Yusuf's power

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In the chapter "union", we see how Yusuf meets Zulaikha again and restores her beauty and youth. As discussed in class, we have established that Zulaikha's longing for Yusuf mirrors humankind's longing for god. Physical appearances are but a mirror reflecting god's beauty. Yusuf restoring Zulaikha's beauty is symbolic of restoring a sense of piousness in her, something that makes her worthy of God. Yusuf swears by Abraham to fulfil all of Zulaikha's wishes if it were in his power.

He proceeds to fulfil her first two wishes, which is to restore her youth and beauty, secondly, her sight so she can see his face and 'pluck a rose from the garden of countenance'. Youth and beauty in this context, seem to suggest more than just physical appearance, but also suggests a human's ability to reflect God's eternal splendour. Upon shattering her idol and praying for guidance and forgiveness, it is evident that Zulaikha displays piousness which deems her worthy of her youth, which was described to be 'new-found beauty that reached even greater heights than before'.

Ironically, without hesitance, Yusuf restores Zulaikha's youth and sight, not in his capacity, but with divine powers from God through his prayer. When he is in turn being asked by Zulaikha for permission to 'live with him', he is unable to make a decision which is within his human choice. This implies that their union is not a mere physical union, but something spiritual which could allude to the union of God and humankind.

Abraham and Isaac

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This is an interesting poem by Wilfred Owen about WWI. He uses the story of Abraham and Isaac to illustrate the pain of war.

Just thought I should share it with you guys since we will be reading this story.

Do you guys have any thoughts?

What methods do you think Wilfred Owen used in this poem to evoke pathos?

Why do you think Wilfred Owen employs religion to appeal to people about his views on war?

 

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
Wilfred Owen, 1893 - 1918
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Genesis of Gender

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Genesis - A greek word referring to the origin or mode of formation of something.

As much as the book of Genesis describes the creation of the earth, it also mentions how God created humankind.

In Genesis 1:26, it is mentioned that God created the human in his image, male and female he created them. Interestingly enough, the word adam is a generic term for human beings. This would signify that Adam possessed both genders within him. So why then, did God separate men and women?  In Genesis 2:23, God makes a distinction between the two entities after removing part of Adam's ribs to form Eve, the woman. Could it be that this separation was merely to give Adam a companion? Was the woman created only to serve as his monogamous companion?

 

In chapter 3 of Genesis, it is mentioned that the cunning serpent approached the unnamed woman. Why not Adam? Eventually, she conceded, and she took the fruit of the tree as it was "lust to her eyes" and the tree was "lovely to look at". What do these tell us about the woman? Could Genesis be insinuating that women were easily tricked as compared to men, and that their process of rationalisation is purely based on aesthetics? Only after this episode, on Genesis 3:20 did Adam call the woman Eve, as she was the mother of all that lives. It is also mentioned in the commentary that "Eve" sounds similar to the Aramaic word for Serpent. Why is this so?

 

After God found out about their sin, he pronounced a curse upon the serpent and the humans. To the woman he said ' i will terribly sharpen your birth pangs, in pain shall you bear children. And for you man shall be your longing, and he shall rule over you." Is this curse still prevalent today? It seems apparent to me that Genesis establishes gender roles and dynamics as the first book of the bible, clearly showing that women are subservient to men. This accounts for the treatment of women throughout the centuries, where women in church were silenced and looked upon as inferior compared to men. But was Eve's sin sufficient to justify the treatment of women till today? Could the bible itself propagate ill treatment of women?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medea's tragedy

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It is simple to label the play as the tragedy of Medea's murdered children, but if explore the text further, the struggles that Medea face seem to suggest that the play is about her tragedy.

The play is about her struggle not just as a foreigner, but in context of prior happenings, a criminal as well. The play introduces Medea as a victim of Jason's infidelity, but most importantly, a victim of her internal struggle as a mother. Medea's dilemma is enforced when she is put into a position of shame as an exile of Corinth. She has to decide between losing her dignity or losing her children. The play features her progression of thought, and she ultimately decides to kill her children for their own good.

