WORLD LITERATURE I (ENG 251)

Activities for the Aeneid, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Ramayana

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI


Please read through all of these Activities before making your selection. Make a copy of the Activity question to begin your response. Several of these are worth double credit, because they involve reading two or more new  and substantial text selections. Post your Activity to the Activity 5: Aeneid/ Bhagavad-Gita/ Ramayana Forum in Blackboard.

NOTE: Most of these Activities are potentially for double credit, because they include reading and thinking about TWO new, substantial texts.

The chili peppers indicate the degree of difficulty of each Activity. One chili pepper is pretty easy. Two chili peppers are more difficult. Three chili peppers indicate a challenging Activity. However, your grade does not depend on the number of chili peppers, but on how well you deal with the Activity you select.

two chili peppersRead the Book of Job (see link to Hebrew Bible on Course Materials Table on the Course Home Page) and compare/contrast Job's vision of the unknowable God with Arjuna's vision of Krishna's totality. Do you see interesting similarities? Differences? And, so what? Use specific examples from both texts to support your ideas. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
two chili peppersRead the Sermon on the Mount and compare/contrast its message with that of the Gita. Each offers a "solution" to the loss and pain of human experience, but in very different ways. Develop and support your ideas with examples from both texts.
two chili peppersAeneas (Aeneid), Rama (Ramayana), and Arjuna (Gita) all learn what their heroic duty is, and all finally accept it. However, the "duty" each learns is different in interesting ways. Compare/contrast the different kinds of duty two of these heroes learn, and support your ideas with examples from the texts. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
two chili peppersArjuna (Gita) and Isaiah (Hebrew Bible): Encounters with God. Read Isaiah 6 and compare/contrast his vision of the unknowable God with Arjuna's vision of Krishna's totality. Do you see interesting similarities? Differences? And, so what? Use specific examples from both texts to support your ideas. (Thanks to Sandra Del Cid for this question.) If you want to expand this question to include other examples from the Hebrew Bible, this can be worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersRead the entire Book VI of the Aeneid on the www. (The section in the text cuts out most of this important book.) There is a section in this Book that deals with the cycle of souls, from death to purification to rebirth. Compare this to the concept of rebirth in the Gita(in your textbook or see online link on Course Material Table on Course Home Page). What similarities do you find? What interesting differences? And, so what? Use examples from both texts to support your ideas. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done.Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersRead the entire Book VI of the Aeneid on the www and read the Gita(in your textbook). Aeneas discovers the purpose of his actions and destiny in this Book. Compare what he discovers to what Arjuna learns about the purpose of his actions and his destiny. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersIn the Ramayana (see link to etext on the Course Material Table on the Course Home Page), Rama is presented as the ideal king and hero of Indian literature. Like Aeneas, he is descended from a god; like Aeneas, he suffers adversity and travels through the wilderness. Rama always does what he is supposed to do, promptly, cheerfully and with kindness for others. Compare/ contrast Rama's calm acceptance of adversity with Aeneas' moans and groans about the "tears of things." Which hero seems more "real" to you? Why? Develop your ideas using specific supporting examples from both texts. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done.Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersIn the Ramayana (see link to etext on the Course Material Table on the Course Home Page), the forest is presented as "a place of pain," where people go into exile to live as ascetics. This forest is contrasted with the pleasures and safety of life in the city. Think back to Gilgamesh and Enkidu and the complex relationship between city and wilderness in that story. Compare/contrast these two visions of wilderness and civilization and make some interesting point about them. Use examples from both texts to support your ideas.
three chili peppersIn the Ramayana (see link to etext on the Course Material Table on the Course Home Page), Rama's wife Sita is the perfect woman. She loves and obeys her husband, follows him cheerfully into the wilderness, and never questions her role. There is no perfect woman in the Aeneid, but there are quite a few imperfect ones, both human and divine, who stir up a lot of trouble. There are also some imperfect women who make trouble in the Ramayana, including the hunchback who provokes Kaikeyi to demand Rama's exile. Compare/contrast some of the women in these two epics and come to some interesting conclusion. Support your ideas with specific examples from both epics. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersIn the Ramayana, Rama insists that right action is obedience to his father. Right action for Sita, Rama's wife, is to obey her husband. Compare/contrast this clarity of knowing what is right with the fog Aeneas seems to wander in, never quite knowing what he is supposed to do, except in brief moments when a god intervenes, such as Mercury telling him to leave Dido. Support your ideas with specific examples from both texts.  (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersRead the entire Book VI of the Aeneid on the www.  Aeneas  has lost his homeland and must trudge onward to fulfill a destiny that is not of his choosing. He is somewhat consoled in the underworld (Book VI) by a vision of the future destiny of Rome and his descendents. In the Gita, Arjuna grieves because the coming battle will pit friends and relatives against one another, but Krishna teaches him that it does not matter, because every soul is eternal. Duty must be done, but with a pure, detached attitude. Compare/contrast these two very different notions of destiny and why a hero must act as he does. Support your comments with examples from both texts. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersIf you are interested in reading the entire Gita (there is only an excerpt in the textbook), it is on the www at The Bhagavad-Gita. Explore the character of Arjuna and compare/contrast him in some depth to the character of Aeneas. Support your ideas with examples from both texts. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersConsider all that Aeneas has to give up, including his wife, Creusa and his lover, Dido. Can you see similarities between the many losses that Aeneas suffers on the way to founding Rome and the Gita's doctrine of discipline? Can you see interesting differences? So what? Support your ideas with examples from both texts. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done. Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)
three chili peppersThe ending of the Aeneid is very bitter--Aeneas kills Turnus, his violent enemy and the poem ends abruptly. Clearly there is no hopeful future for Aeneas, although Rome is promised to his descendents. Some people have commented that Roman paganism offered no "solutions," to the problems of loss and death, which paved the way for the solutions offered by Christianity. Do you see any "solutions" for these problems in the Gita? If so, what, exactly, are they? Develop and support your ideas with examples from both texts. (Worth double credit if very thoroughly developed and well-done.Be sure to post the Activity question AND the request for double credit at the top of your essay.)

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© Diane Thompson: 8/13/1998; last updated: August 19, 2015