Core 1.1, Professor Wilson

Second writing assignment

Spring 2007



This writing assignment presents another opportunity to demonstrate critical thinking skills in reading and writing about ancient texts.  I remind you of some of the learning objectives that are specifically related to critical thinking in this course:

With those objectives in view, please choose one (1 only) of the following topics on which to write a 3 (minimum) to 4 (maximum) page critical essay.  Use NO secondary sources for your essays, such as books, introductions, or articles; the assignment is intended to reflect your own ability to read and critically interpret [ancient] texts, not your ability to use scholarly (or popular internet!) sources. 

Your essay should have a clearly-articulated thesis statement; the essay should marshal very specific evidence adduced from the texts and what we have learned about their ancient contexts (e.g., literary, historical, philosophical, cultural) in a coherent argument in support of the thesis.  Review carefully the six critical thinking skills by which the substance of your essay will be evaluated:

  1. Critical interpretation (not just your opinion)
  2. Knowledge of [ancient] contexts
  3. Key issues/main points
  4. Generic conventions/literary devices
  5. Reception (does your essay keep the ancient audience in mind, or do you simply read it through your own cultural lens)
  6. Quality of argument

Your grade also takes into account mechanics, clarity, and elegance.  Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to proofread and revise.

1.  Write a friendly but scholarly response to Nicholas Kristof's use of Greek and Roman classical literature in support of his argument about President Bush and the Iraq war.  Your comments should not reflect on the position Kristof takes in respect of the President and the war but, very specifically, on his use of the classics as 'timeless' works that are as much about 'us' as about ancient heroes and statesmen.  You should write a coherent description of another way of reading the texts in their diverse contexts, which reveals not only similarities to 'us' (i.e., a socially constructed 'us') but also significant differences.  You should refer to specific texts and contexts and, if applicable, to generic conventions.  Discuss what difference this other way of reading the 'classics' might (or might not) make in how we use them in discussion of contemporary issues.

2.   Compare and contrast the cultural construction of pederasty in the speech of Pausanias (Plato's Symposium
) and in Better Argument's speech in lines 961-983 (approximately) in Aristophanes' Clouds.  Your essay should take into account differences in genre as well as how each speech advances the overarching purpose (as you understand it) of the text as a whole.  Engage is critical analysis, not just description.

3.  Thucydides and Virgil both wrote at a time when their cities wielded tremendous imperial power.  Both used speeches by characters – Thucydides historical statesmen and Virgil mythical gods and heroes—to articulate justification for their power and the wars waged to achieve and maintain it.  Choose one (1) speech in Thucydides and one (1) in Virgil that provide justification for each empire.  Analyze those texts in their relevant contexts in order to compare and contrast the justifications.  Is the justification called into question, explicitly or implicitly, in each work and if so, how (specifically!).