Lit. 370: Revenge and Justice in Ancient Lit.

Taken together, the group assignments count for 20% of your final grade.  Be assured that I will do my best to be sure that the members of all the groups work well with one another.  Being able to work successfully in a small group is a skill that you will find very valuable outside college.  Here are a few hints to creating a group that works well together:  


DUE: (OCT. 13) - CHANGED to OCT. 18

Choose a passage from the books assigned to your group in either the Iliad or the Odyssey that you think illustrates some aspect of justice as understood by Homer and his original audience.  First decide what this scene illustrates.  Write a few sentences explaining this.  One group member will then present your interpretation to the class before the recitation begins and at its end, will summarize what the scene has shown.  Then decide how the characters in the scene would speak and act, and divide the speeches among the remaining group members, including one person as narrator. Your task is to make this scene come alive for us audience members so that we understand its view of justice.

Each group will have only TEN MINUTES to deliver its oral presentation on October 18, so be sure to read aloud the passage you want to use to see if it is the right length.  Allow a few of those 10 minutes for the presenter as well.

Once the group has chosen a passage, go on to decide who will speak which parts of the passage. Everyone in the group except the presenter should have a role. (If there are not enough different characters in the passage for each person, divide one character's lines between two people, or have two people split up the narrator's lines.) Finally--and this is the most important part of the task--decide HOW the lines should be read. The words you emphasize, the feelings you put into them, the speed at which you read them, the gestures you use, even the loudness or softness of your voice, all tell your listeners what you think the lines mean. Those of us in the audience will NOT be using our books to read along with you, so it is up to you to make your passage clear and meaningful to us. Avoid a monotone delivery of your lines at all costs. This is especially important for the narrator.  Be very sure you know how to pronounce all the names and hard words correctly too.

The week before, I will give the groups time in class to do some work. But you will need to spend some TIME REHEARSING outside of class, perhaps over a weekend. Also, exchange phone numbers and email addresses, and set up a way to communicate with your group members outside of class.  Use email and phones to make sure you are all getting ready.

EACH PERSON should also WRITE A PAGE to hand in on October 18 saying who in your group did what and honestly evaluating the group's work. This page is my way of knowing how well each group functioned.  Take it seriously, please.  

Your group presentation will be judged on how well the group members work with each other and how well you all convey the meaning you have found in your passage. It's fine if your interpretation is unusual. So long as you make your understanding of the passage BELIEVABLE and DRAMATIC to us listeners, you will have done a good job. Remember: entertain and enlighten us!  Each group will be evaluated by me and the rest of the class for its instructive and entertaining qualities.

Some helpful hints:

•In 6 minutes, I was able to read aloud about 130 lines (about 3 pages) of the Odyssey.

•Be sure you can pronounce names and words in your passage correctly. Check the names in the glossary at the back of the book. Also be sure you can pronounce correctly any words in your passage that are unfamiliar to you. Use a dictionary, or ask me.

Whoever narrates must work HARD not to bore us. Make telling the story as interesting as the dialogue. For long stretches of narration, try moving around as you speak, or changing your tone of voice for the similes, or having two people narrate instead of one.

•You may find it helpful to copy the pages your group chooses and to read from them instead of from the book. You may also want to highlight your lines in some way.

•Audiences enjoy a presentation more if the group members use appropriate facial expressions, gestures, and body movements, and if they speak loudly and clearly. Be dramatic! Don’t keep your head down as you speak your lines. We won’t hear you! This means you need to know your lines well.

•It’s important to know not just your lines but also when to say them. That is, pay close attention to the end of the other group members’ lines before your part begins. Use the end of the previous line as a cue for your entrance. As a group, practice smooth transitions from part to part.

•On the day of the presentations, there will be NO TIME for rehearsing with your group mates. Come to class FULLY PREPARED and organized.



DUE: The period set aside for your section's final exam (Dec. 20? 22?)

Two groups will join together for this assignment: to put on trial one character in the ancient literature we have read this term.  This means that each section will stage two trials.  While one group presents its trial, the other acts as the jury, and vice versa.  Each larger group will choose one character to put on trial in a simulated American courtroom, as if this person had committed his/her misdeed today.  (Not the SAME character for both, of course!)  The combined group will have enough participants to play all the roles we would see in a modern criminal courtroom scene: defendant, judge, prosecutor, second chair, defendant's lawyer, second chair, witnesses, and experts. The purpose of this assignment is to see similarities and differences between ancient and modern popular notions of justice. 

I will allow two full class periods near the end of the semester for the larger groups to assign roles, work out their trial strategies, sketch out a script, and rehearse.  But you will need to meet and prepare outside of class as well, perhaps in smaller groups.

Yes, yes, I know, this course has not included instruction in courtroom procedure, and our collective knowledge about American trials may very well be based solely on film and television courtrooms.  This potential lack of authenticity does not trouble me because our purpose is not to practice law but rather to see similarities and differences between ancient and modern popular notions of justice. 

Since we will have the two-hour final exam period for these trials, each group may take about 45-50 minutes for the entire trial, including the jury's deliberations.  Again, this restriction is different from actual trials, which can take many days.  Keeping the time constraint in mind, then, all the participants must speak as briefly as possible to get their job done.

Each trial will be evaluated by me and the other half of the class for how well it is organized and presented and how cogently it presents the ancient/modern views of justice.