Lit. 230 Spring 2013 - Group Work   

GROUP WORK I          GROUP WORK II        

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: March 14


             The purpose of this assignment is to sharpen your ability to read a text closely since you will have to figure out the meaning of one literary passage very thoughtfully and then communicate your understanding of the passage to the rest of the class. The Iliad was originally composed for oral recitation to entertain and enlighten ancient audiences. In ancient Athens at annual public festivals, professional singers called Homeridae performed the Iliad and Odyssey for prizes:  Who could best captivate the audience with his dramatization?  This assignment asks you to make a part of this poem come alive for us again.  Who among you will win the prize as the best Homeridae for our "Homer Festival"?

Together with two of your classmates, you will be assigned a specific book or books from the Iliad. With your mates, choose any passage in this book/books that you all think would be interesting to read aloud dramatically to the rest of the class. You might choose a passage that is dramatic and exciting, or that gives great insight into the characters, or that is humorous and touching, or that is worthwhile for some other reason. Each group will have only SIX MINUTES to deliver its oral presentation on March 14, so be sure to read aloud the passage you want to use to see if it is the right length.

Once the group has chosen a passage, go on to decide who will speak which parts of the passage. Everyone in the group 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. 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 March 14 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.  

On the day of the presentations, one person in the group should announce a title for your passage, and then you should all immediately begin. Don't waste time. Come to class FULLY PREPARED and organized.

Your group presentation will be judged on how well the group members work with each other and how well you all convey the meanings 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!

Some helpful hints:

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

•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. So be sure you have prepared well before March 14.

LIST OF PASSAGES AND GROUPS, Spring, 2013, TBA after first week of class



We will meet on May 21 or May 23, the period assigned to your section for the final exam, to entertain ourselves with group projects. As for the Iliad group dramatizations, each group of students must present for the enjoyment of the rest of the class the special topic assigned to it (by Zeus, fate, luck).  This time, each group will have 8-10 minutes to "do its thing."  You may present your findings in any way that you think will both entertain and enlighten us.  Be inventive, use visual aids (online or in print), be dramatic.  After all, it is the end of the term.

Each topic has one or more brief readings to help you think about it in greater depth.  These are available from me, except for books, which are on library reserve.  I want evidence in your presentation that your group has absorbed these readings.  

Prep time is limited, as you all found out when preparing for the other group work, so BE PRACTICAL in what you decide to do. Be sure ALL the members of the group take EQUAL responsibility for getting the work done. Do not make the others in your group do your work. I will allow some class time for groups to meet during April and May and the whole class on May 16. But this class time will not be enough. So plan on meeting outside of class at least once before the presentation.  

REHEARSALS:  Each group MUST rehearse its presentation for me sometime before the day of the presentations by mutual arrangement between the group members and me.  Since I will not be teaching after May 16, I am very available.  I can also help you come up with lively ideas for your presentation.  I have lots of good suggestions.  Just ask.  Once again, use email and phones to communicate with one another. When your group is not presenting, you are REQUIRED to sit in the audience, so do not plan to rehearse or leave during the session.

Once again, EACH PERSON should write to hand in a ONE-PAGE REPORT on who did what in the project and how the process worked. In addition, EACH GROUP must provide a HANDOUT or ARTIFACT of some kind in enough copies for the other members of the class. The handout or artifact can provide any info to the audience you like: a cast of characters, an ad, a glossary of terms, a voting ballot, an illustration. It can also require the audience to do something.  Be creative. Once again, if you need help with your special topic, talk to me. Visit me in my office, call me, email me.  I'm ready and willing to help.


The Special Topics:  

Finding Troy:  Until the late 19th century, most people believed that Troy was a mythical city, but in 1871, Heinrich Schliemann found it.  How and when did he go looking where he did?  What "evidence" did he use from the Iliad?  What did he find when he dug up the site of the ancient city?  Start by reading parts of Michael Woods' book In Search of the Trojan War (on reserve in the JJ library).  You can also search for Schleimann.  (For fun, show some old photos of Schliemann's "dig" and the treasures he found.)


