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Writing Assignments HIA 311
Remember that, as always, I am looking for your opinion and how well you support it with evidence; these essays are less about “right answers” than they are about well-supported ideas.
Presentation Write-Up (2)
Due on the class meeting after your presentation
Write a 2–3 page essay that does the following:
- Briefly summarizes what the document says and, more importantly, analyzes what the author is trying to say about the subject at hand. In other words, you need to identify and discuss what you believe is the author’s interpretation, bias, and point of view and how it affected the author’s treatment of the topic. Give examples from the document that illustrate your assessment of the author’s spin.
- Provides perspective by relating the material in the document, and the author’s bias on it, to the bigger picture—the themes, issues, and material being discussed in class.
- Incorporates any responses that came up in class after your presentation, and your own reactions to them.
Final draft due Friday, Dec. 12
Write a 6–8 page position paper in which you express an opinion about a topic related to the roles and impact of women in the ancient era, and use evidence to back up that opinion. In other words, you’re taking a side on some question or controversy, and you use reasoning and research to support your side of the argument.
- For your topic, choose one of the 13 meeting topics for the course and decide on a controversy or debate that pertains to that topic.
- You can choose a question or problem that the people at the time might have debated — e.g., “How are the expectations for goddesses different from those of mortal women?”; or a question that might arise among modern historians — e.g., “Is Athens really more repressive of women than Sparta?” In each case you need to outline both sides of the question in your paper and then provide evidence why you think one side was right.
- Choose a topic you’re interested in and have fun with it. Make it wacky, make it provocative — anything is fine as long as you make an argument regarding your chosen topic and support it with facts.
- You must use at least three sources. Ideally you should have a mix of primary and secondary sources. TERTIARY SOURCES ARE NOT ALLOWED.
- You must submit a proposal by October 17 with a provisional topic and thesis. (See next section for more on what I’m looking for in the proposal.)
- You may submit an optional draft by November 28. It should include most of your paper (at least two thirds of the final content, with sections to be written described in square brackets). I will give feedback, but not a grade, to help you refine your final paper. We’re not meeting that day, so you’ll need to submit your draft by email.
- Because I accept optional drafts, I do not accept revisions of content after the final paper has been submitted and graded—though some formatting and citations errors can be corrected and resubmitted. (See “Requirements for All Papers” handout for more.)
Position Paper Proposal
The proposal is just a brief one-page preview of your position paper that includes the following:
- The topic you think you’ll want to write about and the problem you’re interested in addressing. You should be able to delineate the problem by describing the opposing views people might take. To make sure you have two clear opposing opinions, you might want to express them in the form “Some say… . Others say… .”
- Your preliminary thesis statement—in other words, what you think you might be arguing in your paper.
- Your thesis statement, both here and in the final paper, should be a statement of opinion that someone could disagree with. It can take the form of following up the description of the opposing opinions with your own: “I believe… .”
- Remember that your thesis is provisional. You can change anything about your approach and interpretation after the proposal; in fact, uncovering information as you do your research makes refining or changing your initial assessments very likely.
- These items are essentially the model for your introduction, as you can see from this sample intro:
|Hannibal Barca, the great Carthaginian general, brought 37 war elephants with him over the Alps into Italy, and at the climactic Battle of Zama they had a front line that included 80 elephants. Did Hannibal’s elephants really make a difference? Some say that Hannibal’s elephants were crucial in establishing the morale of his troops against the legendary Roman legions and in intimidating other armies along the way into alliances; but others say that Hannibal’s elephants did the Carthaginian side more harm than good in their fight with Rome. I believe that Hannibal’s use of elephants was a mistake, not because war elephants were a dumb idea in general, but because Roman adaptability meant that the Romans would inevitably find a way around them.
Opposing sides →
Thesis statement →
- In addition, in the proposal you should also outline any thoughts you have so far on what kinds of evidence you think will help you make your case in the final paper.
- I’ll respond to the proposal with feedback and suggestions to help you map out your research and writing.
Essay on Representations and Images
Due Friday, Nov. 14
Write a 3 page essay based on ONE of the two following topic questions.
