ENG214.001 Topics in World Literature: Ancient to Medieval

War and Heroism

Prof. Eileen Joy

Spring 2010


DUE: Thursday, March 18th (typed and double-spaced)


For each of the following five passages, identify and elaborate upon the following: (a) title of the work; (b) context (speaker? addressee? situation? specific place in the larger plot? etc.); (c) overall significance of the passage to the larger work. (You should write 5-7 sentences in response to "(c) overall significance." By "overall significance," I am asking to you to explain why this passage is important in relation to the larger story and also in relation to discussions we have had in class about the important themes and ideas in this work.)


"You grieve for those for whom you should not grieve. The wise do not lament the dead or pine for the living. Anyone who believes that this kills, or thinks that this is killed, fails to understand that one neither kills nor is killed. The embodied soul merely casts off old bodies and enters new ones, just as a person discards used garments and puts on new clothes. . . . Therefore do not grieve for any creature. . . . your duty is to fight a righteous battle."                       


"My mother Thetis, of the silvery feet,

tells me of two possible destinies

carrying me toward death, two ways:

if on the one hand I remain to fight

around Troy town, I lose all hope of home

but gain unfading glory; on the other,

if I sail back to my own land my glory

fails--but a long life lies ahead for me."


"Let him, by deception, kill the Kuru king who is the master of deception!"


". . . The Lord Zeus and Apollo gave you

the upper hand and put me down with ease.

They stripped me of my arms. No one else did.

Say twenty men like you had come against me,

all would have died before my spear.

No, Leto's son and fatal destiny

have killed me."


". . . The portion's equal

whether a man hangs back or fights his best;

the same respect, or lack of it, is given

brave man and coward. One who's active

dies like the do-nothing. What least thing have I

to show for it, for harsh days undergone

and my life gambled, all these years of war?"

PART II. SHORT ESSAY (50 points)

Write a thoughtful, brief essay (2-3 typed pages) on ONE of the following thematic prompts, each of which asks you to develop a comparative analysis between the Iliad and the Mahabharata. Keep in mind that these are very BROAD thematic prompts, and that it is your job to develop a more NARROWLY-DEFINED focus from one of these. Further, you will want to build paragraphs around specific points you would like to make about the works that will support a larger thesis that you develop related to the prompt (in other words, you should have some kind of argumentative point you want to make related to the prompt you choose--something you might want to say, for example, about the works' larger intentions or "message"). As you develop your analysis, make sure you support your critical assertions with specific textual evidence. That is, you must provide SPECIFIC EXAMPLES (direct quotations, specific actions and scenes, etc.) from the text itself and thoroughly explain (through a close analysis of language and context) how those examples are relevant to the points you want to make.

If there is a theme or idea you would like to explore in the two works that might not fit in any of the broad categories above, please run it by me ahead of time (at ejoy@siue.edu) and I'll approve it.