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Thread: Dd's first "real" lit analysis paper

  1. #1
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    Dd's first "real" lit analysis paper

    This is an area of teaching in which I am less confident. My oldest dd (14 yo R) just finished her first lit analysis essay. May I post it on this forum to get any general feedback? My aim is to get feedback for me to improve my teaching for the next paper; it is not to grade or evaluation her paper. If this is not an appropriate venue, does anyone have a suggestion of where I could get this type of feedback for myself?

    Thanks,
    Monica
    "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

  2. #2
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    Monica,

    Yes, you may post this to the forum. Thank you for being sensitive to issues that may break our copyright laws. This does not break any copyrights. We sincerely appreciate you asking permission before posting to the forum. Have a great day! God Bless!

    God Bless,
    God Bless,
    Sharon Land
    Curriculum Specialist
    Lampstand Press, Ltd.
    423-765-2833 (Option 3)

    We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. (NIV)
    1 Thessalonians 1:2

  3. #3
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    Thanks! OK, ladies, here is my dd's essay. As I mentioned in my original post, I am seeking feeback for me as the teacher as to what kinds of things I should focus on to guide her for her next lit paper. I do very much appreciate any comments you may have! Thanks, Monica

    Beyond His Father’s Footsteps

    Around 800 B.C., the Odyssey, an epic poem attributed to Homer, took the form that it is read in today. The story begins twenty years after the main character, Odysseus, left home to fight in the Trojan War. Telemachus, the baby whom he left behind, is now grown and able to be measured against the Ancient Greek standard of excellent manhood. The ancient Greeks valued men who were pious like Hector in the Iliad, skilled in battle like Achilles, and cunning like Odysseus. These are, in fact, qualities that Telemachus’ father himself possesses in varying degrees. Yet Homer uses Telemachus to indicate that an outstanding man has more than just the qualities embodied by Odysseus.

    Although Odysseus is pious, Telemachus is the one who is honest. Homer establishes this from the very beginning of the Odyssey. When Athena, disguised as a man, visits Telemachus to encourage him to go look for his father, Telemachus promises to “try...to give” her “a frank answer” to her questions about himself (1.248). This instance does two things. First, it establishes Telemachus as an upright young man, which contrasts him sharply with the corrupt suitors. Second, because this instance follows immediately after Athena tells Telemachus an elaborate lie about her identity, it provides another intriguing contrast. Athena and Odysseus, both sympathetic characters, lie frequently. Unsympathetic characters, however, such as the suitors, also lie. It seems, then, that Homer may not believe that Odysseus is a specimen of a perfect ancient Greek man. It appears that Homer has presented Telemachus’ honesty is a desirable character trait. It is this honesty that, later in the story, reveals Telemachus’ new-found maturity. He and Odysseus are battling with the suitors when Odysseus discovers that someone has left the door to the weapons storage room open. Telemachus, instead of covering up his mistake, admits that “the blame’s all” his (22.164). If he had responded out of character and lied, he would not have proven his maturity to his father and the story would have ended with Telemachus still not grown up. Thus, his honesty reveals not only other characters’ dishonesty, but also his own maturity.

    Whereas Odysseus is a skilled soldier, Telemachus is an excellent guardian. His protective nature shows his adult understanding of the bigger picture. When Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, comes to his own house for the first time, Telemachus endeavors to protect him, telling him to “sit right there”, that he would “defend” him “from all...these young bucks” (20.290-292). The excuse he uses for giving kindness to this beggar was that he was his “guest” (20.342).Telemachus understands the situation completely. He knows that his father must maintain the guise of a beggar, which could be jeopardized if Telemachus pays him any undue attention. He also knows that the suitors will mistreat his father if he doesn’t intervene. So Telemachus masterfully finds a way to protect his father, using the fact that he is a guest to protect him from the suitors. Telemachus is also able to use his mental grasp on the situation to literally take charge. Just before the test of the bow, after which Telemachus knows there will be slaughter, Telemachus orders his mother to “go back to” her “quarters” and take care of her “own tasks” (21.390). Because he knows that somebody, very possibly he or his father is going to die, he sends his mother away to protect her from the sight. He has the courage to manipulate the situation and augment the plan that he and his father had made in order to protect his family. This was something that Odysseus had not been able to do for the first half of the book, because he was simply not present. Indeed, Odysseus almost never deviates from his own plan, at least on purpose, for any reason whatsoever. Even in this instant, where his beloved wife is in danger of seeing his own slaughter, he does nothing. Homer shows that Telemachus’ protectiveness is an excellent quality which Odysseus does not have.

