December 29, 2008

December not only marks the advent of “€œthe Holidays“€ but, for America’s growing population of undergraduates, is a time of exams, papers, and NoDoz-assisted “€œall-nighters.”€

The following selections come from the final examination for “€œWestern Heritage,”€ offered at the State University of New York, Oswego. The students were asked to write an essay discussing the theme of “€œorder”€ in the course’s syllabus, which includes Homer’s Odyssey, Euripides”€™ Iphigenia, Plato’s Symposium, Virgil’s Aeneid, Apuleius”€™ Golden Ass, Augustine’s Confessions, a handful of Icelandic stories, including Hrafnkel’s Saga, and two items concerning early Christianity in the British Isles”€”Bede’s Life of Saint Cuthbert and the anonymous Voyage of Saint Brendan.

Although plagiarism is increasingly frequent on campus, one can be certain that the following work is the students”€™ own.

Introductory paragraph for an essay: “€œLiterature is the key foundation for all types of litercy. Without litercy there would be no means of proper communication.”€

On Homer’s Odyssey: “€œIn the Odessey, Odysseus expects a marvelous homecoming, is slowed down by various absticals, including the island of the cylcopese, and the plod of the suitors to kill Odysseus”€™ son, which escapes me.”€ [“€œAbstical”€ is a recurrent misspelling of obstacle, which shows up in many student essays every semester.]

On Homer’s Odyssey: “€œOdysseus kills the suitors after a lack of proper behavior, which happened again in Virgil’s The Aeneid, written roughly around the time of ca. 400 BC, in the fifth and fourth centuries. Along the way, Virgil is haulted by numerous things, like the stay of Dido in Carthage and hostilities on the land of which we now call Italy and Cecicilli. While in a fight with Tiresias, the death of Tiresias brings some order to the people.”€  [Tiresias, the Theban prophet, was a man, a woman, a man again, and once conversed with Odysseus in Hell.  Alas, the poor fellow never made it to Italy or Cecicilli.]

On Homer’s Odyssey: “€œBy examining the books read this semester, I can flush out several quotes. In the first book studied, the Odyssey, by Homer, we examine how our hero, Odysseus is on his way home after saving Troy.”€

On Homer’s Odyssey, more or less: “€œMost of Athens took place in the Labronze age after time emerged again, giving rise to Plato. But first Homer had to write down his Odissy in the alphabet, which The Golden Ass would also use in telling the story of Lucious.”€ [In this essay, the term “€œthe Labronze age”€ occurs a half-dozen times. Editor’s Note: Perhaps the young scholar has confused 4th-century Athens with the “€œLeBron Age”€ (circa A.D. 2003-), named in honor of the Cleveland Cavaliers”€™ all-star forward]

On Homer’s Odyssey: “€œAthene helps Telemachus and Odysseus to be reunited and restore order to Troy. This all took place around 450 B.C. but it was not written down until 800 B.C.”€

On Homer’s Odyssey: “€œOdysseus, the main character, though having the hand of Venus (Venus-Isis) right on his side, is faced with much despair when he has to leave his wife and son’s behind before he goes on many “€˜adventures”€™ and encounters things. He defeats the Cycalopse after barely being eaten and meets Nausicaa while naked then stumbling over Calypso who holds him prisoner and gives him all of the winds.”€

On Homer’s Odyssey: “€œBeginning with Homer’s “€˜The Odyssey”€™ written down around 800 BC, when infact the events took place in the 4th century. There are many examples of order, tragedy, and some triumph.”€

On Homer’s Odyssey: “€œIn Homer’s Odyssey while Odyssus is gone for ten years trying to get home from Calypso’s isle about 700 B.C. and enduring the many abstacles he faces along the way, the entire time’s he’s trying to restore order with in his selfs life.”€

On Homer’s Odyssey: “€œThe Odessy, written down around 800 B.C., its events are said to actually take place around 500 B.C.”€

On Augustine’s Confessions: “€œMuch like Odyssus Augustine, who at one time was reared as a saint in Hippo, is tempted by pretty women as well as by a pear tree.  But later he loses his self-control problem and converts into a Christian.”€  [My wife and I once owned a sofa that converted into a queen-sized bed.]

