The concept of “beauty” is a widely elusive and debated subject

  1. The concept of “beauty” is a widely elusive and debated subject. Many philosophers and scholars claimed to have understood and tried to explain what makes something beautiful. But their explanations often differ greatly.  Take on this objective yourself.  How do you define beauty?  Providing at least two examples to support your assertion, offer a commentary on the qualifications, features, and justifications of beauty as you see it.  In other words, present a subject that you find to be beautiful, explain why you find this to be the case, and indicate how this judgment implies your larger definition of the term.
  • The intentions of the Humanities are based upon achieving a full “humanness” through virtue.  Numerous philosophers and scholars have contributed their opinions on how this might be achieved.  Surmise one of the ancient theories of achieving virtue that we have discussed (by Socrates, Plato or Aristotle) that you find to be legitimate, and explain why you see this as an appropriate means of becoming fully human.  Also offer at least one example to support your assertion regarding this theory.
  • The Humanities has long concerned itself with questions of critical thought.  Rene Descartes was a philosopher who contended that thought itself justified existence.  Explain Descartes’ proposition.  Indicate how and why he suggests thought to be sufficient as a proof of human existence.  Also examine his assertion for legitimacy.  Do you find that thought alone can prove our existence, or is some type of perceptual justification required (even from another person)? Explain.  Finally examine how this contention might be viewed from a religious perspective; Descartes was devout but used philosophy rather than faith to justify his assertions.  Many at the time viewed this as a sacrilege; where do you stand regarding this?
  • The archetype of the “Hero” has become very important and ever-present within the study of mythology among cultures.  Comment on how this archetype functions in cultural history, and consider what the myth of the hero offers to the cultures associated with its embrace.  Offer at least two examples of the hero myth that you are familiar with from Western culture, and illustrate how these myths follow similar patterns or present similar moral underpinnings.
  • The nature of childhood is a very important element in the content of Romantic poetry.  In the work that we have studied by William Blake, The Little Black Boy, the outlook of a child is central to the interpretive meaning of the poem.  Examine what the perspective of childhood is intended to facilitate in this poem.  Why is this a necessary element of the writing, and what role does it play in influencing the response of the reader?  Also illustrate through the writing, what the poem intends to suggest about the outlook of children compared to that of adults.  
  • The French poet Charles Baudelaire was convicted of indecency after his 1857 publication Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil).  One of the more criticized selections of this publication was his poem The Carcass which dealt with death and dying.  Similarly, the metaphysical poet John Donne wrote his sonnet Death be not Proud to a welcomed literary reception.  While each of these poems dealt with the same subject, one of them was publicly reviled and the other publicly embraced.  Why is this?  Examine the content of these poems, along the historical and cultural environment in which they existed, and interpret what constituted the divergent reception between these two writings.
  • The Lady of Shalott – Choose one of the two prompts below to write upon this poem.
  1. Write an analysis of Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott.  What are the main themes of the poem and how are they presented?  The Lady frees herself from bondage only to perish before she finds her beloved Lancelot.  What do you conclude that that writer was attempting to convey through this context of the poem?  Explain your points using the poem as a resource.
  • Some interpret Alfred Tennyson’s poem, The Lady of Shalott as an allegory about the necessary interactions between art and life.  Some claim that the artist, like the Lady, must remain in aloof detachment from the world, observing life only through the mirror of one’s own imagination, but not mixing with life directly.  And once the artist attempts to lead the life of ordinary people, their artistic gift, it seems, dies.  Do you agree or disagree with this interpretation?  Explain your points using the poem as a resource.
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