Paper Topic #2


Dr. Siegel

Due Date: December 5

This paper should be typed, double-spaced, and ABOUT THREE TO FOUR pages in length. Show me not only that you have read these texts, but that you have thought about them. PLEASE refer to the Writing Guidelines Page and/or the Style Guide if you have any questions about form. You do not get a chance to rewrite this one.

Remember that your essay must have an arguable premise - a thesis. You will convince me that your take on the topic is plausible by outlining your plan of attack in your intro. Consider three thematically appropriate ways of presenting your amassed ammo - then blast away! Remember to use details to support an interpretation YOU are presenting - never just because they are interesting details, or as plot summary. An BE SURE TO TAKE A SIDE!!! USE YOUR OBSERVATIONS TO PERSUADE ME TO SEE YOUR POINT!!! THIS MEANS YOU MUST HAVE A POINT!!! Otherwise, you will just be handing in a list of interesting observations. No Good. Choose to write on ONE of the following topics:

1. Consider that both Moses and Jesus are the heroes of the narratives they appear in. Refer to page 69 of your IH Guide for that helpful list of common traits of the hero. For example, they were both threatened as infants, both grew up to be leaders of their people, both performed miracles, etc. Of course, there are significant differences between the two characters as well. If you choose to respond to this question, I want to see a carefully constructed argument concluding that the author of the Gospel of Matthew consciously modeled his representation of the character of Jesus after the character of Moses in the Book of Exodus even though clearly Jesus rises above Moses in every way. Present your observations and analysis clearly and depend very heavily on the texts in question to support your claim. Do not simply ignore important details that don't seem to fit - figure out why they are there. Remember - rely on the texts! You may wish to refer to some of the faculty essays on this topic on the IH webpage (

2. Discuss the nature of law as you see it in the passages we read from the Old Testament and compare it to the law as presented in the Gospel of Matthew. Has the law changed? If so, does it follow in the evolutionary steps we traced from Genesis to Exodus? Is the law fundamentally the same? Take a side and then cite the text to support your argument. The Gospel of Matthew is particularly fulfilling in this respect - be sure to read carefully Jesus' explanations concerning the law. Pay attention to the "if thine eye offends thee" type of rhetoric.

3. Consider the characterization of God in the selections we have read from two of the three sacred texts: Old Testament, New Testament, or Koran (please regard Jesus as the God-presence in the Gospel of Matthew or you will have very little to draw on). Decide whether you think they are fundamentally the same, or fundamentally different. Then argue it. Remember - we are concerned with texts here, not religions. As you would for any literary figure, consider actions, words, emotions, personality traits, interactions with other characters, effects, motives...Keep your discussion focused on the literary presentation in the context in which the character is represented. Refer to specific chapters and verses and cite the text often to support your interpretation of the text!

4. Some of you have commented that Jesus reminds you of Socrates in some ways. So consider both teachers and decide whether they are more alike or more different and why. I suggest you consider such points as: the message each brings; the techniques each entertains; the tools each uses in his "classroom"; the relationship each has with his students and the Powers That Be; and lots of other things - but don't be afraid to push the envelope. Don't forget to consider the life each leads as well - and the death! Remember to structure the essay around YOUR arguments and use details only to support your interpretation.

5. The story of Sundiata as it was told to Niane was influenced by Islamic religious beliefs. Taking into account what you have read in the Koran, how much Islamic influence can you find in the story? Discuss how you think the Islamic religious elements influence the story. Is it important or insignificant? Why? Hint: consider such themes as group membership, the distinction between the righteous and the unbelievers, Allah's Will, mercy, ideas of law, justice and punishment... Be sure to provide organization to your essay - do not just list random thoughts!

6. Compare the treatment and roles of women in the Sundiata to other IH 51 texts in this unit: the Old and New Testaments or the Koran. Be specific and detailed, using quotations to support. You can compare how women deal with political power, family loyalties, destiny and free will, sexuality or ambition. And how men in the community - husbands, rulers, sons - treat them. Be sure to provide organization to your essay - do not just list random thoughts!


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