1) Helen of Sparta and the devastating power of beauty
For millennia the power of beauty, mostly personified by women but, in the end, by anyone and anything that would be held beautiful in the eyes of the beholder, has given us a sense of our own frailty (and madness) before it.
We, the beholders, have been threatened, seized, raptured, and ravaged by the hold of beauty, engaging with it in an unequal rapport, and anytime we could, we have defended ourselves from its fierceness. Mostly, however, we have done so by forcefully taking away from the beautiful the very power that we had given to them in the first place, when, succumbing to its Power, didn’t get us Beauty and neither Power.
(Consider, for example, the act of conquering something because it is beautiful. Does it remain beautiful once it is conquered? Isn’t the act of conquering in itself a belittling act, diminishing the value of the conquered automatically? -Take for example a tiger who is captured and kept in captivity).
The gift/curse Helen’s beauty is powerful enough “to launch a thousand ships” but is she free not to?
In other words, she is able, but is she willing?
What can she do with her power? What should she do?
And what does she do instead or then? How does she use it?
What decisions does she make? Why can she make them? Why can she not make them?
Another query could be: Is Helen free to decline the power given to her? And if so, how?
If the answer is no, how can an object of reverence, desire, and obsession protect itself from being exploited? From losing its (her/his) freedom to say no?
And if she/he/it can’t say no, what can happen? What will happen? What might happen? What ought to happen?
The Helen in our times, who is she/he? What is it? And how should/would she use that power?
The Helen in your life.
2) The Heroes of Troy
Answer two of these three following questions.
1) Compare the Achilles of Book I with the Achilles of Book XXIV in The Iliad. How do you think he has changed? Show your reason in your presentation.
2)Greed, hubris, conquest, manhood, kleos, love, loyalty. Where do we find them in the texts studied? (The Iliad, the Odyssey, the tragedies, the poetry) Choose one or more examples, and again, explain your reasons, bring out the quotes, reason them in your oral presentation.
3)Working with characters. Speak about no more than two characters taken from any of the texts studied (The Iliad, The Odyssey, or ay of the characters from the tragedies):
1) Penelope: her character, her wits, her choices.
2) Eumaeus: his character, his meaning, his moral values
3) Circe: the great witch, the teacher, the powerful sorceress, the “one who knows”, the temptress.
4) Odysseus: The King, The Pirate, the Politician, the affabulatory Scoundrel, the 5) Player, the Adventurer, the Wise man, the…?
6) Tiresias, the seer. Meaning of the underworld in the “initiation to oneself”
7) The Lotus flower: war as a mean of forgetting/loss of the self, coping with the devastating effects of the war.
8) Calypso: Significance of love as forgetting/loss of self. Who is Calypso, what does she represents? Who is she to Odysseus? What is the metaphor behind?
Telemachus: The mighty Orphan, The Man in the making, the…?
Hyppolitus, the rigid moralist
Antigone, the unrelenting keeper of the sacred order versus the city’s order
Oedipus, running away from himself
all creative projects, in any case, will have to be accompanied by a one-page outline describing the project.
HOW TO EXECUTE THE FINAL
Again, it is either a presentation or a creative project.
(Remember that a one-page written outline/presentation of your project and the mediums and/or works cited is expected to accompany your project).
A presentation. You may talk to me in a video and make use of any available medium you can think of, besides your voice: PP, graphs, interviews, photographs, clips, slides, radio program, you name it. You are presenting your ideas, your thought, your reflections, your findings.
A piece of music (if you are a composer or a musician) written, and/or played and recorded;
A comic strip;
A Photo album;
POSSIBLE THEMES/IDEAS FOR YOUR CREATIVE ASSIGNMENTS
(Again, remember that of course you may use the assignments above that I proposed for the written final).
Re-writing a book of the Iliad or the Odyssey (in rhyme, if you wish, or simply with another ending- if you decide to speak from Helen’s point of view refrain from falling into romanticism, please, and silly love pictures. Think adult, think 3000 years ago and delve into the relationships between the characters. Also, whether you like Helen or you don’t, think of her as the shrewd, intelligent woman that she was);
Revisiting any of the characters poetically or literarily (writing a story with them. Please be logical and consequential. When Helen tells us in Book 4 of the Odyssey that she met with Odysseus in the middle of the night in a deserted hallway of the Trojan palace, the dialogue was about intelligence not love, beauty, or recrimination. Maybe, then, in your story Helen might become a spy);
Writing a memory from the voice of Helen; If Helen speaks to us about her daughter Hermione whom she left behind to follow Paris Alexander, let it be consequential, and so on;
Retelling an episode from “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey” from the point of view of one of the characters (one which we haven’t heard, say one of the women or one of the minor warriors);
Poems which depict either characters or scenes of your choices from the books of either one of the Epic Works (say you want to immortalize a moment that we were not told about);
Chronicles from the war (editorials, news, articles about the war and Helen, as in a newspaper or magazine, or a blog style)
Change the prospective of something that we do know. Example: in the Odyssey, when Odysseus goes in the underworld Agamemnon retells in most moving words the funeral of Achilles.
You could write the funeral of Helen after she is hung by Polyxo (one of the versions of her death, research it) but through the words and the feelings of anyone you wish (her daughter, a servant, a messenger, people thousands of years later, maybe you yourself who found out on CNN or from me telling you here).
Or tell the truth about Odysseus’ death from somebody else’s point of view –how they might have heard or why. (He was killed accidentally by his son Telegonus, whom he had, unbeknownst to him, by Circe, who -by the way- ends up marrying Telemachus while Telegonus eventually will marry Penelope – face it: these people would have a laugh at our lame Hollywood plots). So that you would still tell the “truth” as we know it but from the point of view of Menelaus, for example, his good friend, who is devastated by it, or maybe, sinisterly happy about it, if you convince us of it.
Another idea that you can shape in a hundred other ways: Take any scene from one of the two books, the least significant, one of the many descriptions that Homer makes of either nature or animals or one of the similes, ANY PART IN THE TWO BOOKS WHERE IT SEEMS THAT NOTHING BIG IS HAPPENING and steal a most relevant and consequential story of your making from it.
Case in point, the painting we discussed in class: “Girl with a pearl earring”, by the 17thcentury Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer:
http://prints.encore-editions.com/0/500/johannes-vermeer-girl-with-a-pearl-earring.jpg (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
and what writer Tracy Chevalier did with it. Again, the writer, just from the image of a girl with an earring, wrote an entire novel about that girl, how she came to own that earring, what happened to her because of it; to the painter for giving it to her; and to the painter’s marriage with his neurotic wife, and so on!
It’s brilliant that she could make up that whole compelling story just from that image (you should watch the movie, starring Scarlet Johansson).
There you go, I think I have been walking you enough up to the edge, now pull the string, open your parachutes and jump.
Also, as you jump, jump alone or even in a group if you decide to share your efforts with a class mate, but that’s it, no stealing other’s people parachutes: PLAGIARISM IS AGAINST THE RULES AND THE LAW OF OUR SCHOOL and I will leave you cold, flat and flunked wherever I find you. No pity.
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