3-5 Pages Epic In Word & Image Paper

The paper is due on Nov. 3rd at 20:00 New York Time.

Length: take “3-5 pages” as a guideline, not an absolute requirement. You don’t need to be counting words. But it is probably impossible to deal with these topics well in less than 3 pages, and if you write much more than 5 you are probably trying to do too much. The statement “3-5 pages” refers to double-spaced printing in a normal 12-point font, and would be equivalent to approximately 750-1250 words.

The specific topics. Choose and develop one.

 Explore Virgil’s use of Homer. To think about this, you would begin by identifying several ways in which Virgil uses Homer, from large-scale features like the comparison of Aeneas to Odysseus to small-scale features like the many references to incidents in Homer or to the words of Homer. We will have discussed some of these things in class, and you should be able to find others. Once you have identified several ways in which Virgil used Homer, think about why Virgil used his predecessor poet in those ways. Was it just because Greek literature had such prestige in Virgil’s Rome, or does it go beyond that? For example, are readers invited to compare Aeneas to one or more of Homer’s heroes and, through the comparison, see certain aspects of Aeneas’s character more clearly? Are readers invited to compare Virgil’s style to Homer’s and, through the comparison, understand more clearly what Virgil is trying to do?

Consider the role of the poet/narrator in Homer and Virgil. We have talked about the beginnings of the poems, and the different ways the poets announce their projects and invoke their muses. You may certainly use those discussions, but to write on this topic you will need to get beyond them. Other than at the beginnings, do Homer and Virgil narrate differently? Do their narrators dramatize their own roles to the same degree? Do their narrators comment on the action of the plot to the same degree?

Consider how Virgil creates multiple and complex layers of meaning in The Aeneid.  What meanings does The Aeneid have beside the obvious story about the founding of Rome by Aeneas? How does Virgil create these other meanings? Optionally, you may also consider whether the Aeneid is different from Homer’s works in this respect. The argument is sometimes made that Homer’s works are “all surface,” that they do not create multiple and complex layers of meaning. Do you agree with this? If so, explore how Homer and Virgil are different. 

Consider questions of visual narrative and the relationships between verbal and visual narratives of the same story. Specifically, examine the set of Aeneid images linked below, and consider these questions. Can the images tell a story independently? How much knowledge of Virgil’s text, or how  much knowledge of the story of Aeneas is necessary for making sense of the images? Do the creators of the image seem to have relied heavily on detailed reading of Virgil’s text in creating the images? Do the images seem to develop particular themes or ideas, and if so, are these themes or ideas the same ones that are developed in Virgil, or different ones?  (See Notes on the Terminology of Manuscript Study for some important terms.)

Paintings from British Library, King’s 24, a manuscript made in 1483-85 in Rome. This manuscript contains the three major works of Virgil; the Aeneid begins on fol. 59r. The paintings in King’s 24 are all viewable at http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=8288&CollID=19&NStart=24.

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