Humanities 121 Short Essay 2: The Odyssey

Compose a short essay (2-3 double spaced pages) in response to one of the prompts below.

1. Harold Bloom, an eminent 20th Century literary scholar, wrote, "Homer's Odysseus is a very dangerous figure, whom we admire and respect but do not love. He is a great survivor, the one man who will stay afloat when all his shipmates drown. You would not want to be in one boat with him then, but there is no one you would rather read or hear about, because survival is the best of all stories. Stories exist to defer death, and Odysseus is the grand evader of mortality." When you reach the end of the tale, what do you think of Odysseus? He was a paradigm of excellence for the Greeks. Is he for you? Do you admire him? Respect him? Love him? Do you agree with Bloom’s assessment? Why or why not? Use specific, cited examples from the Odyssey to support your argument.

2. Xenia, or the Greek concept of hospitality, plays a key role in the culture of the ancient Greeks and in the Odyssey. What is the significance of hospitality in Homer’s epic? What are the demands of this social value on host and guest? Discuss the notion of xenia in the Odyssey, analyzing notable examples and explaining the function of this concept in the epic and in Greek culture.

3. Areté, or the Greek concept of mental and physical excellence in the crucial moment, is arguably Odysseus’s foremost virtue. Discuss the notion of areté in the Odyssey, analyzing notable examples and explaining the function of this concept in the epic and in Greek culture.

4. Analyze gender roles as they are constructed in the Odyssey. Identify male and female characters prototypical of various role identities for men and women in Homer’s work, or consider characters who challenge ideas about gender/gender roles in the epic. As a starting point, you might consider Odysseus and Penelope as ideal embodiments of their social roles (father, husband, warrior, king, host, wife, mother, queen, etc.) or Calypso's critique of the sexual double standards of the Olympians in Book

5. Notes on structuring your essay: Use an introduction (1 paragraph) Your introduction should announce the enduring human question/aspect(s) of worldview you will explore Your introduction should establish a thesis—this should be an arguable statement that encapsulates your response to the prompt.

Use the body of your essay to support your thesis (about 2-4 paragraphs) You should have 2-4 more specific ideas in support of your overall thesis Use cited evidence from the text to illustrate your analysis and back up your interpretation Avoid simply summarizing plot—assume your primary audience is familiar with the text. Only bring up plot points to support your analysis.

Use a conclusion to end your essay intentionally and close strongly (1 paragraph) To cite text for this assignment, use the following conventions: Integrate direct quotations into your sentences (no “floating” quotations) Set up quotations, paraphrases, or summaries with your own ideas/signal phrases Always discuss the importance of quotations, paraphrases, or summaries—explain how that evidence supports your interpretation Always provide in-text citation for quotations, paraphrases, or summarized material.

Here’s an example: The Epic of Gilgamesh emphasizes the transient nature of life. As Utnapishtim succinctly tells Gilgamesh, “There is no permanence” (106). He reminds our protagonist that all of life, from human affairs to the greater patterns of nature, is characterized by change.