Greek Literature in English — Journal 1

August 21st 2016, 9 pm — 11 pm

For the first class of Greek literature in English the professor required us to read his article entitled Life’s Five Great Narratives or Why You Shouldn’t Work for the NSA. This article explained that life’s journey consists of five major elements and how the humanities, more than any other field of study, has the potential to allow for harmony among these elements. These elements, or narratives as the professor calls them, are the career story, the friendship/romance story, the long-term partnership story, the leadership story and the intellectual/spiritual enlightenment story. Believing life to be multifaceted and complicated, I never thought that it could have been describes in terms of five universal themes. However, upon reading the article I found that these five narratives are goals that almost all of humanity aspire to and often use to define who we are. As with anything that consists of multiple parts, harmony among all parts is the ultimate achievement, and I agree with the professor that the humanities can act as a catalyst towards this goal. Coincidentally, the humanities have been a source of intellectual enlightenment for me.

At this point in my life, the narratives that are most important to me are the career story, the friendship/romance story and the intellectual/spiritual enlightenment story. I aspire to become a medical doctor, and the difficulty of this career path requires that I put a lot of focus on my academic achievement. Friendships are important to me because they are a source of joy and comfort. I have been fortunate to have friends that both inspire and motivate me, and this has helped ease my journey through Howard thus far. This has been the easiest story for me to “script” as it entailed treating my friends how I would like to be treated. Intellectual/spiritual enlightenment is something I seek to help me achieve my goals, as well as to gain a better understanding of this world and how I can contribute to it. This story has often been scripted by advice from my elders, prayers and reflections. While these three narratives will always continue to be important to me, I expect the long-term partnership to take precedent in the future. While the leadership story is not a major feature in my life at this moment, it has always shadowed my journey. I grew up in an underprivileged neighbor where my father is a revered community leader. Seeing how my father selflessly aided misguided youths has inspired me to help uplift others and be a role model for others who share a similar background. Thus far, my leadership story consists of tutoring and mentoring young students.

August 23rd 2016, 11:10 am — 12: 30 pm

This was the first day of class and as usual I entered the classroom nervously anticipating what type of professor was Dr. Sandridge. A few minutes before class officially started Dr. Sandridge entered wearing a funky bow tie and carrying a guitar. I immediately knew that this was an eccentric professor and this class is going to be entertaining. This was further confirmed when he walked around the entire class shaking everyone’s hand and thanking them for taking his course. He then started delightfully strumming his guitar and opened the class with the question of whether a laptop or a guitar was more important. After explaining how the laptop which may be viewed as a technological advancement that has improved society, it can be used to spread bigotry and ignorance (e.g. Donald Trump’s tweets). In contrast, a guitar which Woodie Guthrie labelled as a machine that kills fascists, can be used to bring about social change. The comparison between a laptop and a guitar was used in conjunction with the article on life’s narratives to demonstrate the importance of the humanities. Next, the professor asked the class to list the five narratives described in the passage, our interpretation of each one and which were most important to use. As expected among university students, the career story and the friendship/romance story took precedence for most. Class ended with a brief history lesson of the Trojan War and how it relates to the Iliad.

August 24th 2016, 3 pm — 6 pm

This time was allotted to reading book one of the Iliad. This was an enjoyable read but sometimes I struggled with the syntax of the translation, which was expected. Before I read book one, I look at the assigned questions on the reading to get a sense of what I should pay attention to while reading. I then read book one twice to ensure I grasped the plot of the story and that I could identify my answers to the questions.

August 25th 2016, 8 pm — 10 pm

Book 1 questions:

1) Pride and legacy seems to be most important to Achilles. Achilles see himself as the MVP on the Achaeans army in the Trojan War, thus he believes his spoils of war are well earned and deems it a great disrespect for Agamemnon to even consider taking his female companion, Briseis. He shows that his legacy is important to him with his decision to accept to live a short life filled with glory over a long life in anonymity. Achilles went as far as asking his mother to ensure the downfall of the Greeks in the Trojan War upon his departure. Agamemnon also values his pride, as he refuses to appear weak in front of his men even if at the hands of the Gods. Power is also very important to Agamemnon. This evident when Achilles described how Agamemnon does not get his hands dirty but takes delight in ruling and getting whatever he wants.

2) I think Achilles would describe himself as a warrior because during his argument with Agamemnon, he expresses great pride in his combat skills, and he was willing to let his fellow Achaeans suffer so that they may beg or his return to the battlefield. Agamemnon would describe himself as a leader because he expressed great pride in being the commander of the Achaean army.

3) The question of how to decide how much a human being is worth reminded me and friend about a class exercise where one has to choose seven lives to save from a list of people with varied personalities and skills to their name. Although we both tried to be logical and essentially agreed on key qualities that makes a human being worthy, it was interesting to me that our list did not exactly match. Thus we agreed that there was essentially no way to determine someone’s worth; as the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The worth of a human life will be relative to the person is choosing. Even the damnedest of souls have someone who loves them. I think that a lot of the conflict that occurring in the world today is due to people, especially those in power, playing god and trying to decide who lives and who dies. I think the fact that no one is perfect and the randomness of life makes it extremely difficult to decide which human beings are worthy and which are not. My logical approach to determining worth was to assess a person’s virtue and their contribution to society, but Then the question becomes which is more important when a person has one but lacks the other.

August 29th 2016, 4 pm — 7 pm

The class was assigned to visit the National Gallery of Art and identify three works that spoke to the power of love. This was a challenging assignment for me as I had no experience appraising art, but I tried my best to look characteristics usually associated with love.

  1. The Visit to the Nursery by Jean Honore Fragonard — This piece depicted a mother, father, siblings and a grandmother visited a newborn baby in a nursery. I chose this artwork because it brought to mind the first and one of the most important kind of love we experience — familial love. More importantly, it expressed the adoring nature of love. This work speaks to the power of love by expressing how we become consumed with our loved ones. The way in which the family, especially the parents, are watching the baby, suggest they are in awe of the baby’s existence. I think this adoring love have power over our judgment of loved ones. For example, parents who adore their children may turn a blind eye to their children’s maladjusted behavior.

2) The Love Letter by Francois Boucher — This artwork showed two young women huddled together seemingly discussing the contents of a letter. Give the image and the title, this piece spoke of young love. It showed the initial stage of romantic love where we are infatuated and eager to divulge some of our private life to our friends. This piece suggests that romantic love has the power to overcome distance, since the presence of the love letter imply that the young woman and her lover are separated from each other.

3) The Abduction of Europa by Jean Francois De Troy — This piece depicted Europa on a bull which is being led away by a cherub while her loved ones helplessly watch. The work speaks about the hurt experienced in love. There are times when our loved ones leave us, whether by choice or force. The pain of that loss is what I saw depicted in this artwork. Europa’s loved ones seemed to have tried their mightiest to save her, probably putting themselves in danger. This suggests that the love we have for someone allow us to overcome fear and rational thought.