A Sample Response to the Following Question:

The convention of nekuia 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.


Things to note:

1) The response has a strong thesis, articulated from the start in an introductory paragraph.

2) The response has strong, well-articulated, and logical transitions between sentences and paragraphs. The argument seems to proceed inexorably from point to point.

3) The student is making powerful connections among the three texts s/he examines, interpreting any differences s/he identifies.

4) The student is providing interpretation of the text rather than mere paraphrase. The student has even made points that were not made in class. S/he is interpreting the text on her own and providing evidence to support his/her claims.

The nekuia has changed drastically throughout the epics we've read. From Homer's grand, heroic nekuia where Odysseus sails across an ocean to reach a Hades distinct from earth containing ancient warriors to Wordsworth's nekuia into London and the everyday city, the nekuia has been a reflection of the societal values of the author's time and the society's understanding of a human's place and what the underworld would be like. Pope's mock nekuia into a woman's spleen can be seen as a transition between Homer and Wordsworth.

Homer's nekuia takes him to Hades. Hades can be sailed to and is dinstinct from earth. The fact that Homeric society believed the universe was flat allows the nekuia to take place on the same plane as earth. Homer and his society understood a human's place as distinct from the gods (it is a crime to think of oneself as equal to the gods) so the nekuia exists outside of the self and outside of the earth. Also important is Homer's purpose in using the nekuia. He uses it to further tell the oral history of his society by cataloguing war heroes. His society places emphasis on war and heroic deeds and, so, war heroes are remembered through Odysseus' nekuia.

Pope's nekuia is a satire of the very heroic deeds that Homer praises in his nekuia. The great journey is into the spleen of the main character, Belinda. The spleen is a disgusting place full of chaotic humors and serves as the opposition, the underworld, of an 18th-century society prizing appearance, order, and composure. During the 18th century the world was seen as one of complete order with a very specific hierarchical structure. Pope uses the spleen to put Belinda in her proper position. She thinks she is so wonderful and perfect but he alerts the reader to the fact that inside this woman there is a horrifying place.

Pope's transition to a mundane place of nekuia is part of his mocking of epic conventions. He is yoking a grand convention with the most mundane of organs, the spleen. This satirizing of traditional form paves the way for Wordsworth and his complete transformation of the nekuia. Wordsworth keeps the nekuia on earth and takes away any of its previous supernatural qualities. The nekuia is now into the city, a place where millions of people live everyday. This change occurred as the result of Romanticism and its focus on the self, introspection, and nature. With the French Revolution and Thoman Paine's Rights of Man, society began to value each individual's freedom and expression. The city was the obvious limitation on personal freedom and nature, becoming the obvious nekuia. The Industrial Revolution had created a city of automatons unable to think for themselves or experience the epic machinery of nature. This was a drastic change from Homer's epic machinery and subsequent nekuia into a supernatural place, glorifying war heroes of old.

Grade: 30 points

See the Response to the Exam's Other Essay Question on the Epic Hero

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