Paper Topics for IH 51 Paper #1
Refer to these pages for help getting
started, but come and see me with an outline or a draft! I welcome
Due OCTOBER 17
(same day as your midterm - which I have decided will be a take-home)
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
Do your best on this
paper. But you should know that after I read it, you will meet with me
for a conference, and then you will re-write it. So don't agonize
unnecessarily, but *do* write the best essay you can. I
used to grade these papers (I still put a grade on them, but I don't
count it), but they were almost universally dreadful, so now I give
you a break. The better the original paper, the better the rewrite, so
don't hand in an unpolished and not well thought-out effort.
Choose to write on ONE of the following topics:
1. 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 #2 is a slight rewriting of
topic #1, but it gives you 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.
Topic #3: 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 #4: Write an essay in which you somehow address the following
topic (remember: a topic is a broad description of what the paper is
about; a thesis is a pointed, directed argument - taking a side
and arguing it out). In several of the texts we have read thus far,
characters struggle to remain principled in the face of what they see
as injustice. Choose two different texts in which you see this
phenomenon occurring and define the nature of the conflict, the
relative terms bandied about by the characters ("justice",
or "traitor", for example) and the eventual outcome of the
struggle engaged in by the character. Does s/he remain true to his
"principles"? What is important to the character, what not?
How do they compare in this way? How do their actions compare? How do
their fates compare? Was it worth it? Are the distinctions to be made
between the two characters you have chosen significant in terms of all
of the above?
Find a way to present the
material you gather...that's the hard part! Make it all work for your
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
4. Proofread your final copy
before handing it in and fix any errors you find.
5. READ THE STUDY GUIDE I GAVE
Good luck and have fun.
to the syllabus