Tag Archives: The Odyssey

English 9 Regents: Persuasive Writing Related to The Odyssey

This is the research unit that I did with my Regents students.  We took ten class days to prepare for writing the research paper.  The first class was for explaining the process in advance, and the remaining nine classes are outlined below.

Research Paper: War and The Odyssey

 

Your assignment is to create a critical thinking paper; a thoughtful answer to a question of your own devising (which you have cleared with me in advance), based on your own interpretation of specific passages in your research articles and The Odyssey.   Your interpretation should be defended with logical arguments. Clarity and organization in the presentation of your argument are crucial, both to the persuasiveness of your paper and to your grade.

 

You will have a choice between the two following general topics:

  1.  Soldiers returning home from war (any war except the Trojan War)
  2. Loved ones and families of those who went to war and either have yet to return (MIAs and POWs) or who never returned

 

Your task will be to narrow down the topic to a specific war in history, and then create a specific “yes” or “no” question about that topic (see later in these notes for examples).  Once you have the questions formulated (to which the answer is either “yes” or “no”), take your position (in other words, answer your own question).  Once you have your position, you need to come up with three reasons why you answered the way you did (these will become your signposts).  As soon as you finally have your question, your position, and your reasons for your position, you are ready to write your thesis statement.

 

Class activities preparing for writing the paper:

Activity 1:  Writing three questions to which the answer is either “yes” or “no” that relates to soldiers returning from a specific war, or families who await(ed) word on loved ones in a particular war

Activity 2:  Library visit to find sources that will provide information about the selected war as well as finding both “yes” and “no” answers to their questions.  They will then have to decide which of the three questions will be the focus of their paper.  Students need five sources that will both support and provide a counter argument against their position on the question.  No more than two sources may come from the World Wide Web; they may use the electronic databases that the school purchases, or they may use books (but NO encyclopedias of any kind, either print or electronic).

Activity 3:  Taking a clear position and creating a thesis statement with three solid signposts.  Students are then told that they will have a body paragraph for each signpost as well as one body paragraph that will give background information about the war they have chosen (for a minimum of four body paragraphs for the essay).

Activity 4:  Using the five sources, students will create five bibliography cards and number them in the upper right-hand corner.  Students will then put the cards in alphabetical order, therefore creating a preliminary Works Cited list.

Activity 5:  Students must create 50 note cards, taking ten concrete details from each source.  If they cannot get ten details to support and/or argue against their position from a particular source, then the source isn’t strong enough and they have to find another one.  Each note card must contain a direct quotation (concrete detail or CD), and the corresponding number from the source’s bibliography card also goes in the upper right-hand corner of each note card.   Students must also mark in the upper left-hand corner which signpost paragraph the CD supports/argues against or if it goes in the “war background” paragraph.

Activity 6:  Connections to The Odyssey.  For those writing about a soldier returning home from war, the students must find connections to the journey home for Odysseus and relate it to the soldiers returning from war that they are targeting in their paper.   For those writing about loved ones waiting for the return of a soldier, you may focus on either Penelope or Telemachus.   Make note cards for each connection (copy lines that you could possibly embed).  These will be new CDs (at least ONE per signpost).

Activity 7:   Students will divide their 50 note cards into 4 piles (one for each of the aforementioned body paragraphs) based on the notations in the upper left-hand corner of the cards.   By doing so, they will see if they have unbalanced details/research based on the number of cards per pile.  If they have no cards for a particular pile (because they have no CDs to support that particular signpost or information about the war), they know that they will have to return to the research process to find information and make additional cards (including a new bibliography card, if necessary).  They will then choose one of the four piles pile and lay the cards out in front of them.   From there, students must discard 50% of that pile’s CDs that they had originally come up with.  This is where they have to be more discerning about the details that will ultimately end up in the paper (BUT they must keep all cards to show the process they went through).  Repeat for remaining three piles.

Activity 8:   For all the “keeper” cards in the Note Card piles, students will go through and highlight the key phrases from the sentences they’d copied (CDs) to use as embedded quotations.  There will be no “sentence plops” in the paper!

