The epic of Gilgamesh reveals

Reading literature, and especially epic literature, is like looking through a window at the culture from which it emerged. Based on your reading of this ancient text, write an essay in which you discuss what The Epic of Gilgamesh reveals about the values – the moral ideas and standards of behavior – of ancient Sumerians. What ideas were important to the Sumerians? What did they expect of their rulers? What values did they want their heroes to embody? Use specific examples from the epic to support your argument.

This assignment requires you to be particularly observant of the values of the world of Gilgamesh. This entails characteristics of human behavior as manifested in the characters’ decisions, actions and interactions. The introduction to the Epic in your book would be of great help to you, as much as the notes you have been keeping in class. Part of this assignment is also answering questions we have been considering: what does it mean to be ancient? To be epic? To be distant from our time? Also, what it means to be a man or a woman in the civilization of ancient Sumeria? To be mortal or immortal? Moreover, how are gender and friendship perceived in that culture? How do people live, love and fight? What do their cities and homes look like? Be curious and investigative. All observations are to be drawn from the poem and poem-related-essays, such as the introduction.

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You may, of course, look up for your own sources as well for further clues, but make sure your analysis remains within the context of the epic poem and you don’t generalize or just repeat things we have already discussed in class.

Proofread many times to catch errors and problematic sentences, be coherent, and provide with examples (quotes) to illustrate your findings and points of view.

RULES FOR WRITING THE PAPER: As discussed in class, effective writing begins with the development of an idea. Begin the paper by creating a clear thesis (statement) of your idea, how you understand the character’s statement and how you will be examining it. Then connect it to the specific character, the circumstances that urged him to utter this statement and the repercussions it has on the story of the poem, which essentially is the story of humanity.

Remember that the best way to illustrate points is to use relevant examples (quotes) from the text. Examples help you stay grounded and avoid deviating from your central idea. Comparative perspectives also help. Comparing, say, the motives of one character with those of another. Or, perhaps, the intentions of the character with those of the author. This is a short paper: write about 2-3 double-spaced pages (no less).

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