Whichever option you choose, the purpose of this essay is NOT to describe the works in question, but to interpret their meaning and discuss analytically what they tell us about how different kinds of artists and creators represent the ancient peoples and their world.
Option 1 – Artifacts comparison
- Visit any museum exhibition or collection of art, architecture, or other artifacts of the ancient world. Choose two or three comparable artworks from different eras, from different places, or both.
- The question: If art is an expression of cultural values, what do the differences between these works tell you about the role or perception of women in the respective cultures they come from? What do their similarities tell you about what women in these ancient societies have in common?
- Make sure to look for items with the same, or comparable, subjects, that come from different times or from different places. For example: a Greek statue of a young woman and a Roman statue of a young woman, or a decorated vase from the Greek Archaic period and one from the Classical or Hellenistic period. (For possible venues, see next page.)
- You must describe in detail how what you see leads you to concrete conclusions about these ancient peoples. Be bold, be provocative, and be specific.
- Important: On a separate “Works Discussed” page after your essay, list the title of each work, the artist, the approximate date it was created, and the name of the museum gallery where the work can be found.
- Also on the “Works Discussed” page, paste in photographs of the items. If it’s permitted at the museum, take a picture of the items while you’re there. If it’s not, find pictures of them on the museum’s web site or via a Google Images search.
Option 2 – Films and sources
- Watch any feature-length film that seriously depicts women in the ancient world and compare it with a primary source—written evidence about that society or those events.
- The question: Both the movie and the written evidence are artistic interpretations of reality. Use at least two specific events or characters to compare the filmmakers’ intent and message with that of the writers of the source material. What do they want you to believe?
- (For some suggested possibilities, see the next page.)
- Important: On a separate “Works Discussed” page after your essay, list the title of film, year, director, stars and studio. Then list the book or books you drew your written evidence from, using standard citation style.
- You may also employ secondary sources to help you interpret the film, the primary source, or both.
Some possibilities for Representations & Images Essay
Option 1 possibilities
Possible venues for the artifacts comparison option include:
- Metropolitan Museum: Egypt Collection
- Metropolitan Museum: Greek and Roman Art
- Brooklyn Museum of Art: Ancient Egyptian Art
- Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art
- You are, of course, not limited to these venues, and you are not limited to New York.
Option 2 possibilities
Some possibilities for the film and sources option include (this list is not exhaustive; I can give you specifics on where to look in the primary sources on request):
||Possible Primary Sources to Compare
||Plutarch, Alexander; or Arrian, Anabasis
||Tacitus, Annals 14.29–39, Agricola; Cassius Dio Roman History 62
|Caligula (1980) [warning: explicit sex]
||Suetonius, Caligula; Cassius Dio, Roman History 59
||Plutarch, Caesar and Antony
||Euripides, Elektra; Sophocles, Elektra
|Helen of Troy (1956)
||Homer, Iliad 3, Odyssey 4, 23; Euripides, Helen; Ovid, Heroides 16; Isocrates, Helen
|I, Claudius (1976) [1-2 episodes]
||Tacitus, Annals books 11–12; Suetonius, Claudius
|Intolerance (1916) [Part 1]
||Herodotus, The Histories book 1.70–144; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 10–11
|Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1999)
||Old Testament, Genesis 37–50
||Josephus, The Jewish War book 1
|One Night with the King (2006)
||Old Testament, Esther
|Quo Vadis? (1951)
||Tacitus, Annals 13–16; Suetonius, Nero; Cassius Dio, Roman History 61–63
|Rome (2005–2007) [use 1-2 episodes]
||Various (see me)
|Solomon and Sheba (1959)
||Old Testament, Kings or Chronicles; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews book 8
|The Odyssey (1997)
|The Prince of Egypt (1998)
||Old Testament, Exodus
|The Ten Commandments (1956)
||Old Testament, Exodus
Many of these primary sources are available through the list of ancient sources and translations on my website (http://markbwilson.com/) via the “Ancient Texts” link at the top of the page.