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).
Invoke thy aid to my advent'rous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th'Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
The passage is from John Milton's Paradise Lost. It is from Book I, and it is his invocation to the Muse. It also describes his intentions. The invocation is an apostrophe. It is interesting here because Milton refers to himself. In previous epic poems, the rhapsode was nameless and faceless. Here, Milton is going to sing "his" song which implies that his ideas are valuable. Previously, the epic would have been the Muse's. Milton "intends to soar above the Aonian mount," which is referring to the place where the Muses of Homer resided. Milton intends to go beyond the gods, or supreme beings, of Homer's Odyssey and complete a greater task. He intended to discuss God and Satan. Milton used blank verse in Paradise Lost. (Grade: 5+).
This quotation comes from Milton's Paradise Lost. In it, Milton is invoking the Muse. It is Milton's hope that this being will help him to "soar above the Aonian mount," or rather, to soar above the works of Homer. The Aonian mount was of importance to the ambigous author of the original epic. It is Milton's wish to take a step further into the possibilities of epic poetry which are yet to be explored. In his tale, Milton blazes new trails as he signs his name to his work and incorporates his own self into the story, ever so slightly, when he asks the Muse to give him vision. However pioneering Milton seemed, he would later be surpassed. Pope would go on to mock the epic form, and Wordsworth would intentionally soar above the work of Milton. (Grade: 5+).
with savage bronze they hacked off both his ears,
and nose, cut off his genitals--a raw
meal for the dogs.
The passage is from Homer's Odyssey. Homer's poetry was of an oral culture, meaning there was no writing. An oral culture emphasized public display and used torture as a means of punishment. The passage describes what happened to a man in the end of The Odyssey who helped Odysseus's enemies steal armor to fight Odysseus. This man gave the armor to the suitors of Penelope, Odysseus' wife, to aid them in defeating Odysseus, his father, and his son, Telemachus. The reason they mutilated the man was because it was a society where public display was important. As King, Odysseus had to do horrible things to someone who helped his enemies because the only reason he was king was his force and guile. To prove his forcefulness, he needed stories to be told about "what happens if you go against Odysseus," and mutilating this man so terribly ensured stories would be told about it and thus his reign reinforced. "With savage bronze" is an interesting reference to the time period. They had not yet used steel and, thus, bronze was savage, or of an earlier time. (Grade: 5+).
One speaks the glory of the British Queen
And one describes a charming Indian screen;
A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;
At every word a reputation dies
Taken from Pope's Rape of the Lock, this excerpt depicts various aspects of the mock epic and the society at which Pope attempted to poke fun. The obvious distinction between this passage and excerpts from other epics studied in this course is Pope's use of heroic couplets. The constrained style, lack of enjambement due to end-stopped lines, and the caesuras that provide symmetry, provide evidence of the ideals of propriety and public appearances that were highly valued by the aristocracy of the time. Pope's humorous zeugma comparing "the glory of the British Queen" with "a charming Indian screen" is typical of the mock epic, which makes trivial events to be grandiose, thus ridiculing a society that fails to make height of character a more valuable attribute than passing frivolities. Pope's mention of the loss of reputation implies the importance of public appearances, a notion reminiscent of the character in Dangerous Liaisons, whose life is seemingly over when she loses favor in the eye of the public. (Grade: 5+).
This quote is taken from Alexander Pope's Rape of the Lock. This work was written during the 18th century, and the social characteristics are reflected, not only in the context of the text but also in the style of the poetic form. It was written using heroic couplets, rhymed iambic pentameter lines following the rhyme scheme aa, bb, cc... Each line is perfectly balanced and ordered, just as society was. Every line is complete in and of itself and each couplet is also complete in and of itself (eg. a box within a box structure). The balance of the line is found in the middle with a caesura. Rape of the Lock was a mock epic; it made a trivial matter seem mighty in order to mock the real dilemmas of a traditional epic. The work contained many issues about its society, especially the importance of what people though of one another, hence the quote: "At every word a reputation dies." Public appearance was of utmost importance to the people of the time. The mention of the "Indian Screen" serves to widen the focus and scope of this mock epic, as a traditional epic would have had great scope. The importance of public display was very important to the habitants of this "Age of Englightment." Rape of the Lock, as a mock epic, included many epic conventions. (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).
Invocation to the Muse
The Muse of Homer's Odyssey was responsible for the story. A rhapsode or traveling storyteller asked the Muse to speak using the rhapsode as simply an empty vessel. There was no value placed on the rhapsode's or the individual's opinion or story. This was a trait of the oral culture that valued public display and no privacy. A transition is seen in Milton's Paradise Lost. Milton invokes a higher Muse than Homer, and sends all of Homer's to Hell while he is at it, but Milton only asked the Muse for help. Milton asked a Biblical Muse, possibly the Holy Spirit, for inspiration in telling his (Milton's) story. This shows a transition from emphasis on the public self to a private self. Milton also shows that he, as an individual, and his ideas have value. A final transition is displayed through Wordsworth's invocation. Wordsworth is "musing in solitude." He does not think he needs a Muse at all because he believes there are greater things inside himself and in nature than those told by a Muse. The invocation to the Muse is an example of apostrophe. (Grade: 5+)
The epic catalogue was a listing of objects, people or actions to suggest a wide scope or give significance. In Homer's Odyssey, the catalogue was used to list armament, fallen (evil) women (when we meet Agamemnon in Hades) and typical rituals of the time. In Paradise Lost, there are great epic catalogues of fallen angels, including one that names many of Homer's gods. The Rape of the Lock catalogues beauty objects, things found on a woman's dressing table. In all three works, the catalogue gives emphasis to a particular idea. In the Odyssey, it emphasized hospitality, the importance of battle/strength, and the general mysogynistic beliefs held by society. In Paradise Lost, the catalogue depicted the scope and awfulness of hell. The catalogue in the Rape of the Lock reflected society's emphasis on outward appearances, making them to be grand, which ultimately was comical. (Grade: 5+)
Prospectus to the Recluse
The Prospectus to the Recluse was written by William Wordsworth, who was a great Romantic poet. It was a sort of introduction to his great epic, The Prelude. In the Prospectus, Wordsworth explains how his epic will differ from those in the past. He explains that he is concerned with the "Mind of Man"; therefore, the poem will be a more introspective autobiography. There is also no invocation to the Muse in the Prospectus because Wordsworth believes he will find his own inspiration. [Note: he does mention Urania but suggests he will be going beyond Milton's Muse.] He also asserts that he will soar above Milton's achievements, and even above those of Heaven and God. (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 hero's hubris 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. Click on this colored text for one sample response.
B) The convention of machinery 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. Click on this colored text for one sample response.
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