The Humanistic Tradition I

 From the Ancient World to The Reformation

I. Short Essay (1 Question; 25 Points):  Answer fully one of the following questions. Remember to answer who? what? why? where? and when? for each question.  Illustrate your answers with specific references to artists, writers, or composers or to works of art, literature, or music.  Essays should be at least two double-spaced typed pages (500-600 words) in length.

1. What do the achievements of the Paleolithic and Neolithic peoples in art and architecture reveal about the nature of man and the relationship between man and the arts?  How does art and architecture change once the transition to urban life and taken place?

2. Given historical periods may be said to have a certain style.  What are the components of a style?  How can “time, place, and ideas” be said to help “create” a style?  What other factors must also be considered?  Support your points with specific examples.

3. Virtually all cultures develop a concept of the afterlife and – perhaps – an “ideology of immortality”.  Describe the Egyptian concept of the afterlife and explain how it influenced Egyptian culture.  How does an “ideology of immortality” influence any culture or civilization?  What does a particular “ideology of immortality” tell us about a civilization or culture?

4. Describe the characteristics of Mesopotamia religion and its gods.  How are they related to “geography, climate, and the realities of the natural environment”?  Describe how the Babylonian Creation and the Epic of Gilgamesh exemplify these characteristics.  How does Mesopotamian religion resemble the Egyptian?  How was it different?  Describe the nature and function of the ziggurat.

5. The term “classical” is often used to describe the civilizations of Greece and Rome in the period between 500 BC and AD 500.  What are its core components?  What does this term mean when applied to these civilizations?  Why is it important to understand the core components of the “classical tradition”?

6. Describe the characteristics of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.  What do they tell us about Greek life in the Heroic Age?  What sort of a hero is Achilles?  Compare him with Gilgamesh.  How are they similar?  How are they different?  What does this comparison tell us about Greek civilization?  Describe the nature of the Greek gods.  How are they similar to or different from the gods of religions previously discussed?  What is the Greek concept of the afterlife?

7. In Antigone, what is the nature of the conflict between Creon and Antigone?  Who is the “tragic figure”?  How many people die in Antigone?  How do they die?  In Greek plays, violence takes place off stage.  Why did the Greeks avoid the performance of violence?  In contrast, why is violence so pervasive in modern American films and television programs?

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Last Update:  27.IX.2004

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