First, choose one of the following two topics:
Topic #1: One of the Five Great Themes of World Literature is “Sacred & Secular.” As stated in Unit 1 of this course, “We will find in our study of literary masterpieces from the past many intricate negotiations between the divine and the earthly realms.” Discuss what we learn about how divine powers and earthly beings interact in Sundiata (in an area with a syncretic religion) and Popol Vuh (which is not a sacred text but presents the Mayan cosmology). Which values embodied by these interactions are considered significant by their societies? What can we learn about their respective cultures by analyzing how these texts handle these issues relating to the sacred and the secular? Use these questions as a springboard to making an argument related to the similarities and/or differences between the texts and their handling of these issues.
Topic #2: Both Sundiata and Popol Vuh deal centrally with a heroic quest. Unit 1’s introduction to the Five Great Themes of World Literature states with regard to the hero: “The surest way to understand what a culture of the past most values is to focus on what it considers heroic, in that a culture recognizes its heroes as embodying its most important ideas, the values that are essential.” Discuss what forces Sundiata and the Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque have to overcome and how they go about doing it. For Sundiata your essay will probably focus on Sundiata’s historical destiny; in Popol Vuh, the Twins’ quest will have a more mythic quality, but you probably will focus on the meaning for the Mayan culture of the mythic events. Regardless, be sure to discuss the texts in relation to one another, and craft an argument about the similarities and differences in their presentation of their heroic quests.
Second, write an essay presenting your argument. Include quotations from the texts as well as additional details that illustrate and enhance the points you are making. Use the following as an outline of what to include:
Explain the general topic and relevant themes (e.g. heroes, women) and any relevant terms for that topic (suggested 1-2 paragraphs).
Apply that topic to both Sundiata and to Popul Vuh (suggested 4-6 paragraphs). Give specific examples and quotes from the texts to support your analyses. Use in-text citations for the quotations.
Compare and contrast the texts; it’s up to you whether you organize your essay around this (i.e. spend half comparing them, then half contrasting them) or talk about each of them individually, then mention similarities and differences.
Your final page should be your Works Cited page, in MLA format.
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