Week 1- “Life’s Five Great Stories”
Day One- Tuesday, August 23rd 11:10 am–12:30 pm
On our first day of class, we were greeted with a handshake, smile, and a guitar. After reading the syllabus a few days prior to class, I was pretty excited about this class and as Professor Sandridge introduced the course and the course objectives as well as some of the framework, I became a little nervous. But as we further discussed his expectations of us and the depth of work that we would become accustomed to creating, I became more at ease and very optimistic.
We were assigned to have read “Life’s Five Great Stories” prior to class. This article outlined the most popular, most important types or themes of stories. In class, we defined and outlined the characteristics of these 5 categories, or Great Stories — 1) The Career Story, 2) The Friendship/ Romance Story, 3) The Long-Term Partnership, 4) The Leadership Story, 5) The Spiritual/ Intellectual Enlightenment Story. We discovered that many of these categories are fluid and can be interrelated depending upon the circumstances but that these five served as a fair basis for any great story.
From this discussion, we began to discuss the importance of the humanities and why it is important to study and discuss them. While it is enjoyable to study the humanities because they are so interesting, we study the humanities because they remind us of life before the world as we know it existed. Studying the humanities allows us to think critically about the structures we live within and that of people of the past. Studying the humanities allows us to see the relationships, similarities, and differences between other cultures and our own.
Tuesday, August 23rd 8:30 pm- 9:30 pm
I spent these two hours reading and annotating the first book of Homer’s The Iliad. After I read and had made sense of most of the assigned reading, I went on to answer the guiding questions from the syllabus.
1. What seems to be most important to Achilles? What is most important to Agamemnon? What specific passages reveal their values to you?
Achilles seems to be very focused on being honorable and respected. Achilles places what he perceives to right and moral as a priority. For example, it is Achilles who holds an assembly and summons an oracle to explain why the God Apollo has sent a plague. When the oracle explains that revealing the cause of the plague may offend Agamemnon, Achilles gives the oracle his word that no harm will come to him.
Agamemnon seems preoccupied with proving that he is the mightiest and most powerful of all kings, even of those in alliance with him. When Achilles recommends that Agamemnon give Chryseis back to her father so that the plague will be lifted, Agamemnon is insulted and demands to take Briseis, Achilles’s prize when we gives Chryseis back. When Achilles is offended and angry, Agamemnon further aggravates him by saying that he must learn how much more powerful he is than Achilles.
2. How do Achilles and Agamemnon see their own identity? What I mean is, if you asked either one of them this question, “What kind of person are you?”, what do you think their answer would be and why?
If you were to ask Achilles what kind of person he is, he would most likely describe himself as being honorable. It was Achilles who held the assembly to address and find a solution to the plague. It was Achilles that promised the oracle that nothing bad would come to him for revealing the reason that Apollo sent a plague. Achilles obeys his mother and decides not to retaliate against Agamemnon.
If you were to ask Agamemnon what kind of person he is, he would most likely describe himself as being powerful. Agamemnon wants to act in his own interest without regard for the well-being of others without consequence. And so far, he has been able to. He only gives up Chryseis because of pressure from other allies.
Wednesday, August 24th 6 pm-7 pm
Discussion Question- How do you decide how much a human being is worth?
I had originally planned to have this conversation with my mother, we had about a 15- minute opportunity to discuss the discussion question before she had to get off the phone so I decided to piggyback that discussion with another with my friend Taylor. Interestingly enough, our conversation was very much centered around capitalism and the idea that our worth is directly related to our ability to create or consume and we had the conversation while shopping in PG Plaza Mall.
We decided that there is no one definite way to decide how much a human being is worth but that the worth human being in a capitalistic society is often determined by the services that they are able to provide to those around them. We noticed and discussed the irony of having this conversation in the middle of a place that many would perceive to be the capital of commercialism as we watched unamused retail clerks stock and reorganize merchandise and sifted through piles and piles of inexpensive clothes looking for the best deal. We talked about the ways in which we unknowingly or mindlessly enable these ideals. Even just in being consumers of cheap merchandise, we had certain expectations of those who occupy jobs we believe were created to serve us.
Through this discussion, we realized that a lot of the behaviors and the way that we treat people are directly correlated to how productive and useful we think they are which is 1) completely based on our own perspective, however limited or in-depth and 2) based upon a capitalistic idea that people are only as useful as the labor they give and the things they produce or products they can accumulate for themselves or other people. Even when we tried to narrow down the criteria for a “worthy” human, we continued to get snagged on the language of worth in relation to capital. For example, she posed a question to me,
“What is human worth without money, how do you calculate it?”
“I think it would be something along the lines of the service and care you provide for those around you. I think that’s what would qualify as worth.”
“Well, wouldn’t that be a form of labor? Isn’t labor something people typically equate to a dollar amount?”