Activity 9:  Students will create a topic sentence outline for the overall paper.  First, students must come up with a “hook” to use as an opener for the introduction of the paper…they must get the reader’s (my) attention and make me want to read what they’ve written.  Choices of hooks include: imagery, an anecdote, a pithy quotation, or a shocking statistic.   All that has to go on the outline is the first sentence or two that they are thinking of using as an opening.  They must then include their improved thesis statement.  From there, they have to outline the body.  They will provide the topic sentence for each body paragraph as well as the sentences embedding the choice of concrete details from their Note Cards (see example below):

A.  Topic Sentence for first signpost

1.   Sentence with embedded quotation of strong support for argument as CD1 (cited).

2.  Sentence with embedded quotation of strong support for argument as CD2 (cited).

3.  Sentence with embedded quotation of counter argument as CD3 (cited).

4.  Sentence with embedded quotation refuting counter argument as CD4 (cited).

5.  Sentence with embedded quotation from The Odyssey making a connection to the topic as CD5 (cited).

Concrete details from Note Cards will have been further pared down to a minimum of five CDs per paragraph.

Once students have finished with their topic sentence outlines, they go on to finish writing the essay by filling in the paragraphs with their commentary.  Final essays due in four weeks, which gives students plenty of time to see me with any questions or problems.

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A Plug for my Friend, Charlie Bethel and his Version of The Odyssey

My students were already introduced to the work of Charlie Bethel when we were preparing to read The Odyssey.  A performer of epic tales, Charlie tours the country giving presentations of such classics as Beowulf and Gilgamesh, but he can now add Homer to his repertoire.

Charlie

When we were beginning The Odyssey, Charlie graciously accepted an impromptu telephone call from me in class.  He spent nearly 30 minutes listening to my students give feedback on a Visible Thinking exercise involving a portion of his performance of Gilgamesh, and he patiently answered all their questions.  We had to do this on my speakerphone, which has a limited volume, and the room was as silent as a tomb as they strained to hear Charlie’s replies…I hadn’t seen them that quiet prior to the call nor have I since!  He had them captivated!

I hope that Webster Schroeder will consider bringing Charlie Bethel to our stage in the future so that he can share his latest production of Homer’s epic poem!

Congrats, Charlie!

Charlie Bethel The Odyssey

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English 9 Enriched: A New York Odyssey

A New York Odyssey!   

Hello!  In the spirit of Odysseus, you shall tell the tale of a difficult journey from Troy to Ithaca… New York, that is!NYO2

To begin, go to Google Maps and map out the route between Troy, NY and Ithaca, NY.   Examine the map for neighboring towns and cities where you—like Odysseus—might have gotten side-tracked on your way from Troy to Ithaca.  Odysseus was waylaid by a storm sent by Zeus, and then had to take a long route home, having many adventures along the way.  Because he was thrown off-course, he ended up in places such as The Island of the Lotus Eaters, Polyphemus’ island, facing the Laestregonians, being enticed by both Circe and Calypso, and other adventures.

Outlining the Project:  each group must:

–          Choose a group leader (an “Odysseus-figure”) who will be the only one to make it to Ithaca, NY.  The entire journal will be told from the Odysseus-figure’s point of view, so remember that when you begin writing;

–          Once you have your group leader, determine what kind of a group you are (rock band, dodge ball team, detective agency, etc);

–          Work together to create a story of why your group is in Troy, New York and why you need to get to Ithaca, New York;

–          Work together to determine why and how you must leave Troy;

–          EACH INDIVIDUAL (including the Odysseus-figure) WILL THEN:

  • Select ONE of Odysseus’ adventures to use as a model;
  • Choose any New York State city or town;
  • Re-write that adventure using the NYS city/town as the setting

–          REMEMBER to speak with your other group members, especially those whose stories come before and immediately after the one you are writing—you must be sure to create a smooth transition from one place to the next

–          ALSO REMEMBER to speak to one another about storyline continuity!  A team member cannot die in Watertown, NY and then suddenly reappear in Dansville (unless, of course, Dansville represents The Land of the Dead…)

–          The final episode takes place once the Odysseus-figure returns to Ithaca, so everyone works together to finalize the journal.

