oedipus and Medea
- a variety of pairs of women (you pick 'em)
- Medea and Antigone
- Thebes (Sophocles) and Corinth (Euripides)
- Sophocles' Creon and Euripides' Creon, OR justice in Sophocles and Euripides
- Sophocles' Creon and Euripides' Jason
- the role of the gods in Homer and Sophocles or Euripides (another huge
- Antigone's idea of love and Socrates'
None of these is better than your idea. Decide for yourself what you
want to write about (as long as it is about one of the texts we have read).
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