“Well I guess it would be a labor of love?”
“So love is the ultimate measure of human worth?”
By the end of this hour-long conversation, we discovered we had more questions that answers. Perhaps that was the point.
Day Two- Thursday, August 25th 11:10 am –12:30 pm
On our second day of class, we talked about the events that had taken place in Book One of the Illiad and the ways that these events related to the Judgement of Paris. We also discussed the questions assigned to us in our syllabus. I was a little concerned coming into class about the format of the class discussions because I had lots of difficulty getting through book one with my attention span and sanity intact. As we began to kind of unravel the major events and characters, their relationships, motives, and personalities, I became a lot more comfortable with the discussion.
Sunday, August 28th 6pm-7:30pm
I spent this evening in my dorm’s study lounge reading and listening to the audio of Books 2–4 in preparation for class on Tuesday. I discovered that listening to the audio version of the Iliad helps me to retain information, events, and characters and is much less tedious than reading and re-reading passages over and over again.
Monday, August 29th 3:30–5
As assigned, I visited the National Gallery of Art specifically in search for art about love. The last time I visited the National Gallery of Art was for another class about Greek Studies. I took Professor Garnand’s Greek Civilization class in Fall of 2015. One of our more major projects in that class was an extensive scavenger hunt through the monuments and museums of D.C. While I thoroughly and deeply resented him for that project at the time, I now appreciate it because it made navigating my way through the National Gallery this time so much easier.
- Madonna and Child by Antonello de Messina (Upper left) was the first piece that I selected to represent love because the image and story of the Madonna and child has been recreated time after time as a representation of God’s love for the world. I think that this image, for many people, embodies the entire concept of Godly and pure love. This work speaks to a love that is characterized by sacrifice for the greater good of everyone. Love, according to the story of the Madonna and child is powerful enough to be redeeming. Love can conquer sin.
- The Nymph and Satyr by Edward McCartan (Middle Right) depicts a Satyr pursuing a Nymph. In mythology, satyrs are notorious for being extremely sexually-charged, drunken, and social. Satyrs are commonly pursuing Nymphs, who are minor deities that exist in nature. Nymphs are often depicted as being beautiful and young, often appearing to be playful, dancing and singing. We have discussed beauty and in the ancient world as being a medium of love as well as how love itself often appears to be very one-sided unless the woman is in some position of power. For example, no one is ever sure if either Briseis or Chryseis are in love with Achilles or Agamemnon, nor does it truly matter to either because they see the women as property rather than sovereign humans. As powerful as we perceive love to be, is love required to reciprocated to be powerful? Also, is physical love and infatuation actual love because those are also two powerful elements. In mythology, the love and infatuation that men have for the nymphs is often dangerous, speaking to the ability of love to cause you to be destructive or to be destroyed by something that looks and appears pleasant. Love, or even lust, can conquer rationality, self-preservation and reason. Ask Odysseus.
- Venus by Bernardino Luini depicts the Goddess Venus lounging on the outskirts of a town. I chose this painting because it strikes me as an interesting image. In most of the depictions of the Venus that I have seen, she is protruding from the sea. While there is water in the landscape behind her, the cityscape makes me feel as though the artist was trying to say something more profound. If we were to consider that Venus is the Roman goddess of love, sex, fertility, prosperity, and victory, these are all things needed for a successful city and, ultimately, civilization, Venus on the outskirts of this town seems to be making the statement that she had something to do with what his behind her. I think that in this case, love can also be very constructive. It is what motivates people to look to the future and to create things that last and protect those things.
Tuesday, August 30th 11:10am–12:30pm
We held what I found to be an interesting discussion about the leadership characteristics of Agamemnon. Being in Professor Sandridge’s Ideas in Antiquity- Leadership in the Ancient World course, I noticed a lot of parallel in the discussions. Earlier that morning in Ideas in Antiquity, our class divided into groups to discuss the basic characteristics of leaders as well as what traits we think make good leaders and which traits make poor leaders. My group decided that traits like resourcefulness, the ability to organize people around a common goal or issue, and bravery made a leader. As we discussed Agamemnon’s poor leadership skills, I realized that while he seems to display some of these traits, the way those traits manifest themselves isn’t conducive to good leadership. For example, Agamemnon is one of the most powerful kings of all of Greece, yet he is terrible at being a politician long enough to know that severing ties with Achilles is a horrible seeing as how Achilles’s resources are precious. While Agamemnon can rally people into war and organize them around the issue of the Trojans, he discovers when he decides to test the morale of his men that they have none and are disinterested in fighting against their own odds, even if for honor. Also, Agamemnon’s “bravery” can be interpreted as arrogance and reckless behavior. He is confident in his decisions because he doesn’t expect to be held responsible.