Putting it all together:

Create a journal or other some such creative representation of your journey from Troy to Ithaca, New York.  Each member selects a town or city where the group may have been waylaid (REAL NY towns on the map) and each member will then mirror one of Odysseus’ adventures in The Odyssey taking place in that town.  When you choose a town or city, you MUST do some research online about specific places IN that town where you may have ended up (stick to New York State only).  Also, each adventure that you have in these towns must mirror adventures that Odysseus had on his own journey.

For example:  We know that, after Zeus sent a storm, Odysseus ended up on the Island of the Lotus Eaters, and some of his men ate the lotus flowers and forgot all about home.   They had to be rescued by crew members who had not eaten the flowers, and the moral of that story was “Don’t Do Drugs”.   So, mirroring that story, let’s pretend that you were somehow thrown off course from Troy, NY (come up with some logical explanation how) and managed to end up on Lyell Avenue in Rochester, NY.  Your task would be to create an incident on Lyell Ave. similar to that of Odysseus and his men with the Lotus Eaters.  Perhaps you send a friend inside a convenient store to get directions, and your friend doesn’t come out after half an hour.  You decide to go inside the store to find out what’s taking so long and you discover your friend hanging out in a corner of the store drinking Four Loko with a couple of guys.  What do you do?  (Get the idea?)

BE CREATIVE!  All projects (including journals) must include pictures and maps as well as a fully descriptive tale of each place visited.

 An EPIC Performance!!  Each group will share an oral performance of their New York Odysseys!  In the tradition of Homer, students will tell the tales of their group’s woes on the road, one at a time.  The Odysseus-figure will introduce him/herself and his/her crew, and then describe what kind of a group they are, and explain what they are doing in Troy, NY.  Group members will each pick up the telling of the tale as it is reflected in their group travel journal.

Samples from Student Journals

From Hades’ Ladies, the winners of a Battle of the Bands contest

 NYO3 NYO4NYO7NYO5  NYO6

A group of homeless Hobos makes its way from soup kitchen to soup kitchen in their attempt to reach their hometown of Ithaca

 NYO10 NYO8NYO9

We had a couple of Detective Agencies…

 NYO1NYO14NYO16

A band of Groupies…

 Delta t-shirts NYO15 NYO17NYO20 NYO19

A troupe of Adrenaline Junkies…

NYO11NYO13  NYO12

and there were others as well!!

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English 9 Regents: The Sirens

For this essay assignment, I have students RHA (read, highlight, and annotate) the song sung by the Sirens in The Odyssey and the Margaret Atwood poem “Siren Song” (I do not do this assignment with the Enriched students because “Siren Song” has been used as an AP poem in the past).   Students then have to look at the elements of persuasion used by the Sirens in each piece and then compare/contrast the attitudes and behaviors exhibited by the mythical creatures as part of their persuasive technique.

This fits in well with the PARCC framework and the Common Core Standards’ push toward examining persuasive writing and creating arguments.  The students have to explain how the Sirens attempted to persuade their victims in each piece.

As an opener, we also do a Visible Thinking Exercise using John Waterhouse’s painting, “Ulysses and The Sirens”:

John_William_Waterhouse_-_Ulysses_and_the_Sirens_(1891)

Sirens Essay Assignment

Your Task: Select one point of comparison and two points of contrast regarding the behaviors and attitudes of the Sirens from the epic The Odyssey attributed to Homer and the poem “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood.

Structure:

  1. Introduction-  what it means to be tempted by beauty or by a call of distress.  What is a Siren? Build to thesis statement.
  2. Body (remember to focus on behaviors and attitudes of the Sirens in each piece)
    1. Point of comparison between the two pieces (use two chunks)
    2. Point of contrast between the two pieces (use two chunks)
    3. A different point of contrast between the two pieces (use two chunks)

III.       Conclusion

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English 9 Enriched: Elegies of The Odyssey

In a effort to continue with learning about lyric poetry, the students wrote elegies for characters in The Odyssey.