The central themes of Medea revolves around the concepts of motherhood and gender, especially in a context where men were seen to be more superior to women and in doing so , neglect their domestic roles within a family. The play is highly applicable and relatable as it challenges the idea of oppressed women. This idea is very well conveyed by the tragedy of Medea. Not only was she the granddaughter of Helios, but she is an intelligent, powerful and adept practitioner of witchcraft who refuses to be a victim of abuse by social norms on women. Euripides also uses the Chorus to interact with Medea and foster a sense of collective womanhood as seen from the lack of stichomythia in their dialogues. All of these facts align and seem to suggest that Medea's tragedy is used to represent the oppression of women in Greece.

 

2 paragraphs

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Home, both the object of happiness and grief for Odysseus, is something that Calypso uses against him in order to tempt him to stay with her. After Hermes warns Calypso of Zeus’s command to set Odysseus free after she held him captive for seven years, she finally agrees, but not without a struggle. She uses concepts of home, such as familiarity, safety, comfort and food to evoke pathos in an attempt to convince Odysseus to stay with her on her island. However, by disclosing his fate, Calypso’s speech fuels Odysseus to take go on the voyage back to Ithaca. This text is crucial in establishing the importance of homecoming, especially since Odysseus displays so much fervor to return home in his first appearance in the proem.

 

The speech made by Calypso to Odysseus features several nuances which reflects not only her reluctance to release him, but also her concern for Odysseus's predicament upon leaving the safety of her island. She does so through metaphors of the cup and the wine, to signify how Poseidon will fill his cup with the wine from the wine-dark sea.

Love and War is love at war

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The bard Demodocus sings of the adulterous tale between Aphrodite and Ares (goddess of love and god of war). Although Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus (god of blacksmiths and crafting), she was having an affair with the Ares, in Hephaestus's mansion.

It is interesting to note that the sun god, Helios, informed Hephaestus of this affair and also aided him in crafting the snare to bind the adulterous couple on bed. This shows that gods like Helios does not tolerate adultery.

During the tryst between Ares and Aphrodite, they were shackled onto Hephaestus's bed. As planned, Hephaestus, yet again with the help of Helios, travelled to Olympus to seek Zeus.

 

The significance of this story accentuates the element of adultery. This mirrors Odysseus's plight as Hephaestus, on how Penelope is back at Itacha with ravenous suitors waiting to bed her. Also, this tale goes to show how gods don't tolerate adultery, as seen through Helios's actions, as well as the god's constant condemnation of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra.

One possible reason why the text often features the god's disapproval of adulterous relationships is to justify their acts of intervention. As seen, the gods Athena, Hermes, Helios and Zeus have intervened with matters against adultery. This is shown by Athena's unwavering loyalty towards Telemachus and Odysseus, as she sees the need to constantly intervene in their affairs and manipulate the outcomes of events.

 

It is also ironic to note that the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, is the one committing adultery. What does this tell us about gods and their powers, roles, and lusts? Even the goddess of love does not respect the sanctity of marriage, so why should mortals? Would Penelope and Odysseus be truly faithful to each other without intervention from the gods?

Ploys of gods and men

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Aegisthus and Agamemnon were cousins. Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus was involved in the trojan war as Helen was his sister in law. Upon his return from Troy, Agamemnon was murdered by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus. This was done so despite divine warnings from Hermes to Aegisthus regarding his fate if he were to murder Agamemnon.

7 years later, (depending on Euripides or Sophocles version) Fuelled by rage and the desire for vengeance, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra's children, Orestes and Electra were reunited. They committed matricide by murdering Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. (On an interesting note, maybe you guys can read up on the Electra complex, which is essentially the female version of the Oedipus complex)

this leads me to question why Homer chooses to leave out details of Clyemnestra as the instigator of her husband's murder, and details of Electra as her mother's murderer. What does this suggest to us readers about the role of women in society and murder?

On book 1 page verse 340 it is stated by Athena

Haven't you heard what glory Prince Orestes won throughout the world when he killed that cunning, murderous Aegisthus, who'd killed his famous father?

