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Your essay should demonstrate your understanding of classical mythology within the context of a literary work. Taking into consideration mythological allusions in one literary work we have studied, trace their manifestations and their implications. If you prefer writing in detail about one or two myths within a literary work, then you should consult more than one source about the myths you have chosen.
If you choose to write about several myths within a literary work, you should establish some thematic connections so that your paper does not end up resembling a list of myths. For instance, you may choose to demonstrate how the mythological allusions in Jude the Obscure capture the author’s perspectives on women. You may also want to show how the writer revises traditional versions of a myth and for what purpose.
Your ultimate goal is to show that we can reach a deeper understanding of a literary work through our knowledge of mythology. The paper should be primarily your own interpretation of the work you have chosen rather than a series of critical interpretations.
Follow the MLA style for notes and Works Cited. You should have at least 5 sources in your Works Cited and 5-6 pages (font Times New Roman 12). This is a big class; I won’t read past page 6. You may use JSTOR or Project Muse for your research or museums or galleries for research on paintings. If you choose paintings, you must also cite art historians’ interpretations of them. See also the announcement of Resources for Art Historians.
Here are suggestions for a few possible topics. If you would rather write on a topic not listed here, you must discuss it with me in advance. If you don’t, you won’t get credit for your paper.
1. The theory of the gaze in Patricia Salzman-Mitchell A Web of Fantasies and The Odyssey or one of the works we have studied, Jude the Obscure, The Alchemist. Write on one work only. On the gaze see also Sophia Andres, “George Eliot’s Challenge to Medusa’s Gendered Disparities,” Victorian Newsletter, Spring 1999, 27-32.
2. The Alchemist as a modern Odyssey. Read books on the epic and relate some of the theories to this novel. Concentrate on characteristics of the epic and show how Coehlo uses them in his novel.
3. Reconfigurations of classical-subject paintings in Jude the Obscure (See Frederick Leighton, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, John William Waterhouse, Evelyn de Morgan).
4. Mythological figures and representations of Sue or Arabella in Jude the Obscure.
5. Paganism and Christianity in Jude the Obscure. Discuss the reasons for their juxtaposition in the novel and their meaning in relation to Victorian culture.
6. The Alchemist or Jude the Obscure as a modern epic. Read books on the epic and relate some of the theories to this novel.
7. Contradictory concepts in ancient Greek tragedies. Read theories on ancient Greek tragedy and concentrate on one of the tragedies we have read demonstrating the paradoxical nature of tragedy especially as it is conveyed through the Chorus and the tragic hero/heroine.