The Mid-Term Exam

with Examples of the Best Responses

Fall 2000

 

Section I: (Suggested Time: 10 Minutes): Choose two of the following three quotations. Identify the excerpt (author and text), then state the significance of the quotation (5 points each; 2 X 5 = 10 points).

 

A)

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n."

Sample Response:

This quote is from Milton's Paradise Lost. Satan is speaking. This passage exemplifies a shift from the same culture of Homer's day when everything is very public including punishment, to Milton's day, a guilt culture, where things are more internalized including punishment. Milton portrays hell as a place both physical and emotional (internal); therefore, Satan carries it with him wherever he goes as a result of the sin he has committed. The Mind has become a very powerful thing. The importance of the individual mind will be shown to an even greater extent in Wordsworth's Prelude, where the individual life experiences of one man are worthy of an epic tale and the mind and nature are superior even to the God of Milton. (Grade: 5).


B)

"No one—not even if if he were a god—
could hope to dodge the plots that you concoct,
unless he had consummate cunning, craft.
Tenacious, shameless, driven to deceive,
even in your own land you cannot leave
behind the tales and traps, the lies you love.
But come, enough of this. We're connoisseurs
Of cunning: when it comes to words and wiles,
No mortal matches you; among the gods,
For guile and wisdom, I'm without a rival."

Sample Responses:

This quote is from the Odyssey. Athena is addressing Odysseus on the beach of Ithaca before he returns home and giving him confidence in his ability to defeat the suitors. In the way that Athena comments on Odysseus's power and cunning as comparable to the gods, she is mirroring Odysseus's own belief in his abilities and his overreaching pride, or hubris. This passage is significant b/c it includes "wiles" to describe Odysseus, which is part of the noun-phrase epithet usually used to describe Odysseus. It also includes epic machinery, which is Athena taking action/interest in the life of the human Odysseus in this traditional epic. As a whole, this passage is significant b/c it shows the extent to which the gods are involved in the lives of humans in the traditional epic. The ending would not be the same w/out Athena's interjections to change the course of events. It's worth noting that Athena calls Odysseus "shameless, driven to deceive" with "lies you love," yet this is seen as a compliment. This definately reflects the shame culture of the time, where you did what you could to be seen as better and stronger than others: definitely no internalized guilt! (Grade: 5++).


C)

The goddess with a discontented air
Seems to reject him, though she grants his prayer.
A wondrous bag with both her hands she binds,
Like that where once Ulysses held the winds;
There she collects the force of female lungs,
Sighs, sobs, and passions, and the war of tongues.

Sample Responses:

This passage is from Pope's Rape of the Lock. It is written in heroic couplets which are pairs of iambic pentameter line with rhyming couplets at the end. The quote comes from the nekuia of the story. The gnome has descended down into Belinda's spleen, a hellish place, which during the time period was believed to contain all of a person's "bad humors." The goal of this journey is to tobtain the "wondrous bag" described. It contains all the bad humors of Belinda and is compared to the bag of winds given Odysseus in the Odyssey. This is a zeugma, or yoking of two things one trivial and one grand (bag of humors, bag of wind). [Note: yes and no. This is not properly a zeugma since the high and low are not yoked within the same grammatical construction; this is rather a mock "epic simile."} This is symbolic of the mock epic itself because the mock epic takes trivial things and elevates them to grandeur. We can also see in this passage that the nekuia has changed quite drastically since Homer's day when Odysseus journied to the very distant and removed Hades in the Odyssey, when we compare that to the nekuia in the Rape of the Lock which is a journey into the spleen. (Grade: 5++).

Section II (Suggested Time: 10 minutes): Choose two of the following three terms and explain the significance of each (5 points each; 2 X 5 = 10 points).

 

A)

hubris

 

Sample Responses:

Hubris refers to the deception and guile of epic characters and is the trait of excessive pride or confidence in themselves. Hubris in the character often causes rifts between the character and at least some of the machinery. For instance, Odysseus' hubris towards Poseidon's son, Cyclops, causes him to lose some of his men and to gain the anger of Poseidon against him. In the Odyssey, hubris is a necessary trait for survival and is one of Odysseus's celebated traits. Athena favors him for it. Hubris is not both good and bad in Paradise Lost because it leads to sin. Satan's excessive pride in himself leads him to revolt against heaven with troops he mustered by deception. Sin is born from his pride. (Grade: 5)


B)

sublime

 

Sample Responses:

The sublime is that which inspires higher truths. In contrast to the beautiful, the sublime is not ugly but imposing and daunting. It is vast and asymmetrical. The effect of the sublime on the human psyche is profound. It makes one feel small, insignificant and makes one realize that one is not in control. While the Enlightenment authors found this daunting and stayed away from it, Romantics thrived on these feelings. It made them look beyond the details of everyday life and search for universal truths. Wordsworth's reliance on nature in the Prelude demonstrates the Romantic connection to the sublime. His descriptions of the psychological effects elements of nature have on him or the inspiration he receives from nature are both indicative of sublime effects on Romantics. (Grade: 5+)


C)

shame vs. guilt culture

 

Sample Responses:

Shame culture: a culture in which one's struggles focus externally, to prove one's worth (horizontal scope of being). Guilt culture: a culture in which struggles are felt within one's self (vertical scope of being). Two obvious examples of a shame culture are Homer's The Odyssey and Pope's The Rape of the Lock. In The Odyssey, Odysseus is constantly proclaiming his own worth, telling his heroic deeds to whomever will listen. Odysseus is an archetypical representation of an individual living in a shame culture because his worth is based on his outer deeds and appearances. Belinda, from The Rape of the Lock is also an example of an individual living in a shame culture. The reason Belinda bursts into tears ofter her hair has been "removed" is that she's ashamed to be seen in public with only one lock of hair. Her focus is on her outer appearance (exemplified by the mock epic catalogue of Belinda's numerous toiletries). John Milton's Paradise Lost represents a shift to a guilt culture. The rise of Christianity, and its emphasis on "original sin" and the inherent sinfulness of man, facillitates a shift from a shame to a guilt culture. A prime character representing a guilt culture is Satan himself who laments that he carries a "hell within [him]self." The traditional epic battle has moved from actual war to a war within. The Romantics, by exploring the dark regions of the psyche, also placed an emphasis on inner struggle and the inherent value of individuals (as Wordsworth's Prelude intends to show). (Grade: 5++).

Section III (Suggested Time: 45 minutes): Choose one of the following two questions and write a detailed response in essay form. (30 points).

 

A) The convention of the epic battle has undergone drastic changes since Homer's day. Discuss the development of this convention across three texts we've examined and explain the significance of any changes in the implementation of this convention.

 

B) Although the epic traditionally depicts a male hero at the heart of its narrative, each of the texts we’ve examined also deals with issues of femininity, often representing female characters (Penelope, Clytemnestra, and Helen in the Odyssey; Sin and Eve in Paradise Lost; Belinda, Thalestris, and Clarissa in The Rape of the Lock) or feminized ideals (such as Nature or emotion in Wordsworth's Prelude). Discuss the development of the feminine across three of these texts and explain the significance of any changes in the representation of femininity. To what extent is the feminine important to epic tradition?

 

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