 

It appears that even the gods take sides over mortal matters, and hence, see the need to interfere by giving prophesies, warnings or encouragement. This is mirrored by the fact that Athena, the goddess of warfare even fought in the Trojan war on the side of the Archaeans. One plausible reason why this story is often circulated by not just men but gods is because it serves as a moral didactic that one has freewill over their decisions, just as how Aegisthus chose to kill Agamemnon despite warnings from Hermes.

Lastly, Athena's encouragement towards Telemachus is also fuelled by the episode between Aegithus and Agamemnon. Athena strongly advises Telemachus to rid his household of Penelope's suitors as adultery is seen to her as a heinous offence.

 

 

Essay questions for week three

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1)How does the dialogue between Sita and Rama (pg 233-236)   tell us about her and Rama's character, concerns and priorities?

 

2) How does the moral claims made my Rama juxtapose with both the Narrator's and Valin's description of Rama?

 

3) How does Rama react to Vibhisana's treatment of the crowd? And how does it differ from Rama's reaction upon seeing Sita?

 

 

Agastya knows the ladies

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It is important to notice the parallels drawn between appearances and positive attributes in the story. Most physically attractive characters are dramatically described to be virtuous while the physically unattractive characters are associated with evil and malice. However, if we explore the intentions and thoughts of the female characters in the book, it is suggested that women in the book may be more similar than we think. With about 300 words, I shall draw a cursory comparison between Surpanakha and Sita.

The great sage Agastya says:

'Women have the impetuosity of lightning, the sharpness of a weapon and the whimsy of the wind.' (pg 239)

 

It is evident that the fickle minded Surpanakha had wavering romantic interests between Rama and Laksmana, both solely based on frivolous first impressions and a superficial attraction to aesthetic qualities. Upon Rama's suggestion, Surpanakha immediately shifted her romantic interests to Laksmana.

Utterly confused and still overwhelmed by passion, Surpanakha let go of Rama and turned to Laksmana. "You are as beautiful as i am and so you are a worthy match for me. Come with me and roam happily through the Dandakas. (pg 244) 

Surparnakha meets her downfall when she exhibited flirtatious, prideful and whimsical behaviour, coupled with her provocative threats towards Sita, which led to Laskmana eventually cutting her ears and nose off.

Surprisingly, Sita also exhibits impetuosity as seen from her attraction to superficial aesthetics. Despite the constant warnings from Laksmana, Sita was blindly enthralled by the mesmerising golden deer, and urged Rama to capture it. Sita makes the second mistake by goading Laksmana with her sharp words.

You have improper feelings towards me. You want to have me when your brother is dead, but that will never happen! (pg 292) How can i ever settle for an ordinary man? (pg 274)

 

Such remarks not only suggests the notion that Sita had prior suspicions of Laksmana, but also brings out a proud and assuming side of her which eventually led to her abduction.   Agastya has accurately mentioned how women, with varying physical appearances, portray impetuosity, boorishness and caprice which eventually puts them in calamity. Perhaps, the women in this text are described as such to perpetuate the notion that men are superior and hence, need not heed the advice of women as Alex has explored.                     

 

-Cephas

A king's sacrifice? Or a sacrificed king?

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Seeking an heir to his throne, the childless King Dasaratha decided to perform a sacrifice. He was then blessed with 4 sons, his favourite being Rama.

King Dasaratha was described to be far-sighted and loved by his people. He was also adulated by his people to be 'victorious over his enemies but loyal to his friends'. (pg 17)

Beyond the superficiality of these traits, his far-sightedness and loyalty could arguably be the cause of his downfall. The king was made to choose between fulfilling Kaikeyi's boons of exiling Rama, and bestowing his kingdom Ayodhya with a rightful king, Rama.

King Dasaratha in his wisdom and 'far-sightedness' could have probably decided that it was best to exile Rama and fulfil his boons to Kaikeyi out of his loyalty to his promises.

By exiling his favourite son and denying Rama his primogeniture as heir to the throne, the noble King Dasaratha could be trying to convey a message to the people of Ayodhya that it is more important to achieve dharma by fulfilling promises of gratitude to each other rather than to exercise preferences.

Or did the noble King Dasaratha reluctantly exile Rama out of dutiful fear towards his disciplined and righteous citizens in order to uphold standards of nobility and dharma in Ayodhya?

What do you think?

 

Cephas Tan