Published by Jeannie R. Ferrell

Dec 8, 2022


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Literature Analysis Essay
Length and Format:
Your essay must be a minimum of 1500 typed and double-spaced words (approximately five pages).
Although you need not attach to your essay a bibliography, you must clearly cite in the body of your essay the book and line numbers (not the page numbers) for all quotations.*
You may not use any outside sources.
The subject of your essay is a comparison of a brief passage in Robert Fitzgerald’s translations of both Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer’s Odyssey that is each fewer than 100 contiguous lines.
In class we discussed a number of individual narrative episodes from The Aeneid in each of which Virgil is deliberately making a parallel with at least one narrative episode from Homer’s Odyssey. We further discussed in class Virgil’s reasons for making these parallels: to point up the differences between Aeneas’s and Odysseus’s characters, and/or to point up his theme, the destiny of Rome.
The subject of your Literature-Analysis Essay is one such parallel (either one that we discussed in class or any that we did not mention in class) comprised by one passage of fewer than 100 contiguous lines from each poem in Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of each poem.
Your purpose as a writer is to present and support a thesis about what you believe Virgil is implying about Aeneas’s character and/or of the poem’s theme by way of establishing a deliberate parallel which then makes the reader notice the telling differences between the passage from The Aeneid and the passage from The Odyssey that you chose.
In order to accomplish this purpose, you will need to do more than summarize or paraphrase the two passages you chose. You will need to compare with one another specific details of the language that each poet uses in each passage.
Such detail of language include
– the diction (or word choice),
– the syntax (or sentence structure),
– the figurative language (metaphor, simile, epithet, etc.), and
– the sound patterns created by the sounds of the words themselves (such as meter and rhythm, alliteration and assonance, etc.).
Although demonstrating the similarities between the two passages might require only summary and paraphrase, often (as we discussed in class) Virgil even echoes Homer’s diction to establish a more precise parallel. Demonstrating the differences between the two passages, however, will definitely require close examination of perhaps not all but certainly at least a couple of such specific details of language as I have listed above. †
Assume that the audience of your essay has read and has a general familiarity with Robert Fitzgerald’s translations of both the whole of Homer’s Odyssey and the first half of Virgil’s Aeneid. In other words, assume an audience that is much like our class – comprised of readers who know as much about the subject of your essay as your fellow students in our class, as well as readers who might know a lot more about literature and literary analysis, but are not experts in Ancient Greek and Roman literature.
For such an audience you can take for granted your readers’ knowledge of the basic contexts and content of the two works, as well as their knowledge of the general meanings of any terms of literary analysis you might use. Such things you do not need to explain in your essay, as all of your readers share the same amount of knowledge as you have on these subjects.
However, with such an audience you cannot take for granted any detailed knowledge of the two passages you will compare with one another. Consequently, although you need not quote the whole of each passage, you will need to (1) cite the specific book and line numbers of each passage, and, (2) most importantly, quote the exact words of each individual line or phrase from each passage that you will compare with one another.
* Immediately following each quotation, insert in parentheses the book number (in Roman numerals), then a period, then the line number or numbers in numerals. Here’s an example: “The first epithet that Virgil applies to Aeneas is a ‘man apart, devoted to his mission’ (I.16), whereas the first epithet that Homer applies to Odysseus is a ‘man skilled in all ways of contending’ (I.2). Both poets use the same figure of speech, the epithet, to describe their heroes at the very beginning of their poems, but the adjective each poet chooses (‘devoted’ vs. ‘contending’) strongly contrast with one another.” This method of citation is more precise than merely giving a page number.
† Although we only read translations of these poems, they were both translated into English by the same eminent English poet – Robert Fitzgerald – who attempted not only to translate the sense, but recreate the effects of the original language into English.


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