Achilles and Combat Trauma:  In his book Achilles in Vietnam, Dr. Jonathan Shay theorizes that Achilles in the Iliad suffers from the same symptoms of combat trauma that Dr. Shay saw in Vietnam veterans who were his patients.  Read some of his chapters on Achilles (the book is on reserve in the JJ library), to see what you think of his analysis.  Present his theory and your responses to it.  (For fun, consider a meeting of veterans in a literature class, discussing Achilles as if he were one of their comrades in arms.)


Greek Games: Read about the ancient Olympics at and in David Young's article "With Hands or Swift Feet" (available from me). Then use this material to discuss Homer's games and attitudes toward them in Book 23 of the Iliad, as contrasted with the real games in the ancient and modern Oympics, particularly in their different purposes.  (For fun, compare "records" from the ancient Olympics to some records held by modern Olympians today.)


Body Armor: For a group whose members too my Greek art podcast or a group that includes a veteran, compare ancient Greek armor to modern military body armor.  Both ancient and modern armorers have to protect the same human shape: torso, head, arms, legs.  Yet both the technology available to the makers of armor and the weapons in use at the time have drastically changed armor since Homer's day.  Focus on ancient Greek armor and modern battle gear to show similarities and differences.  How is a warrior clothed in this armor still vulnerable?  Read parts of A.M.Snodgrass's book Arms and Armor of the Greeks, on reserve in the JJ library, especially on the Greek phalanx.  Use the Met Museum's pictures of ancient Greek armor, and find online pix of modern war gear.  (For fun, imagine giving the spirit of Achilles an explanation of modern battle gear.)

What Dreams Mean:  In many of the texts we read this term, dreams are shown to carry special meanings to dreamers.  Consider Achilles' dream of the dead Patroclus, Aeneas' dream of Hector telling him Troy is burning, and Joseph's dreams in Genesis 37-47.  Examine the different kinds of meaning seen in these ancient dreams:  Where do these dreams come from?   What do they communicate?  Then examine some modern theories about dreams, where they come from, and what they "mean," if they have any meaning at all.  Read Jonathan Winson's article "The Meaning of Dreams" and in Ernest Hartman's short essay "Why Do We Dream?" both available from me.   (For fun, compare ancient and modern theories, or you might have a modern dream interpreter try to help one of these ancient characters figure out their dreams.)



Picturing Adam and Eve:  How did several Early Modern artists portray Adam and Eve?  What aspects of their characters does each painting or etching emphasize?  Imagine that you have been asked to choose appropriate illustrations for a reading of Genesis 1-4.  Choose and show 3-4 Renaissance paintings or etchings, and explain to the class what aspects of Adam and Eve's characters each one highlights.

Start by typing "Adam and Eve" and each of these artists in turn into : Durer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Mabuse, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Titian, Tintoretto.



The Delphic Oracle:  What exactly happened in real life at Delphi?  Who was the prophetess who spoke Apollo's words?  How did the process of asking her for a prophecy work?  Read the first chapter of Hugh Bowden's book Classical Athens and the Delphic Oracle and Joan B. Connelly on "The Pythia at Delphi" (both available from me).  How might you present this info in terms of the play Oedipus Tyrannus?  (You might dramatize a scene in which Creon approaches the Delphic oracle to ask about the plague in Thebes.)

Oedipus and the Plague:  In Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus's crimes have caused physical disease in Thebes.  Explain the ancient Greek idea of pollution or "miasma."   Read 2 short handouts on this subject (available from me), "Death and Epidemic Disease in Classical Athens," by James Longrigg, and the entry on plague in Greece from Sarah Iles Johnston's Religions of the Ancient World.  Is this ancient Greek idea similar at all to modern ideas about pollution?  (Given the talk these days about global warming due to gases we humans are emitting into the air, you might present a talk show debating the modern connections between pollution and human responsibility.) 