Your Task:  Write an elegy to one of the characters from Homer’s The Odyssey.  Remember that an elegy, like an ode, has no set stanza structure or rhyme scheme, but elegies ARE usually meant to be set to music.  That means that there must be some kind of rhythm to the poem.

You may choose your structure (quatrains, cinquains, etc…) and you may choose to have a rhyme scheme.  Things to keep in mind about elegies:

  • Although they have no set structure, elegies do contain three sections that address the three stages of grief:

The Lament

The Praise (ode-ish)

The Consolation

  • The elegy most often does not give the person’s name in the poem… it is usually found in the title.
  • The poem most often characterizes the person being elegized.
  • You must have either: a) a number of stanzas divisible by three for each of the stages of loss (see “Oh Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman), or b) three separate sections, each for the stages of loss (see “Elegy to W. B. Yeats” by W.H. Auden)

Student Examples 

“Elegy to Argos”  by Phoebe H.

I’m sorry, my dear companion!

For years you had no care.

Left in alone in manure with fleas in your hair,

Unfed, undeserving, tired and old

Unlike the companion I left long ago.

But now, companion, you’ve died of grief

Did you know? I’m sorry I could not greet you.

Just as my eyes met yours,

A final, last look,

And you’ve closed your eyes.

A final, last look,

I’ve said my goodbyes.

I remember, my dear ally!

You loved to run around.

Battle scars, memories, ever since you were young.

The best tracker, so quick and strong!

You followed me and never went wrong.

As others praised me, I would praise you.

Faithful, old friend, you knew me at once!

Forever my loyal ally,

You’d follow me,

To the ends of the earth.

You’d follow me,

Till your spirit fled earth.

Move on, my dear comrade!

The troubles are no more.

The careless maids and the haughty suitors,

Their lives were reaped, and set to roam.

Peace has now returned to our home.

You would have fought by my side.

We still will share the victory.

Let your spirit run free!

Rest in the afterlife,

You’ll be remembered.

Rest in the afterlife,

At peace, forever.

__________________________________________________________

“Elegy to Agamemnon” by Jaime L.

A marriage should be filled with love, happiness, and compassion

And trust, above all, of any fashion

But instead, his was not meant to be

As the tale is here for all to see

A great victory beheld our lives in times of great sorrow

The men all eager to return home by tomorrow

But out great leader returns to doom

For his unfaithful wife has been wooed

Our great leader is dead, struck down by the lover of his unfaithful wife

No breath stirs his chest, his soul fleeing to the afterlife

A great warrior was he!

Fighting to the end, seeing the oncoming victory!

Aiding King Menelaus, his loving brother

He fought to end the war brought upon by the beautiful Helen’s lover

How strong was he, the great king of Argos!

But bear in mind

His great soul is fine

As it travels to Elysium

That great hero had done great deeds in life

A pity, for what happened with his wife

Though he will soon settle in an Eden

He was brave, cunning, and smart

And will live forever in our beating hearts

All right from the start.

____________________________________________________________

“Elegy to Elpenor” by Trevor C.

For your death Princely Odysseus best accept the blame

As he unleashed Poseidon’s wrath that upon the crew trouble would rain

We know that you took the fall for Odysseus being big-headed

When we heard that the crew was to die, the journey home became dreaded

I will always mourn your powerful presence

But I hope the underworld will be for you, a great residence

You can be assured that you didn’t deserve this wicked plummet

Knowing that this could have been avoided makes me sick to my stomach

You were a loyal one to the crew as could be seen in your brotherly gaze

How were you to know your fate after being awoken and all a-dazed

The crew didn’t know what they had until they lost you, a major part of the crew’s puzzle

Why they tried to leave Circe’s island without you makes me befuddled

You were always a companion, a truly loyal fellow

But you had to fall to a death that was anything but mellow

We hope you rest easy, after all you have been selfless

But the death was partly your fault, no one is totally flawless

After your death, carrying on will be very hard to manage

We can try to push past all our emotional damage

Your crew will never be the same again, on them your personality was impressed

On the subject of your death the crew may also have to digress

Your family will eventually heal after being in total despair

Don’t feel grief about dying young, I know it may be unfair

Your body was treated and buried with great pride

As for the sea-god Poseidon, we all now greatly despise.

