For the Final Week, along with producing Essay 3, I will be asking you to produce a short piece of writing on the theme of the social order vs. the individual and how the ideas and representations of the characters have changed from the texts we started the class with to the ones we’ve closed the class with.
First, this will be a Short Writing Assignment – 2 pages minimum (double-spaced) and its not asking for quotes from the text or even that much specific example, but more just your own words and thoughts on, again, the idea of:
The Individual and the Social Order.
In the early texts we read, The Hebrews’ Genesis, Story of Joseph, and Job, and the Ancient Greek’s The Odyssey, Oedipus, and Antigone, the social order is rigid, with world governing gods and humans that must stay in their place and not transgress selfishly. All people must subordinate themselves to the big picture to strive for harmony and to act in your own interest is nearly always seen as bad. (Think Adam and Eve, Cain, the people building the Tower of Babel, the Suitors in The Odyssey). At the same time, the characters that are represented as good examples subordinate their personal desires for the social order. (Think Joseph, Odysseus, etc).
Later, with Dante’s Inferno, we see still a rigid system of belief that punishes all transgressions that are “for the self” (self-interested), and a text that scares readers into conforming to the social order (in this case: Medieval Christianity).
However, with Hamlet and Don Quixote, we have something different.
First, in both cases the social order that now exists is either viewed a meaninglessly conformist and “go with the flow” – with no real moral principle or simply corrupt. Or both.
The “individual” is the one who stands outside of it, either self-inventing him or herself to defy its conventions or rejecting it bitterly as an outsider. What is the hierarchy? What is the relationship between gods and humans? How are humans supposed to behave? What is an example of good moral behavior in a human?
And, finally, what’s the overall theme/message for humans?
-Then explain how characters from this text either uphold or go against this social order. Obviously, if a character goes against it he or she is acting “individually” (this, of course, is seen as bad at this time) Explain.
-Then, explain how the social order changed in The Renaissance. What has changed? How is it represented?
-Then, go on to explain how in one of these newer texts, (Don Quixote or Hamlet) the individual is now seen in a positive light. Going against the social order is now something worthy and even heroic. Show how this is true with one of the twos characters.
Again, this is to be a minimum of Two full pages (three or four paragraphs). Naturally, you can write more than two pages if you wish.