On Euripides”€™ Iphigenia: “€œThe Greeks were told by the gods that Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia would need to be sacrificed in order for the winds to blow. After Iphigenia was sacrificed and the winds were blowing again allowing them to continue on to Troy order began to be restored because the Greeks saw their experience with disorder was for a reason and they must trust their leaders and things will be fine in the end.”€ [“€œGiovinezza, Giovinezza, Primavera del Belle-e-e-ezza!.”€]

On Virgil’s Aeneid: “€œHad Aeneas disobeyed [the gods] and stayed in Carthage, he would have never gone on to win the Trojan war, and the country of Italy would not exist. After death, no progress was made on Dido’s part.”€

On Virgil’s Aeneid: “€œA large wooden horse is brought by Aeneas from Troy, which Queen Dido thinks is a sign of appreciation. When the wooden horse is opened up and a number of Greek soldiers jump out, Dido is in shock. Thankfully, Aeneas and his men show up and promise to restore her disorder.”€

On Apuleius”€™ Golden Ass: “€œDisorder was also present in Apuleius”€™ novel The Golden Ass. This was where Lucius was a young man who lived in the Byzantine Empire.  Lucius was about to be forced to have sex with a donkey in front of people. Fortunately he was fond of his own horse and was saved.”€ [In case anyone is in doubt, neither Apuleius the author nor Lucius his protagonist had anything to do with the Byzantine Empire, which did not exist until four or five hundred years after Apuleius”€™ death.]

On Apuleius”€™ Golden Ass: “€œThe story of Lucious, wrote in the second of two centuries AD, has gluttony and also sluttony.”€  [ I have to admit that, in my opinion, “€œsluttony”€ ought to enter the dictionaries!]

On Apuleius”€™ Golden Ass: “€œIn 1517 Apuleius wrote The Golden Ass.”€  [The Golden Ass dates from the Sixties of the Second Century AD”€”Apuleius, its author, was almost exactly contemporary with the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.]

On Hrafnkel’s Saga: “€œThorbjorn rounded up a posse that hacked Hrafnkel to death eventually leaving him tortured.  This showed their uncivilized erges.”€ [No one, in fact, kills Hrafnkel, who triumphs over his enemies and kills off any number of them.]

On Hrafnkel’s Saga: “€œAnonymous is the author of Hrafnkel’s Saga but which is never named, showing how weak he was when compared with Homer who was named.”€ [“€œAnonymous”€ is the well-known, long-lived, prolific author, competent in many languages.]

On Hrafnkel’s Saga: “€œHrafnkel’s Saga of the tenth century was written in 1839, the same year as The Voyage of Saint Brendan.”€  [Often I can explain a student’s mistake based on a mishearing of something that I have said during lecture”€”but in this case, the 1839 date is inexplicable.]

On Hrafnkel’s Saga: “€œIt is feudalism that causes chaos and halts the further progression of progress.”€ [One is tempted to say, “€œUp with Feudalism!”€]

On Hrafnkel’s Saga: “€œHrafnkel was a great leader because he was understanding and treated animals with kindness as well.  He also knew how to kill which was important for a leader.”€ [This was why Hrafnkel’s followers trusted him; they knew that, “€œthings will be fine in the end.”€]

On the Vikings generally: “€œDuring the ice ages the Vikings diminished and then evaporated.”€ [My theory is that they did not “€œevaporate,”€ but migrated stealthily to “€œItaly and Cecicilli.”€]

From a Similar Course Dedicated to Medieval Literature

On The Quest of the Holy Grail: “€œIn “€˜The Quest of the Holy Grale”€™ Galahad, which was by Jean de Joinville of the 17th century, was going around looking for piece of mind.  Around this time the enlightenment also occurred.”€

On Joinville’s Life of Saint Louis: “€œThe Crusades was a war fought over in the holy land by the Romans, Catholics and Protestants.”€

On Camoes”€™ Lusiads: “€œAbout the same time as this there was a renizance in Italy with Greeks, and depth prespective and also numerous changes in moors and the types of thought that was allowed. There costumes were very colorful about this time.  One of them, I forgot his name had a telescope.”€  [The name of the fellow with the telescope was”€””€œAnonymous.”€]


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