_________________________________________________________

“Elegy to Anticlea” by Ryan H.

O Anticlea, beloved mother of mine

My heart swelled, dropped deep in decline

As I witnessed your being, unwhole

Dwelling in the land of dead souls

O what a terrible, unpleasant surprise

For still inside, my forsaken heart cries

For you, I  attempt so desperately to embrace

Yet, to no avail, I am without solace

Learning of your honorable demise, my morale upped

No matter that your demise was so abrupt

The fact that you perished of grief for me

Only heightens your unmitigated legacy

You were a providing, nurturing, and loving mother

In these traits you showed, you would never falter

You lived your life with honor and respect

Now that you’re gone, I must reflect

O father of mine, great Laertes

Hear me now, O hear me please

Do not grieve for too long

To do so would be so wrong

As our departed member would persist against it

Of that her humble soul would not permit

She would want us to be our boldest

And live our lives to their fullest

__________________________________________________________

“Elegy to Achilles” by Alessandra P.

Our hearts are heavy

For we lost a great hero

All Achaeans mourn for you

You left us miserable and abandoned

The sky is now gray

The days are now dark

Now that you are gone we lost all hope

You led us through the battle of troy

You brought us victory and hope

You were brave and determined

You were a loyal friend

A fearless man and a strong leader

You were the greatest Greek warrior

and lived an honorable life

We know that you legacy will live on

What you did while alive will overcome your death

For not even death can conquer the hero that will live on forever

For you have given us the best of you

We are honored to have experienced what you had to offer

The hero that lived in you will spark the hero in all of us from generation to generation

It is time to lay down your sword and rest in peace

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English 9 Enriched: Odes for The Odyssey

Because of the change in curriculum, we no longer have a formal full-length poetry unit at this time.  In an effort to build poetry into the PARCC framework, I added lyric poems to The Odyssey unit.  The following is an assignment I gave surrounding odes after we had done the following prep work:

1- defined Pindaric and Horatian odes and the purpose of an ode altogether

2- read and analyzed the structure of “Ode to Aphrodite” by Sappho (example of Pindaric Ode)

3- read and analyzed the structure of “The Ship of State” by Horace (example of Horatian Ode)

4- read and analyzed the structure and the content of several odes from T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (“Macavity the Mystery Cat”, “The Rum Tum Tugger”, and “Mungojerry and Rumpleteezer”)

5- compared student analyses of Eliot poems (speaker, tone, mood) with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s interpretation of the same poems in the musical Cats.  Analyzed Webber’s characterization of each cat (speaker, tone, musical style, choreography, costuming, lighting) and justified his choices with textual evidence from Eliot’s poems.

Students then had to complete the following assignment:

Odes of The Odyssey

You have been writing an ode to one of the characters from Homer’s The Odyssey.  Remember that an ode has no set stanza structure or rhyme scheme, but odes ARE meant to be set to music.  That means that there must be some kind of rhythm to the poem.

You may choose your structure (quatrains, cinquains, etc…) and you may choose to have a rhyme scheme.  Since odes are meant to be songs containing emotion, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

1- Pindaric odes carry an elevated vocabulary because they are meant to be “production numbers,” so to speak.  The elevated vocabulary stems from the heightened emotion toward the person.

2- Pindaric odes have strophes and antistrophes… call and response (See “Ode to Aphrodite” by Sappho).

3- Horatian odes are more contemplative… thinking ABOUT something/someone that is not present, but wishing it were (See “The Ship of State” by Horace).

