Purpose: For this assignment, you’ll choose one of the topics below to help you make an argument about Shahnameh and Inferno. This assignment will build your analysis skills.
First, choose one of the following two topics:
• Topic #1: Unit 1’s introduction to the Five Great Themes of World Literature states with regard to the hero: “The surest way to understand what a culture of the past most values is to focus on what it considers heroic, in that a culture recognizes its heroes as embodying its most important ideas, the values that are essential.” Discuss the diverse values that our two epic heroes, Rustem and Dante, embody. Consider questions such as: Which values embodied by these epic heroes are endorsed or celebrated by their societies? Are any of their values condemned or rejected by their societies? Illustrate your discussion with specific examples of the heroes’ obligations to their societies and what their values reflect about their cultures.
• Topic #2: Although they are obviously very different literary works, both the Shahnameh and Inferno deal centrally with the existence of human suffering and mortality. Discuss how the two deal with such issues as what causes human suffering; what seems inevitably tragic about human existence; how one should deal with suffering; and what one should learn from an understanding of human mortality. From the Shahnameh, your presentation will probably focus on Rustem, Sohrab, and/or Saiawush; for Dante, you have many options, but the following characters and their sad stories make especially good choices for the subject (but you can choose others if you wish; just one will do): Virgil, Francesca, Pier della Vigna, Brunetto Latini, Guido de Montefeltro.
Then, map out your response to your chosen prompt.
You should organize it around the central prompt from your chosen topic (“Discuss ….”) and use as many of the followup questions as necessary to help you organize the response. You don’t need to respond directly to those questions, nor do you need to cover all of them. You might begin by very clearly stating your perspective or thesis, and what insights you have about your topic. Then use the remaining time to address some of the relevant questions, and talk about whatever specific textual examples will help you support your point.
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