For this assignment, we will focus on what in literary analysis is called close reading: analysis of the details of particular scene or episode in The Odyssey as support for a larger argument. This is, in some senses, something that we’ve been working toward in class every day, but in a real writing assignment it will be much more formal and detailed work. Your goals are to show me
that you can make an argument about how to interpret the details of a particular passage (close read), that you can support your interpretation with evidence from the world of the text (rather than simply your own opinion), and that you can organize your argument effectively.
How do 2 particular scenes, dialogues, or episodes in The Odyssey work within the greater context of the book to persuade the reader to favor a particular set of values, ideas, or world-view?
The central aspect of your essay’s analysis should focus on a close reading of two particular scenes or passages from the text of your choosing. The goal is to get down to details. This close analysis should aim to exhaust all the ways in which your given passage supports your argument: take apart as much of the passage as possible, in as great a detail as possible, right down to individual word choices if necessary. You can choose literally any episode/scene/event that you want – so PLEASE choose something that interests you or that you found particularly compelling.
Your essay should have an Introduction that includes a statement of your thesis, which should explain the particular set of values/etc. that you think The Odyssey seems to reflect through these passages, which your close readings will support through analysis.
The body of the essay should focus on a close reading of your two chosen textual passages. Work on paragraph organization. Each paragraph should have a clear claim statement, and should focus on presenting detailed textual evidence and explaining how it can be interpreted to support your particular claim (and thus, your thesis). Keep in mind that your close reading of any single passage may span multiple paragraphs (i.e., don’t try to cram all of your analysis into one gigantic paragraph — organize paragraphs around clear claims, and divide up your analysis accordingly).
In your Conclusion, I want you to overview other aspects of the work that, in a longer essay, you might use in connection with your close reading as further evidence of your thesis.
Note that it doesn’t have to ‘work’ successfully; you can choose to focus on scenes that seems not to fit the greater pattern of the book, or choose two scenes that seem to suggest conflicting views. Whatever the case, your thesis should be an umbrella argument that your close readings (and their various claims) work to support.
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