4- The vocabulary level of a Horatian ode is not as elevated as that of the Pindaric because the Horatian are not on as grand a scale.

THINK!  If you are going to write “Ode to Athena,” which style would best befit the Goddess of Wisdom: Pindaric or Horatian?  What about Poseidon?  Odysseus?  Which might best fit Telemachus or Penelope?

Also, you must keep in mind a SPEAKER.  YOU are not delivering these odes personally…but who MIGHT these words belong to?  The choice of speaker will determine the TONE of the poem.  You do NOT have to reveal who the speaker is… the reader should be able to make an educated guess based on  how he/she interprets the tone of the poem (remember the exercise we did the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s interpretation of T.S. Eliot’s poems?).

STUDENT SAMPLES

____________________________________________________

“Ode to the Sirens” by James W.

O wondrous singers afar!
Fair maids of song fairer still.
To see thine faces is my will,
though I am bound to this spar.

Would that I could join you there,
but mine ship is locked on course!
Heartless men hold me by force,
ignoring my hateful glare!

Sing to me of vict’ry brave!
Please great Sirens, sing of Troy,
where I fought, leaving my boy
and the wife for whom I crave!

Thine song reaches me alone:
I hear you cry “come, brave soul!
“With us your life will be whole!”
On my pleas to join you drone.

Sirens fair, perched on thine isle,
may your music never end!
Ever my ear will I lend
‘till away my life should while!

____________________________________________________________

“Ode to the Earth-Shaker” by Jack S.

Brother O brother how I envy you too

You shake the Earth, causing tremors above

You control the sea and you devastate sailors

Such a fearful Earth-Shaker

O Poseidon you are so clever and wise

O Neptune how strong and mighty you are

You best all sailors and strike fear in their hearts

Wise and powerful Earth-Shaker

Your kin are great, they beat most men

Polyphemus lies in his cave feasting on mortals

He cursed Odysseus with your power

The great and fatherly Earth-Shaker

I must govern the dead

You can control the seas

At least I have Persephone

The grand, sea-faring Earth-Shaker

The other gods fear you so much

But they always leave me out

When you raise your trident, everyone listens

Strong and respected Earth-Shaker

___________________________________________________________

“Ode to Odysseus” by Jason M.

You left our house to go to war,
So you are not with me and our son anymore.
You bravely fought for ten years,
But when the war ended, even you filled the air with cheers.

You’ve been gone for twenty years,
When you didn’t come home I cried many tears.
I long for you to come home,
But instead you stay at sea and roam.

Odysseus you are so clever,
Trying not to miss you is a terrible endeavor.
Having you home will solve my trouble,
You will send the suitors packing on the double.

You are a glorious king residing in your palace’s hall,
You clearly stand far above all.
Even Zeus admits that you’re almost divine,
I long for you to be once again mine.

Odysseus you are so mighty,
And when you are near your enemies feel flighty.
Glorious Odysseus you are on your way home,
So that you can once again sit on you throne.

_________________________________________________________

“Ode to an Enchantress” by Ishitri B.

Oh enchanted Circe,

What fateful winds hath brought me.

To thy abode that you reside,

Among the seas that I did ride.

Oh wicked Circe,

For my men hath troubled you.

With the rath cradled in thy heart,

Squealing swine you formed them to.

Oh loving Circe,

The passion I felt for thee.

Burning like the scorching sun,

It is no wonder you chose me.

Oh beautiful Circe,

Your flowing locks long and divine.

Ensnared my beating heart,

And gave no choice but to make you mine.

Oh treacherous Circe,

Ruling the minds of many men.

Enslaved, beguiled and played us all,

Thus I knew to leave you then.

__________________________________________________________

“Ode to Penelope” by Trevor C.

Faithful wife of Odysseus, where does your husband wander?

If you think about what Odysseus is doing, one could so simply ponder

Don’t you ever question that your husband’s love for you is not everlasting?

If I get the chance, I will reel you into my love that I am casting.

