ENGL 251 Week 7 Notes
ENGL 251 Week 7 Notes ENGL 251- 03
Popular in Great Books I: Introduction to Classic Literature
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sierra Taylor on Sunday May 15, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ENGL 251- 03 at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo taught by Dr. James Cushing in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 20 views. For similar materials see Great Books I: Introduction to Classic Literature in Foreign Language at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo.
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Date Created: 05/15/16
MONDAY LECTURE I WAS ABSENT FOR LIPSYNC, THEREFORE ALL NOTES ARE FROM HIS EMAIL SENT OUT ABOUT OEDIPUS. WEDNESDAY LECTURE WAS THE REGULAR WEDNESDAY GROUP QUIZ, SO I AM INCLUDING THE PRESENTATION LINE UP. 251-03, Spring 2016, MW 6-8 Monday May 23 Sierra Taylor Matthew Brenholdt Michael Langberg Ekaterina Pidromova Chris Voncina Nina Krishel Emily Nitao & Sophia Kuvan Lauren Miller Wednesday May 25 Caitlin Scott & Kathleen Warde Vinayak Raju Shayan Moghimi Kenneth Talliac & Liza Sims Sami Adamson & Winston Tong Dorian Romero Wednesday June 1 Varun Iyengar Robert Kirk Ryan Ramos Sarah Hershorin John Corotis ames B. Cushing <email@example.com> To firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com engl-251-07- firstname.lastname@example.org May 11 at 11:01 AM Billy-goats and the essence of tragedy “Tragedy” and “tragic” derive from TRAGOS = male goat; TRAGODIA = song on the occasion of the death of a male goat. In its omnivorous wildness, open sexuality and total disregard for man-made laws, the frisky male goat suggests DIONYSUS, god of drunken celebration and natural growth. The myth of Dionysus is multi-sourced and highly complex. The most useful version for our purposes concerns the affair ZEUS had with SEMELE, one of the daughters of Cadmus (mentioned in Oedipus the King at line 37, page 160). When Semele became pregnant, HERA, Z’s wife, got angry, disguised herself as a nurse, and persuaded Semele to ask Z to appear to her undisguised, so that his mistress would see him just as he appeared to his real wife. But no mortal can look directly as Zeus without being killed, and so, Semele died. Z took the fetus out, placed it into a wound he cut into his own thigh, and carried the child to term. The baby was raised by Semele’s three sisters, who came to worship him devotedly, even to the point of madness. They were called Maenads, whence our words “mania” and “maniac.” In some versions of the story, these women actually sacrifice their own children in order to show their devotion to the god. Birth, death. Natural growth is cyclical. “The flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth,” writes California poet Robinson Jeffers; “Out of the mother, and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence, and home to the mother.” If the old must die to produce the new, then death and life, which appear on the surface to be total opposites, are revealed as inseparable parts of the same larger process. According to ancient myth, Dionysus must die to be reborn. The ritual death of Dionysus is a sad occasion but a noble one, given that the goat is fated to die; his death expresses the will and power of the gods, not punishment for individual guilt. Drama began with the springtime ritual killing – usually through dismemberment! – of a male goat. The goat was both a communal symbol of Dionysus and a sacrifice to him. The community killed the goat while singing songs and hymns. These singers developed into the tragic CHORAGOS or Chorus, a nonrealistic theatrical device surviving from these ancient ritual traditions. This ritual death of Dionysus was also a festive occasion, a celebration with music and dancing and plenty of strong wine. Dionysus is often represented as a half-man/half-animal, dancing on its hind legs. Dionysus dances to celebrate his own destruction, which is key to the natural cycle. His dismemberment and burial is the ultimate affirmation of life. (Side note: Valentine’s Day, our culture’s biggest annual celebration of romantic love, derives from the Roman feast of Lupercalia, itself a later form of this Dionysian ritual. On the proscribed winter night, naked youths would run through the streets of Rome, anointed with the blood of sacrificed dogs and goats, waving thongs cut from goats. If a young woman were struck by a thong, fertility was assured. Pope Gelasius I decided this was a bit too much, and co-opted the Roman holiday to be the Feast of St. Valentine in 484 A.D. Clearly, the naked Lupercalians were servants, perhaps even embodiments, of Dionysus.) Given that characters on Sophocles’ stage wore masks, we might say that the tragic hero himself is a “mask” worn by Dionysus. Can a mortal man affirm life if life is full of heartbreak? The tragic hero is not a role model to follow, but an example of the possibility of human strength when faced with the will of the gods. Sophocles’ Oedipus the King The play is universally regarded as the masterpiece of Greek tragedy, from its time to our own. Sophocles (496-405 BC), the Shakespeare of Athens, wrote over one hundred plays, seven of which survive. The play’s major relationship takes place between Oedipus and the audience. Remember, Odysseus meets Jocasta in the nekuia – c.750 BC – and Sophocles is writing c.450 BC. We know what Oedipus will discover long before he does. OIDIPOUS = “swollen foot” = his wound (compare Odysseus!) OIDA = “I know” = the irony of his whole situation The irony of our knowing what the hero will discover is crucial to the play’s dramatic power. It lets us see how Oedipus always reveals his guilt – if not his conscious knowledge of it. The play’s central metaphor is a syllogism: blindness : sight :: ignorance : knowledge. Can the hero see (know) what is right in front of him? The literal blindness of Tiresias complements the metaphoric blindness of Oedipus. Related metaphors include dark and light, hiding and revealing, forgetting and remembering, denial and acknowledgement. Oedipus is insightful. He became king not by family succession but by an act of intellectual brilliance: he solved the riddle of the sphinx. Q. What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening? A. Man, who crawls as a baby, walks upright as an adult, and hobbles with a cane as an elder. To answer this question, one must be able to think metaphorically – one day as metaphor for a lifetime. If we invert the riddle, it becomes “What is man?” A free moral agent? A pawn in the gods’ game?
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