Going down to Hades: With the Sibyl as guide, Aeneas successfully meets and talks with his father in Hades and gets back to earth alive.  What other stories did the Greeks and Romans tell about living men going down to bring someone or something out of Hades?  Find online or in Edith Hamilton's old book Mythology two other journeys to and from Hades:  those of Orpheus, of Odysseus, of Theseus and his friend Pirithous, and of Heracles when he went to retrieve Cerberus, the watchdog of Hades as his twelfth Labor.  How are the two you choose different from/similar to Aeneas' journey into Hades with the Sibyl?  Are they all equally successful?  Why do you think the ancients told so many stories about journeys in and out of Hades?  (For fun, consider a journey into a present-day Hades--what would that be like?)


Female Suicides:  Jocasta in Oedipus Tyrannus, Antigone in her living tomb, Dido in the Aeneid--all commit suicide. What motivates them to do such a drastic thing?  What does their way of killing themselves tell us about ancient male attitudes toward female suicide?  After all, all these women were created by male writers.  Are there any similarities between these fictional suicides and real suicides among women today?  Read "The Rope and the Sword" from Nicole Loraux's book Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman, available from me.  (For "fun," pretend you are members of a CSI team investigating a woman's death in the ancient world.  What sorts of evidence would be available to you?)


Dido and Cleopatra: Many of Virgil's contemporaries saw in his portrait of Dido a reflection of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt who had recently seduced the Roman general Mark Antony.  Antony was eventually defeated at Actium by Octavian, later Caesar Augustus, who spread the story that Cleopatra had seduced the Roman. Research the history of Cleopatra and Antony. Read an imaginative retelling of Cleopatra's story in Natural History (October, 2008), available from the prof.  And read and explore the images from an exhibit at the British Museum at  You can also explore this website:  Then compare/contrast what happened to Antony and Cleopatra with what happens to Dido and Aeneas in Virgil's poem. (For fun, Dido might meet Cleopatra in the underworld. What would they talk about?)


Roman Love in a Woman: Virgil portrays Dido as both tragic and dangerous to Aeneas and his mission.  For another Roman point of view, read Ovid's "letter of Dido to Aeneas," where Dido seems much more pathetic than she is in Virgil (online at ). (Ovid wrote a series of such fictional poetic letters from women to their lovers, called the Heroides.) Then consider how Dido might be portrayed today.  Would love affect her as it does in the Aeneid or as it does in Ovid's letter, or in some other way?  (For fun, you might dramatize Dido pursuing Aeneas in the 21st century, or you might set up a conversation between Dido and Aeneas about love. Perhaps they meet in the underworld.)


From the Woman's Point of View: Suppose Medea and Jocasta told their stories themselves. What differences might there be from the versions we have in their plays? Read some versions by Jane Cahill in Her Kind: Stories of Women from Greek Mythology, available from me (book). Do you think Cahill's version of ONE woman's story is reasonable? too modern? far-fetched? What difference would this version make to the woman's story, if the Greek writer had used it instead of the story he did use? (For fun, you might interview the woman character you chose for her point of view.)




Remember that you are both to inform and entertain us with your presentation, so think of an inventive way of presenting your findings. I suggest some ideas in the individual topics above. Here are others:


> Read some of the work dramatically, as you did for the Iliad.


> Present your findings as a debate, a trial, an interview show.


> Create a game, design a theme park, or think up something else visual or physical to represent your findings.


> Use other media in addition to talk: Show illustrations found on the Internet on a computer screen; make a video; make a Powerpoint presentation; create a poem or song; add music to your talk, etc.


 Ask the class to do something that goes along with your presentation (create a word in hieroglyphics, write on clay, come up with their own definition of "madness" or "love," vote on an issue, relate their own experiences to characters you discuss, enjoy something to eat, etc.). Be creative!