    In addition to being clever, Homer reveals that men should be rational. Although Odysseus has a reputation for cleverness, Telemachus is the one who stops to think things through. When Odysseus comes home, makes himself known to Telemachus, and begins to make plans for killing the suitors with Telemachus by his side, Telemachus is the one who stops to ask “How on earth...two men” could “fight so many”(16.275). Telemachus even suggests that his father should find “a friend in arms” to aid them (16.287). This reveals that it is Telemachus who contemplates actions before taking them, an essential quality for a mature man to possess. Odysseus, on the other hand, very frequently acts before thinking. He blurts out his name to Polyphemus the Cyclops, and that causes his troubles for the first half of the story. Telemachus’ quality of clear-headedness, which Odysseus lacks, allows the plan that he and Telemachus had made to succeed. When Odysseus first arrives at his palace in the guise of a beggar, Telemachus tells him “to make the rounds of the suitors” because “bashfulness, for a man in need, is no great friend” (17.380-381). By thinking of this detail, Telemachus averts the suspicion of the suitors. If they had seen a beggar who was not begging, it would have certainly caused doubts. Odysseus simply does not think of things like this, to his cost. Surely, then, Homer does not portray Odysseus as the perfect man. Homer instead shows how level-headedness is needed in addition to cunning.

    Growing up is never easy. Telemachus has it worse than most people, with his father absent nearly his entire life. Yet he faces the same choice that everyone else faces. He must choose whether to grow up into a petulant, proud man who cannot do anything for himself, or to become an excellent man. Telemachus chooses to grow up well. So well, in fact, that Homer portrays his traits as very desirable qualities in a man. Young people in this age and culture face the same choice that Telemachus faces. He proves, however, that no matter what is going on in someone’s life they can still choose to be truthful, protective, and rational. They can, like Telemachus, go beyond their father’s footsteps.
    ###
    "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

  4. #4
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    Monica, I hope someone messaged you back in February with feedback. I enjoyed reading your daughter's essay very much. It has been since the mid 1980s since I read the Odyssey, so I would not dare give direct feedback, but her arguments seem very cogent and well supported.

    When I used to be a schoolteacher (high school Spanish and English) I found rubrics to be a very helpful tool to evaluate writing samples. You can find a plethora of printables online, but many of them support public school standards that may not entirely mesh with your own goals. Definitely tweak and adjust them so that the criteria and points allotted meet your needs.

    I hope this helps a little.

  5. #5
    Monica, this is EXTREMELY impressive work for a 14-year-old! Her sentence-by-sentence is clear, even elegant, which is difficult to achieve at that age! My prose didn't look this good when I was 14, and I was a fairly advanced young writer. Wow! She also gives examples with citations, which is HUGE!

    There are some problems with the paper in terms of literary analysis. Her second and third major points comparing Telemachus to Odysseus are, in point of fact, inaccurate. I'll give some very brief explanations:

    1. Telemachus didn't protect Odysseus-in-dsiguise "using the excuse that he was a guest." Rather, BECAUSE he was a guest (guesthood was sacred in the ancient world), Telemachus was obligated to protect anybody entering his gates from harm, even a beggar.
    2. That whole paragraph describes Telemachus as being a better guardian than his father, which is simply inaccurate (many examples for this, beginning with the fact that Telemachus is NOT able to drive out the suitors and "guard" his mother and home from them, whereas when Odysseus returns he accomplishes this), and Odysseus is often described as "far-thinking" or "clear-headed" or "that great strategy-maker", so the argument that Odysseus "lacks" Telemachus's quality of clear-headedness is simply false.
    3. The third paragraph is also problematic. Whereas it is true that Odysseus once or twice acts before thinking (most disastrously with Polyphemus), it is his outstanding quality that USUALLY he thinks things out thoroughly before acting (for instance, the Trojan Horse was his idea, and he has the foresight to disguise himself as a beggar in coming home, etc. etc.). Telemachus does partner with his father in devising a plan to defeat the suitors. But it would be inaccurate, I believe, to describe him as being a better strategist than his father, or more likely to think before acting. He is his father's heir in this, not his father's better.

