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P‌‍‍‍‌‍‍‌‌‍‍‍‌‍‍‍‍‌‍‍lease answer each question in three (3) paragraphs/or a full page. READING SIX: Here in “Ramayana” we have another heroic or epic poem – this one, mind you is not from “mythology,” but directly from the scriptures of two of the world’s great religions. Hinduism & Buddhism form a scriptural lineage in much the same fashion as do the Hebraic, Christian, Islamic scriptures. In other words, we are dealing here with a “living religion.” The names are strange as are the concepts of life and afterlife. People are arranged into four classes or castes. You are born into a caste and that determines both your station in life and your expectations for an afterlife – your righteousness in this life will influence but not determine outright your spiritual potential – by your own efforts at righteousness you may influence, but not assure whether you move up or down on the spiritual plane in future existences. In “Ramayana” extremes of emotion (influenced along the way by feminine inconstancy and weakness) whipsaw the characters within the bounds of the absolutes of birth (their station in life) and duty (the hierarchy of duties to their lords, brothers, fathers, etc.). Beset by demons and human weaknesses, the heroes try to be as heroic as they can. Rama is, of course, the greatest hero of them all, beloved of the gods (an avatar of the god Vishnu, actually) and all of his earthly admirers, beset on all sides by the duplicity of demonic forces and human weakness (mostly of women, but also of his own father who is trapped by his own duty to his own sworn oaths). The heroism here is even more “irrational” than in Gilgamesh, and starkly different from the heroism of the (generally contemporary) Greeks who were striving (however unknowingly) toward a universe of man-centered reason. How does this Hindu / Buddhist heroism differ in human detail from other heroism tales? Additionally, what are your thoughts on the place or character of women here – and how it differs particularly from the Greek if it does? READING SEVEN: By the time of the 12th century Heike Wars, Japan was firmly a Buddhist nation – that is to say, Buddhism was firmly entrenched in Kyoto, the imperial capital. However, and this is true even to this present day, throughout the entire nation, Shinto shrines coexisted with Buddhist temples – indeed, there was less strife between Shinto and Buddhism than there was between the various sects of Buddhism struggling for influence at the Imperial court. Nowadays it is said in Japan that you are born Shinto (they take babies to the “shrine” to be blessed), marry Shinto (the wedding ceremony is a gloriously expensive Shinto do), and die Buddhist (funerals are presided over by the “bonzes” or Buddhist priests, along with the various follow-ups – the bestowing of the eternal name to replace the deceased’s earthly name, etc.) This all allows for a rich shamanistic (Shinto) folklore of spirits, demons, shape-shifters and mischief makers to exist side by side with the more philosophical (and refined) doctrines of the various Buddhist sects. In the Heike times, the Jodo or Pure Land sect of Buddhism was the most influential due to its power base in Kyoto, the traditional seat of the emperor. “Tales of the Heike” are really a series of historical short stories that follow two themes of interest to this course. First, they tell the stories of the heroes of the battles that established the Heike (Taira) clan as masters (Shoguns) of medieval Japan. The Heike left the Imperial Capital in Kyoto and moved the administrative (Shogunate) capital northeast to Kamakura. In this system of political governance, the Emperor reigns, but the Shogun rules. The second theme is the theme of personal enlightenment (what Christians would call salvation). This theme of disengagement with worldly matters and retirement to the temple or the countryside to contemplate eternity echoes what we saw in the poetry of medieval China, although the resulting enlightenment is a bit more doctrinaire. It also allows for the inclusion of the concerns of the women (who loom large throughout Japanese literary history – almost as if literature were somehow effeminate and like so many other concerns, beneath the notice of a warrior living moment to moment in the presence of his own death). Compare these two themes with the literature (heroic and lyric – READING FIVE) we’ve read so far, using details from the Japanese stories to illustrate your points. READING EIGHT: The Romans were inherently practical people, whether in the political and administrative forms they pioneered or in the masterpieces of engineering they built. BUT they were also idealists, and they lived by a strong gathering of “virtues” that were held to be the defining characteristics of both their personal and their civic of these Virtues included such things a‌‍‍‍‌‍‍‌‌‍‍‍‌‍‍‍‍‌‍‍s “pietas,” “veritas,” and “gravitas” — loyalty, truthfulness, and seriousness. There were other virtues, both private and public (you can find lists of them on the Internet). Discuss Aeneas as an exemplar of at least three of these Roman virtues, then decide, if you will, whether you feel he is generally a “virtuous” person as he appears in Virgil’s great foundational Roman epic. READING NINE: Christ’s example of extreme self-sacrifice and selfless love established an entirely new (or nearly so) model for heroism in Western cultures. The selfless hero. This would be a good time to see Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” if you never have. How did this Jewish mystic reset the heroic mode in Western thought forever after? Explain. READING TEN: When the Anglo-Saxons inherited the old Celtic-Roman lands of Britannia after the withdrawal of the last Roman legions around 410AD, there were probably a couple of dozen “Germanic” tribes spread from Scandinavia (the Swedes, Geats, etc.) to North Africa (the Vandals). They spoke different, but familiar dialects of the same Old Germanic mother tongue (that means, in a pinch, they could sort of understand one another). Over the next several hundred years under many influences their dialects would evolve into everything from Old English (Anglo-Saxon) to Swedish to French to German — each a “foreign” language to the speakers of the others. So, Anglo-Saxon became the language of England. And Beowulf, a Geat, (a small tribe from what would eventually become southern Sweden), went to Denmark to save Hrothgar’s people from a monster named Grendel. Sometime later, an English Christian monk wrote down Beowulf’s story from legendary oral sources, and it became the great epic of the English people in spite of the fact that there’s not an “Englishman” in it anywhere. The Beowulf poet’s Christian beliefs are strongly expressed in the poem. Why do you suppose it was so important to this eighth century English monk to preserve this Germanic story, representing as it does the barbaric “virtues” of a pagan warrior way of life quickly passing from the historical scene? (Warriors such as Beowulf were being supplanted in those days by medieval Christian knights, with their feudal hierarchies of fealty, their heavy steel armor and hard charging destriers.) READING ELEVEN: Since it seems so ardently heroic of the French knight Roland to refuse to blow his great battle horn at the outset of the Moslem ambush of his rearguard force, why was it NOT an act of cowardice when he finally sounded the horn as the last of his knights were being slaughtered on the hillsides surrounding him? What do you make of that bishop, lopping off “heathen” heads while at the same time absolving his dying comrades of their sins? They don’t make military chaplains like that any more, or do they? READING TWELVE: Pick one of the pitiful folk our poet and his guide meet on their journey, and argue at length (with or against Dante) whether and/or why that particular person deserves the punishment(s) Dante has dished out to him or her – and if undeserving of their fate, what fate would have been more appropriate. For your own edification, you may note that the Catholic Church during the recent past has promoted most of those in “Limbo” (the unbaptized innocents and the “good pagans”) to some level of Paradise or Purgatory by simply wiping Limbo off the ecclesiastical map – there is no more Limbo according to the church. And since the Catholic Church was the only one to avow the existence of Limbo, that puts those folks walking the dark plains of Dante’s upper circles out to greener pastures. READING THIRTEEN: “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is known as a Medieval Romance – that means it’s a sort of epic story from the European Middle Ages. Heroes in the west of Europe, by this time (the 14th century), had transitioned from Germanic pagan warriors who fought primarily on foot to fully armored Christian knights, with all the complicated codes and fealties such a life entailed (chivalry, liege lords, etc.). Having said that, it is easy to see how the sexy and yet superficially devout story of Gawain’s adventures amidst the Hautdeserts comes from a time when the dominant religion was comfortable enough with itself that ribald and wacky tales could flourish. What is it that keeps Gawain chaste? And then, comparing Gawain to someone of your own acquaintance, how likely is it that “moral constraints” or “honor” would keep your acquaintance from getting it on with the baron’s randy young wife? READING FOURTEEN: Hamlet has a hard time being heroic. In fact, he has a hard time making up his mind about ANYTHING. It has been said by some critics that Hamlet is the first “modern” hero because he’s so ‌‍‍‍‌‍‍‌‌‍‍‍‌‍‍‍‍‌‍‍conflicted. In your estimate, IS Hamlet a hero? If so, how so; if not, why not?

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