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Silko's Ceremony: Study Guide

1. We have seen oral traditions at work in the Odyssey and will see literate traditions in the Aeneid and Metamorphoses. How does Silko draw on oral traditions in Ceremony? What sets them apart from literate traditions? How would you distinguish oral from literate in Ceremony?

2. We have seen ritual evident in all four works, whether it is the ritual of sacrifice or hospitality or prophecy or marriage or funeral or magic, etc. Which rituals are more prominent in each work? How do they contribute to the plot or the themes of each work? Why are they prominent? Is it a function of orality and literacy? or of the different cultures of each work? or of different themes emphasized by each author?

3. Humans' relationship with the supernatural is a central concern of each work. How is that relationship defined in each work? How direct is human access to the supernatural? Does the relationship allow for human choice or freedom? Or is this the wrong question to ask? What might a better question be?

4. Each story we have read recounts a journey. How do the starting points help define the ending point of each story? How different are the starting and ending points for each story? Which ones are similar and how are they similar? If they get to a similar ending point, do they get there the same way?

5. How do stories get told? How does audience interact with teller, and narrator with reader? How do audiences within each work affect our reading? Is there a difference between oral tales and written ones in this regard? What is the relationship of embedded tales to the work as a whole?

6. We have seen the idea of cyclical time in the Odyssey and will see linear time in the Aeneid. Does the Metamorphoses or Ceremony exhibit one or the other of these time sequences? If so, how does an understanding of time help structure the plot or help us understand the situation we find ourselves in?

7. We have looked at gender roles in each work and how gender affects the dynamics of audience and storyteller. How is gender constructed among the characters in Ceremony? To what extent is Tayo shaped by feminine perspectives?

8. Identity and difference are important issues for each work? Tayo in Ceremony is of mixed descent and part of the interest in the novel is how he deals with these different parts of his identity. Aeneas too has to learn how Trojan can be linked with Latin. How does each character attempt to solve problems of identity and ethnicity and culture?

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