TEXTS AND IDEAS: ANTIQUITY AND THE 19TH CENTURY

For this paper you should take TWO (human) characters, each from DIFFERENT texts (e.g. Joseph and Antigone, or Agamemnon and Creon), and consider the following questions:

(a) Does the character seem to you believable – in other words, is this someone you could imagine meeting, or existing in real life? If not, what do you think is missing – what would you expect to find that is lacking here? If on the other hand the person does seem believable, what makes him/her so? Is it (for example) the situation that s/he finds him/herself in, or his/her response to that situation? Or is it something about the way s/he is described – the author’s description of his/her actions, or of his/her thoughts and feelings, for example?

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(b) How do the two characters compare? In particular, are there any differences in the way they respond to the dilemmas they face? A useful exercise might be to think how they would behave if their situations were reversed. If Homer’s Hector were faced with the issue of burying his brother against the law, is there any indication what his response would be? What if Moses was deprived of something that he has reason to think should by rights be his, in the way that Achilles is? Or what would Achilles do if he received a divine command to challenge a king who was enslaving his people?

The paper should be 5-6 pages (around 2000-2200 words) long and should be DOUBLE-SPACED. I recommend that you spend about 2 pages discussing each character separately, and 1-2 pages doing the comparison at the end. This should be based on a close reading of the text, giving specific examples with page-numbers, but do not quote excerpts longer than a clause or short sentence: you should describe things in your own words. With some characters you may find you have to be very selective: that process of selection is part of the exercise. It is more important that you focus on the things that you think are the most significant than that you try to cover every point.

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