Advice on Writing

Guidelines for Essay Writing

Pick one of the essay questions, and respond to it in an essay of 7–8 pages. Make sure to have a thesis, and to flesh out your argument and support it with examples from the text. Refer to the "Advice for Writing" section.

Papers must be submitted in a 12-type font (preferably Times New Roman or Arial); your essays must also be double-spaced. Use the MLA guidelines for citation (For more on the MLA format, visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab).

When I return your essay, you have two days to decide if you'd like to revise it. If you do, we will schedule a meeting to discuss your paper, and work together to make plans for revising it. You will then have a week to submit your revision. You must revise at least one of your first two papers. You cannot submit a re-write without talking to me first.

1st Essay Questions

  1. Journeys play a significant role in both The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey. What is the significance of the journey in each text? What does each character gain from his journey? Discuss the purpose and symbolism of the journey in each text, and the dialectic between home and travel that each text presents.

  2. In our class discussions, we spoke of the strong female characters in both The Odyssey and Gilgamesh. How do these female characters complicate our own assumptions about ancient cultures?

  3. What does literature teach us? Is it an effective teacher? And if so, does it follow that it should be monitored and controlled, for the sake of society? Defend your point of view with examples from the Plato and Aristotle readings we have done.

2nd Essay Questions

  1. All the readings in this section deal in one way or the other with social laws. Pick two texts, and compare and contrast some aspects of the laws proposed in them. How do they perceive and represent the role and duties of the individual in society? If these texts seem to share similar social concerns, what are they?

  2. The relationship of the master to his disciples forms a crucial part of the frame for The Analects, The Bible, and Rahula's representation of the Buddha in What the Buddha Taught. Discuss the similarities and differences of these relationships in two of the texts.

  3. Writing about the characterization of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the editors of the NSRV Bible say, "Ancient writers often characterized persons as types, and the narratives of their lives reflected a view that individuals had fixed characters from birth rather than personalities that developed through life" (1747). Is this true of Matthew's characterization of Jesus? What "fixed" elements can you see in the character of Jesus, as depicted by Matthew? Is this true of the characterizations of Confucius and Buddha in the Chinese and Buddhist traditions, respectively? How does the representation of the central character in each of these texts contribute to the belief system constructed by each of these philosophies?

Final Essay Questions

  1. Discuss the different kinds of love depicted in The Divine Comedy and in The Ramayana. How does the religious and social context of each text shape the way that these forms of love are represented?

  2. What is the role of the writer/scribe, or the storyteller in The Arabian Nights and Don Quixote? What is the role of the reader, or the audience member?

  3. Much of our discussions this year have involved story-telling as a device to teach or to convey religious, social and moral concepts; how effective are stories as teaching tools? What are some of the possible hazards of using a story to teach or instruct?

  4. Now that you have read a selection of texts from across different cultures, do you think that some topics or themes are universal? If yes, what are they? If not, why not? If you believe that there are universal topics, make sure to give specific examples from at least three of the texts we have studied over the course of this semester, and make sure to point out not only where these texts intersect, but how they differ.