sample assignment:In what ways were the Dark Ages dark?
Here are some sample assignments, which you may elect to use or not use.
Compare the culture that produced the Venus de Willendorf with the culture that produces the Barbie doll. What common themes do you see in the Paleolithic culture that we share or have rejected in modern culture? Consider whether we worship Barbie, and if so, how? Consider society’s view of women in the Barbie era compared to that which the artifactual record suggests was the view of Paleolithic women.
Regard Plato’s view of the ideal from his Allegory of the Cave and compare it to Aristotle’s essay, Rhetoric. Plato believed that artistic language was downright evil, because it could persuade weak-minded people to enact unethical behaviors. He believed, for example, that the bed the artist made was closer to the ideal in that even though it was a shadow of the ideal, it at least had function. However, the bed that the artist made was furthest from the ideal and was a shadow of a shadow and lacking even functional utility. Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that the only way to get to the ideal was through the abstractions of language and that the artist’s bed captured the essence of bed far better than the carpenter’s bed; that is, to live in a reasoned and logos-centric attitude of thought was to be closest to the ideal.
What does the term the Dark Ages mean? In what ways were the Dark Ages dark? In what ways was this society inadvertently preparing to emerge in modernity through the preservation of classical literature and scripture? What particular impact did Ireland have in the world that would emerge from the Dark Ages? Consider the literature produced in early Old English, a Germanic language with a Celtic imagination, expressed in Arthurian legend. What do these breathtaking legends of knights and honor have to do with our modern sense of ethics? What is the chivalric code?
The early modern (what used to be called the Renaissance) period followed the Middle Ages (which followed the presumably Dark Ages) and is a time––indeed, a very long time––in which there was a rebirth (the literal meaning of the word Renaissance) of classical culture. In this rebirth, classical literature and scripture flourished. And those who will have studied the Dark Ages may recognize that it was those secluded Irish monks who copiously hand copied and illuminated scripture and classical literature that they then reintroduced via Scotland and England into the rest of Europe (effectively jump-starting the university system). And thus a Renaissance began in the temperate climate of Italy and mushroomed northward and culminated (for the study of Western civilization’s purposes) in Renaissance England. Renaissance England produced one of the greatest authors in the history of the Western world—Shakespeare. Although many of us find his language to be distant, his take on relationships, the appropriateness of sovereignty, and such issues as murder and revenge and law and justice are viewed in modern terms. Examine Hamlet as a revenge tragedy. In what ways did Shakespeare set Hamlet up for conflict, that is, to avenge his dead father’s honor against the unspeakable crime of fratricide, while commenting on the barbarity of revenge?
Find a modern revenge drama and detail the ways in which the drama you chose and Hamlet inform each other. In other words, looking at literature is not a one-way street, as if the past only has impact on the present. Quite the contrary, the past and present are in dialogue with each other. Look at how modern revenge motifs help us to understand some of Hamlet’s moral misgivings and the complexities of his choices. For the truly ambitious, you might connect both Hamlet and a modern revenge drama to archetypal literature, such as the descent into hell and the return seen in literature of antiquity.
Consider the psychological and physical traumas faced by women who had no control over their reproductive organs. In what way is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein a psychological representation of her fear of childbirth?
Read T. S. Eliot’s great modernist poem “The Waste Land” and his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent. To what extent do you think Eliot is successful in demonstrating poetry that emerges not from emotional states but from rather cunning and completely self-aware states that emphasize not the catharsis of the poet’s emotions but are geared to producing catharsis in the audience?
Throughout American history, music becomes critically important. Look at the music that led up to civil rights. You may wish to select specific musical pieces, such as Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”––a song written by a New York Jewish man who gave the song to Holiday. You also might consider Irving Berlin’s “Suppertime,” which was made famous on Broadway by Ethel Waters. Both songs explore the practice of lynching African American men. These collaborations, particularly between Jewish intellectuals and early African American social activists, are critically important and grow in intensity, leading to the freedom singers of the late 1950s and 1960s. These include Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and many more who joined hands with Martin Luther King, Mahalia Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Odetta, and many others. Civil rights could never have occurred without interracial collaborations. Even Harry Truman, a Missouri-raised man of his historical context, was able to rise above his social and political encoding and began the civil rights movement in America through the legislation he introduced.
Consider the impact of the Vietnam War on American culture. In the decades prior to the 1980s, two issues beset American culture: civil rights and the Vietnam War. Both were televised directly into living rooms on all three channels. On college campuses throughout the world, but especially on American campuses, antiwar protests were routine. Hippies often were thought to conduct themselves on the premises of antiwar, free sex, and lots of drugs. The music that emerged from this era is still famously current and listened to today. It was an era of convertibles, gas guzzlers, freedom, and endless summers. Then that generation grew into adults––your parents and grandparents. Writing with sensitivity to the nuances of the era, what happened to the dream?
Whether you elect to compose on one of the suggestions outlined here, on some modification of a question, or on some independently arrived at idea (in concert with your professor), you will need to plan for the following milestones.
Guidelines for the Outline/Proposal: An outline is a convenience to help you tack down the topics you hope to cover in a Final Paper, and a proposal is the extended and full description of your project (as best you know it at the time of writing). Understand that you are making a best effort to describe your project early on, but allow yourself to be open to growth and change as you conduct research and focus your intentions.
Guidelines for the Annotated Bibliography: Good annotations make for excellent papers. You are required to have three (but no more than five) scholarly resources. A scholarly resource is written by an academician with a Ph.D. or other terminal degree, is published in a multivolume, peer-reviewed journal, and has ample references of its own. Your annotations should succeed in the following.
It should establish the title, author, journal, and page numbers. It should briefly summarize the article, book, or chapter. 3. It should analyze the text—say what the implications are, what assumptions are held, what historical context is represented, and the like. 4. It should locate at least one quotation to be used in your paper. 5. It should evaluate—say whether you agree, disagree, and why.
This is next week part
Guidelines for the Final Paper: The essay must be five to seven double-spaced pages in length (not including the title or reference pages). Include a minimum of three and a maximum of five scholarly sources. The margins should be no more than one in. (right and left). The essay should be composed in 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font. All of the sources must be documented and cited using APA format.