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Dr J's Audio-Visual Resources for Classics

Courses Taught

INTELLECTUAL HERITAGE (at Temple University)

Course Info:
Sample Syllabus


Course Themes

Delphi- A Focal Point for IH 51 Texts

Writing Guides:
Writing Guidelines

style guide

Writing Analogies

Subject Study Aids:
Aeschylus' Agamemnon Study Guide

Aeschylus' Libation Bearers Study Guide

Aeschylus' Eumenides Passages

Sophocles' Oedipus and the Sphinx Lecture

Dr. J's Illustrated Pericles' Funeral Oration

Dr. J's Illustrated Pericles and America

Dr. J's Illustrated Pericles and Philadelphia

Dr. J's Illustrated Aeschylus' Oresteia

Dr. J's Curse of the House of Atreus Outline

Dr. J's Background Lecture on Greek Philosophy

Dr. J's Apology Study Questions

Dr. J's Illustrated Plato's Apology

Socrates and the Apology Lecture

Dr. J's Plutarch's Pericles

Judaism Study Guide

Sundiata Study Guide

Epic Qualities of the Sundiata Lecture

Othello Study Guide

Machiavelli Study Guide

Galileo and Humanism Lecture



Courses Proposed
(needs some pruning):

Topics in Classical Culture:
The Legend of the House of Atreus: Greek Tragedy in Greece

Religious Foundations of Greek Culture

The Intersection of Myth and History

The Ancient Greek Cultural Nexus- Art, Archaeology, Literature and Topography

From 1996-2001 I taught in the Intellectual Heritage Program at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This page is part of my teaching materials for Intellectual Heritage 51, a course covering literature and ideas from Sappho through Shakespeare...

HELP WITH WRITING ESSAYS FOR Intellectual Heritage 51/52

by Dr. Siegel (with Dr. Timothy Peters)


1. Use the present tense when discussing texts. For example: In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus heals - not healed - a centurion's servant. Likewise, Socrates defends - not defended - himself in Plato's Apology.

2. Don't overdo the adverbs, e.g., "really," often," "quite," "extremely," "very."

3. Don't use abbreviations unless you know what they mean (e.g. = ex gratia, "for example"; i.e. = id est, "that is"; et al. = et alia, "and other things"; etc. = et cetera, "and the rest," in a list)

3. Nothing will make your writing look more childish than confusing your/you're, its/it's, were/we're. Also know where to put that apostrophe to indicate possession:

RIGHT: Pericles' Funeral Oration
WRONG: Pericle's Funeral Oration

pride of the citizen = citizen's pride
pride of the citizens = citizens' pride

4. Usage errors can also be damning. Avoid saying such things as "very unique" or confusing "fewer" and "less." I will soon upload a list of particularly grating errors of this sort. But any handbook of English usage will devote a section to eradicating usage errors from students' writing.

5. Know when to use who and whom. Use who when it is the subject of the verb in its clause (I know the boy who likes you, Who is calling?, There are lots of boys who like you...). Use whom in EVERY OTHER CASE (I know the boy whom you like; I know the boy to whom you spoke, I know the boy with whom you were seen the other day...) In the above sentences, the subject/verb combo is underlined for your benefit.

6. Use the third person (he, she, it, they) pronoun in your writing. Don't lapse into "you" or "we," the two most common offenders. Don't waste your energy saying "s/he" everywhere; say "he or she" only if a distinction in gender is necessary for your point to be clear (and this will happen rarely). And don't fall into the "one" trap. It makes your sentences long and convoluted and no one will want to read them:

BAD: One can see the significance of this...." 
GOOD: "This is important because..."

7. Always write in complete sentences. Never in fragments (get it?).

8. Avoid passive voice. Active voice is a better choice!

ACTIVE: The dog bites the man.

PASSIVE: The man is bitten by the dog.

9. Choose powerful verbs that capture the tone and force you wish to express - the power of each sentence lies in its verb. Avoid "being verbs" because they are wimpy and lack punch:

BAD: Pericles is the speaker at the funeral for the Athenian soldiers who died in the first year of the Peloponnesian War…

GOOD: Pericles devotes much of his oration not to the memory of those Athenians who fell in the first year of the Peloponnesian War, but in praise of the city for which they died.

The GOOD example uses the fact that Pericles is the speaker to make a point about his speech, not just to present a point of fact, otherwise known as ....PLOT SUMMARY! Very, very BAD!

10. Avoid repetition (or did I say that already?). Repeated ideas reveal bad organization, and repeated words or phrases reveal little imagination and thought. Your reader might begin skimming to avoid wasting his time and your pearls could fly by unnoticed (and don’t mix metaphors).

11. Make appropriate word choices. Precise word choice is a key ingredient in a successful essay. Do NOT resort to depending on a thesaurus for "other ways" of saying the same thing. A thesaurus is a good tool, but too many students use it incorrectly because they do not perceive significant differences in nuance and tone in similarly classified words. For example, Roget’s thesaurus offers "shyster" as a synonym for "lawyer," when, in fact, these two words are not always interchangeable. Choose your words carefully.

12. Avoid unnecessary words and phrases so that your reader can pick out the main idea easily:

BAD: Overall I don't believe this speech was trying to be persuasive due to the fact that Pericles was being defensive.

GOOD: I believe that the defensiveness Pericles shows throughout his speech prevents him from being persuasive in any way.

BAD: The manner in which Pericles does this is by first stating he is not worthy of praising the dead.

GOOD: Right from the start, Pericles wins the sympathy of the Athenian audience by expressing his unworthiness to offer the state panegyric for the war dead.

13. Don't flood your essay with too many details, all of which accomplish the same purpose, without organizing them to make a point. Instead, present the material in a way that helps you to argue a point (instead of listing pieces of material):

BAD: "He was good because he helped little old ladies cross the street, worked at the soup kitchen, ran errands for the home-bound, gave lots of money to charity, went to church every day..."

GOOD: "His virtuous character was apparent in everything he did, from private pursuits such as attending church regularly and being an anonymous charity donor, to community involvement such as working in a soup kitchen and running errands for the homebound."

The material in the GOOD example is nicely organized and the reader can trace the progression of ideas, instead of just reading a list of good deeds.


copyright 2001 Janice Siegel, All Rights Reserved
send comments to: Janice Siegel (jfsiege@ilstu.edu)

date this page was edited last: 10/25/2005
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