English 203: World Literature I

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“A classic can only occur when a civilization is mature; when a language and a literature are mature; and it must be the work of a mature mind. It is the importance of that civilization and of that language, as well as the comprehensiveness of the mind of the individual poet, which gives the universality.”
T.S.Eliot, “What is a Classic?”

Address delivered before the Virgil Society

Painting of The Last Judgement (Boat of Charon) by Michelangelo

Assignment #2

Choose one of the questions below for your essay response, or discuss another topic of interest based on our class’ literary readings. You are not required to include outside research for this essay. Your paper should be 6 – 7 typed, double-spaced pages.

1) Dido is one of the many abandoned women in the literature of the world. Compare the emotions that contribute to her extreme reactions to her situation with those of Medea.

2) Compare Homer’s description of the shield of Achilles in the Iliad (Book 18) with that of Aeneas’ shield in the Aeneid (Book 8).

3) Virgil deliberately models his epic poem on Homer; the first 6 books are Aeneas’ Odyssey, and the last six his Iliad. In what ways is Virgil’s poem an Iliadic Aeneid?

4) Compare/ contrast the role and influence of the gods in the Iliad and Aeneid.

5) Compare/contrast Homeric heroes and Virgil’s Aeneas. How does the Trojan Aeneas play the role of the Greek Achilles in the Aeneid 12?

6) Analyze the imagery of light and darkness in both Virgil’s epic and Dante’s Divine Comedy.

7) Why is Dante’s biography so vital in understanding the Divine Comedy? Can the political situation in Florence in Dante’s time fully explain what Dante is trying to do?

8) Although Dante says in Inferno 2 that he is not Aeneas, is there a way in which Dante in fact becomes Aeneas?

9) Explain how Dante has carefully modeled the Christian afterlife on the pagan afterlife of the Aeneid.

10) T.S. Eliot must largely be credited with the modern re-discovery of Dante’s “visual imagination”. Discuss Eliot’s use of imagery and other literary devices – based on the works of Virgil and Dante - in the famous 20th century poem “The Wasteland.”

11) Does Dante the pilgrim undergo a transformation throughout the Inferno? Explain.

12) The triune (three-in-one) nature of Christian divinity – a single entity comprised of 3 aspects (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) – is the basis of structure and style in Dante's poem. Dante was keen to instill the Trinity in every aspect of his poem. Elaborate on his use of this motif in the Inferno.

13) Compare the scene and function of the Earthly Paradise in Dante and Milton.

14) Paradise Lost is framed by parallels to Aeneid 6, and Milton’s final 2 books correspond to the Elysian part of Aenean descent. Discuss the Virgilian aspects of Milton’s epic.

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