Love is a powerful and often destructive force in this week’s readings. Sappho experiences love as a “torment.” Clytemnestra and Medea feel betrayed by their loved ones and end up killing family members. All of these characters suffer because of their loves, seeming to confirm Martha Nussbaum’s reading of tragedy as inevitable for people who open themselves up to love.
This journal assignment explores the universal theme of love (and the emotions of those wronged in love). Using your imagination, write a letter to one of the three ancient Greek poets we read this week: the tragic poets, Aeschylus and Euripides or the lyric poet, Sappho. In your letter, correspond with the poets about their attitudes on love. Be sure to cite specific lines from the poem to focus your comments.
(See the Week One Resources tab for more information on how to cite sources in this class.) You might suggest ways that the tragedians could have averted the tragic outcomes that resulted from love gone wrong by changing one of the characters’ behavior. Or, you might converse with Sappho about her expressions to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. You may also bring in your own experiences with love, but remember to keep a balance in the discussion of the literature and the relevant personal experience.
Socrates didn’t have a job – at least not one where he earned money. In the Apology he talks repeatedly about how poor he is. Apparently Socrates received welfare from the city of Athens, which may have been supplemented by wealthy friends that believed in Socrates’s philosophical mission. He wouldn’t have wanted a job, because he wanted to be free to serve his community through philosophy as he thought the gods had commanded him (Apology, 23b). But let’s imagine Socrates was applying for a job anyway. In fact, imagine Socrates was applying for your job – either the job you currently have or the job you hope to get after you graduate from college.
For this journal, write a job résumé and application cover letter for Socrates. Based on the way his character is portrayed in the assigned reading, come up with some creative ways to list any of Socrates’s experience and skills that might be relevant in today’s workforce, specifically in your area of employment. Socrates might not really be qualified for your job, but that’s okay. Your goal is to imagine as many of his humanities-based skills as possible that are relevant in some way to your job.
Based on the Apology and Phaedo, write a one-page imaginary résumé for Socrates, listing at least ten humanities-based skills. Then write a two-page cover letter explaining a bit more about three or four of those skills. In the cover letter, say what job you are imagining Socrates applying for, and give evidence from the assigned reading to show that Socrates has some specific skills relevant to success in that job. Cite specific passages by Stephanus page (e.g., 57b, 17a, etc.). (See the Week One Resources tab for more information on how to cite sources in this class.)
Recommended Resources for this Assignment
The Ashford Career Services website has many resources to help you create a résumé. You may wish to use their résumé template or the resume builder tool. The sample resume for a stay-at-home parent can provide a helpful example of how to include skills and experience acquired from outside traditional employment.
Or, to take a completely different approach, you might consider writing a “skills-based résumé”, which is uniquely suited to someone with a humanities background but not much job experience. This website has a good list of relevant skills and how to describe them on a résumé. Finally, the Ashford Career Services website also has a handout on how to create a Cover Letter.
In Week One, we watched a video in which Alain de Botton argued that religion serves many good functions in life, many of which may be able to exist apart from belief in the supernatural. For example, religion gives us a connection to something greater than ourselves, which generates community, promotes a sense of awe and wonder for the world, and motivates us to moral goodness. Botton challenges his fellow atheists to invent a secular replacement for religion that is able to accomplish these good things without requiring beliefs that conflict with modern science. In this week’s Required Multimedia, we watched a video in which Karen Armstrong went further, suggesting that even traditional religions can be practiced in a way that does not conflict with modern science, as long as the stories in those religions are treated as mythology instead of as literal history.
You will recall from Week One that mythological stories are those stories we accept whether or not they are true. One difference between religion and mythology is that most religious people believe their stories are actually true, whereas myth may or may not be true. If you are religious, you might be one of those who believes the stories in the Bible are literally true, even if they sometimes conflict with modern science. But not everyone is able to believe in religion literally. Yet if Armstrong and Botton are correct, then they are missing out on an important area of human life. Remember that religion is broader than just mythology; in Clifford Geertz’s terms religion is a whole “cultural system” that accomplishes all the things Botton describes.
This journal explores the importance of religion for modern life. Imagine you are debating an atheist who believes we must base our lives only on what can be proven scientifically. (Perhaps you believe this yourself! If so, take up the contrary position for the sake of argument.) Write a two to three-paged debate-style “opening statement” in which you provide reasons to believe that science alone cannot provide everything that necessary for living a good human life, and argue instead that religion (including mythology, art, ritual, etc.) is necessary even for those who do not believe in anything supernatural (e.g., God, the afterlife, miracles, etc.). Even if you disagree with this idea, imagine the perspective of someone who agrees and try to make your argument as convincing as possible. Be sure to explain the difference between science and religion, as you understand it.