Do you ever feel so lonesome being confined?

But if you lived with me, our love could be divine

You know I sometimes get the feeling of your lonely

I stand out from those slobbering suitors, unlike me, they are quite homely

I could even make the pain of Telemachus’ death minimal

You may have observed the suitors’ behavior in your house, acting like criminals

We could be top birds of our castle

And destroy any lovers presenting you a hassle

I can see who you want as a loyal husband, I can tell your desires

You know you want a man who loves you with a burning passion, like a crackling fire

Being safe with me in the deep depths of the castle, we could live such simple lives

This security wouldn’t be at the hands of others who our love they’d attempt to deprive

Why I know that you’d do anything to keep me with you and elated

To do this now, I know you haven’t even debated

But we know that sometime our souls will have to evade our beings

And about our lives in the underworld, you know I have already being dreaming

__________________________________________________________

“Ode to Athene” by Emily M.

O goddess Athene, you have been my guide,

In times of hardship when I would rather hide.

Those obstacles I would not have faced,

Shan’t it been for you I would not have reached my place.

Your aid has been like no others!

O Pallas Athene, you have watched over me,

In times of trouble you gave me strength to not flee.

Those creatures I would not have passed,

Shan’t it been for you I would not have reached home at last.

Your aid has been like no others!

O clear-eyed Athene, you have taken many forms,

Without you I would have been caught up in large storms.

Those enemies I would not have beat,

Shan’t it been for you I would have experienced defeat.

Your aid has been like no others!

O grey-eyed Athene, you have done for me so much,

Without you I would not have had a crutch.

My family I would not again see,

Shan’t it been for you I would forever be lonely.

Your aid has been like no others!

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English 9 Enriched: The Night Journey of the Soul

This is an essay assignment I do with my Enriched students when we reach to point in The Odyssey where Odysseus makes a journey to the Land of the Dead.   Students read a selection of Land of the Dead stories from a variety of cultures.  The object was to examine each tale for what it showed about the culture and how those people attempted to answer the question of what happens after death.   Each group created a poster for the story those particular students were working with; a selection of their posters is below.

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Every culture across time and geographic location has, through its myths and legends, attempted to answer the question of where one goes after death.  In the universal (across time and location) myth of the descent into the underworld, the hero finds himself an explorer in the province of death itself.  Readers follow the hero as he faces in depth what man himself so fears.  The hero is humanity’s hope in overcoming death and understanding its meaning.

 Your task:  Your group will be assigned one of the tales of the Descent to the Underworld from the Leeming text.  After reading the tale and discussing its significance with your group members, you are to write an essay in which you discuss what mankind can learn about the afterlife from both this story and from Odysseus’ journey to the Land of the Dead in Book XI of The Odyssey.   What comfort and/or warnings are divulged in each of these episodes of the night journey of the soul?  CD’s will come from both the stories you’ve read and the Leeming essay.

Your audience:  Fellow members of the human race who seek comfort in the “knowledge” of what may (or may not) come after death.

Selections from Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero

by David Adams Leeming

          

1.  Inanna (Ishtar)                    Babylonian/Sumerian

2.  Wanjiru                               African

3.  Jesus                                  Christian

4.  Kuan Yin                              Chinese

5.  Kutoyis                             Blackfoot Indian (Native American)

6.  Hermodr and Balder              Icelandic

7.  Izanagi and Izanami              Japanese

Before beginning the essay, each group will read and discuss the tale’s relevance to the topic.  Each group will create a poster that depicts the hero’s journey to the underworld and explain what beliefs of that particular culture are reflected in the tale.  Present to class giving a brief summary and discuss your findings.  Remaining groups will take notes on what is presented.

Hint:  Do not merely relate that the culture believed in an afterlife… that goes without saying.  Also, do not say that the culture believed in honoring the dead or respected the gods… again, it’s obvious or these stories would not exist.  What specifics from the tales can you share about the rituals described?

Wanjiru Baldar Hermodr Inanna Jesus Kutoyis

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