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Exploring Greek Mythology: Understanding Greek Values and Social Norms

Option 1: Contrasting case-studies

1) Choose two different myths and interpret how they can inform us about Greek values and social norms. In this option, you are dealing with two separate case-studies and analyzing each individually. In other words, there will not necessarily be any overarching, single theme or argument.
2) Choose two different myths and focus on how each one informs the same theme or range of themes in Greek society and its worldview. In other words, you will analyze both myths in order to understand how each one reinforces or challenges the set of cultural themes you want to discuss.

1) Compare two different characterizations of the same mythological character by two different authors, each writing in a different sociopolitical context. For example, compare Jason in Euripides Medea and Apollonius Argonautica, or compare the versions of Herakles in Euripides Herakles and Apollodorus’ composite account of his myths. In this case, one author/text obviously worked before the other, so this chronology will be important. The earlier author sets a paradigm for the character and the later author must either be consistent or challenge the paradigm he inherited. How the later author confirms or challenges earlier versions is where this assignment becomes particularly interesting. What changes do you perceive between the two renditions? What consistencies remain between the two? What traits or attributes or particular actions are emphasized in each version? If you find consistencies, what do these tell us about enduring values in Greek society across different periods? If you notice major differences, what message do these send about the shifting concerns and social norms and values of the Greeks in different periods?Again, you can also use this as a framework and swap out Jason or Herakles with some other mythological character that interests you.
2) Compare the features of Homer’s depiction of Achilles in the Iliad with his depiction of his ghost in Odyssey Book 11. In what ways do these depictions either complement or challenge each other? What message is each trying to convey? In this case, you are dealing entirely with Homer, so you should be looking for nuance and complexity behind each depiction and the nature of each work.Similarly, you might compare the two Pandora myths that Hesiod presents in Theogony and Works and Days. What consistencies or differences do you perceive?
3) What makes a hero according to the Greek worldview? Is there a single paradigm or multiple possibilities? Is this a simple or complex concept? Choose a couple of mythological heroes we have studied (e.g., Achilles, Odysseus, Herakles, Theseus, Jason) and sketch out consistencies and differences and what these may tell us about the Greeks’ comfort or uneasiness with heroic figures.Just be careful in this context not to delve too far into anachronistic views of heroes from the modern or contemporary world. Approach these heroes on the Greeks’ own terms, and you shouldcome up with some interesting results.
4) The tension between being a hero and dealing with a love life is a frequent theme in Greek and Roman myth. The most obvious examples are Odysseus, Jason, Theseus, Herakles, and Aeneas. Why is Greek and Roman myth so fascinated with the incompatibility of great deeds and happy romantic relationships? Choose two of these wandering heroes to support your ideas. A handful of students have discussed with me the possibility of creating your own mythological characters. If you choose this option, consider the following specific points:

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