    So, there are some problems with the paper. But those sorts of problems are COMPLETELY normal for a fourteen-year-old student, because at that stage of development students are still very much apt to miss factors that don't fit their insights. I find over and over again that my high school students get hold of an idea (for instance "Jesus is loving and gentle in the way he talks to people") and have a really hard time seeing a more complex picture (Jesus is loving and gentle in the way he talks to many people, but there is also plenty of material in the Gospels which shows that Jesus is confrontational, asks highly uncomfortable or probing questions, sometimes rebukes quite sharply, etc.) My student might write an entire paper arguing that Jesus ONLY EVER speaks gently to people, which ignores another aspect of His character as presented in Scripture. This is quite common (you should have seen what my analyses of literature were at that age!).

    The problem with these kinds of mistakes is that they are hard to catch if you aren't a person who has read the Odyssey several times yourself (most of us aren't!). You might find it easier to catch such "content" problems as they arise if you can devise theses for your daughter's papers that she is interested in exploring, but that stick closer to the material covered in the teacher's notes. You will be able to see much more easily whether she deviates from them. Another option is, of course, to post papers here or with other friends who have read the Odyssey and can give feedback. :-)

    The problems with your daughter's second and third major points could likely be solved easily by using the same examples but tweaking the statements being made. So, for the second paragraph, you might say that Telemachus is not able to drive out the suitors (as his father is), but does his best to protect his mother in small ways suitable to his age and authority. For the third paragraph, you could say that clearly Telemachus is like his father in that he is good at thinking-before-acting (even excelling his father in just the one instance of Polyphemus), and then give the same examples.

    What I really hope you hear, because it's true, is that this is an EXCELLENT paper in many ways. Your daughter needs to work on her observation skills in order to notice and address relevant counter-examples that may invalidate her points, but she is so far ahead in other areas that she can well afford to spend time on that, and her errors are, as I said, utterly normal for her age.

    You have a bright girl there! I hope this feedback is helpful!

    Christy Somerville
    Author/Director for Rhetoric Literature
    Lampstand Press
    Last edited by cjsomerville; 08-15-2013 at 01:21 PM.

  6. #6
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    Christy,

    Thanks so much for your wonderful feedback. My daughter fell in love with literature through her journey through yr 1 R lit last year ... Many thanks to you and your compatriots! She is eager to tackle yr 2 lit starting Monday. This spark that was lit last year is what prompted us to join a virtual co-op this year. The funny part is that I am teaching the R lit class! That's funny because lit is not my strongest subject, but my daughter's enthusiasm and my own zest to stretch myself encouraged me. So I would appreciate prayers from any and all that I, with God's help, can serve these wonderful teens well.

    As a teaching mom, I truly appreciate this kind of specific feedback. I am encouraged that we really can do this!

    With a grateful heart,
    Monica
    "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

  7. #7
    It is plain wonderful to hear that, Monica! I love to see how God takes us to places we never thought we'd want to go, based on loves we never thought we'd have. He wants more for us than we ever want for ourselves, doesn't He? I love Him for that. I feel honored to have been used in the Redeemer's hands as part of His love for you--I'm just "clean glad" for you!

    I am taking a little bit more time this year, now that's I'm not spending ALL my work time writing, to be available to teachers who are working with literature. I'm really excited about this, because I've missed being in touch with you ladies! So, please feel free to look me up if you have questions! I could even give you my email address if you have more specific or difficult concerns that aren't suitable for the forum. I am confident of God's ability to guide you through teaching R Lit, but I also want you to know that I'd love to help and encourage you in any way I can as you tackle it! In any case, I'm rooting for you in prayer, starting now. :-)

    Christy

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