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For your essay, choose one topic to answer. Remember: your job is to persuade me that your way of seeing this topic is defensible and worthy of being agreed with. This paper should be typed, double-spaced, and ABOUT THREE-FIVE pages in length. Show me not only that you have read these texts, but that you have thought about them. Choose to write on ONE of the following topics:
Topic #1: Consider whether Sophocles and Pericles concur on what the relationship between the individual and the state should be. Discuss the nature and necessity of laws in society, as well as the ideals of justice and loyalty. Consider the source of conflict in Antigone and Oedipus Rex and draw your conclusions in an argument which depends on the texts of both Pericles and Sophocles.
Topic #2: Bernard Knox has said, "One trait after another in the character of Sophocles' Oedipus corresponds to the Athenian qualities praised by Pericles in his Funeral Speech." Find these qualities mentioned by Pericles in his speech and decide if you agree with Knox. Does Oedipus fail because he lacks these qualities? Or does he fail because he takes these "good" qualities to extremes and therefore causes them to become negative? Or, do you see Oedipus as successfully fulfilling the Periclean ideal but becoming the tragic victim of circumstances beyond his control? In conclusion, determine why you think Sophocles might have drawn Oedipus in Periclean terms. What point do you think Sophocles was trying to make to his Athenian audience in 428 BC?
Topic #3 (a slight rewriting of topic #1 which allows students more leeway): Consider whether the characters created by Sophocles either do or do not share qualities discussed by Pericles in his Funeral Oration. What might you conclude about Sophocles’ message? You may focus on Oedipus if you like, but you don't have to. On the other hand, don't talk about too many characters and lose your focus. I would suggest that you design your paper to focus around certain qualities integral to the works we read, and then present each author's view as you discuss the quality. More on this later in class this week.
NEW: Topic #4: Power of Rhetoric: Choose from Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Pericles' Funeral Oration, and The Apology. In each of these texts, speech is wielded for specific purposes. Sometimes a weapon, sometimes a tool of persuasion, always a mark of power, speech is a character's chance to philosophize, propose a plan of action, state his case, or awaken others to unknown threats. Consider how various characters in these texts use speech - consider their goals, their techniques (form of address, tone, rhetorical devices, attitude toward their audience and topic, jargon, passion...), the impressions they leave on their audience (if knowable), the nature of their appeal (personal, public, altruistic, religious, patriotic, principled, egotistical?) and determine who you think does and does not succeed as a speaker and why. Be very careful to defnie your argument znd then STICK TO IT. DON'T RAMBLE!
Clearly present the position set forth by each author, but do not simply provide plot summary: as always in a critical essay, use the details of the text to support the conclusions you are drawing about the text. My advice can be boiled down to this:
1. Make sure you have worked out the whole argument before you begin writing the actual paper. Your introduction should offer an overview of your approach and destination – right up front in the beginning.
2. Sketch out your ideas before you write the paper. Make sure your informal outline doesn’t skip any steps in the logic of your argument.
3. Choose your supporting details carefully. Avoid the temptation to stick in every detail you remember.
4. Proofread your final copy before handing it in and fix any errors you find.
Have fun. Follow the guidelines for writing essays. Hand in your best work. Proofread!