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Epic Tradition

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Topics for Response Papers

Remember, be selective. Don't try to answer the entire question, but choose one or two key scenes or characters or images to formulate your answer. And back up what you say with specific citations or quotations.

Odyssey, Books 1-4

Keeping your focus on the first four books of the Odyssey, discuss how personal or cultural identity is constructed or defined for Telemachos, Penelope, or Odysseus. In other words, what factors define their identity: relationships, actions, beliefs/values, associations with others, circumstances, gender, age, etc.

Odyssey, Books 5-8

To what extent does Odysseus follow the heroic code of arete (manliness, courage, excellence), time (honor and the material stuff that proves that you have won honor), and kleos (fame, reputation, good name, renown) in Books 5-8? How do Odysseus' circumstances place constraints on following the heroic code? Does his attitude to the heroic code vary in the course of these books? If so, why?

Odyssey, Books 9-12

In light of your reading of Odyssey 9-12, consider what makes a monster monstrous. Are there physical or spiritual characteristics that distinguish monsters from others. How do monsters interact with others, whether monstrous or not. How do monsters differ from (and help define) what is "normal"? Are all who operate outside the norm monstrous (can you operate outside the norm without being monstrous). Can a community safely ignore or tolerate monsters?

Odyssey, Books 13-18

How do you understand Homeric society in the Odyssey? On what values is community based? Who establishes the norm or the desirable? Are the values of the society gender or class-linked? In particular, consider some (or all) the following characters: Eumaios, Eurykleia, Theoklymenos, Melanthios, Melantho, Iros, and Antinoos or Eurymachos.

Odyssey, Books 19-24

Define and discuss the varieties of story-telling within the Odyssey. How is story-telling used to define self and manipulate others? Pay special attention to who is telling a story and for whom.

Metapoetics of Homer

Reaction Paper Topics for Silko's Ceremony

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