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World Literature

Christine de Pizan and Advice for Widows

Writing became a form of therapy for Christine de Pizan following the death of her husband when she was 25 years old. Her efforts to expel the pain of widowhood through lyric ultimately resulted in the formation of a distinct style based on the recurring subject matter. However, rather than simply describing the sorrows that are often experienced as a result of becoming a widow, de Pizan offers structured perspectives from a consistently female perspective and even provides advice on the treatment of widows by other members of the greater feminine society. Additionally, the message is extended to widows from all social classes through a focus on challenges of the situation that apply to women of all economic statuses. The first issue is the indifference of men to the plight of a widow. This is compounded by the stress of the many pieces of paperwork and lawsuits that will be brought upon the widow in response to their husband’s remaining debts and dealings. The third key challenge faced by all widows according to de Pizan is the evil gossip that will fuel unfair criticisms and judgements of those who have lost their partner. The author offers several pieces of advice that are meant to help women to protect themselves from the negative effects associated with the three primary trials of widowhood. In response to apparent cold-heartedness from others it is suggested that widows turn to God, focus on being a kind person to others, and if all else fails to sequester themselves from those who seek to cause harm. These approaches are also meant to help widows avoid lawsuits and criticisms that could ultimately ruin their lives.

            While de Pizan’s pieces of advice for widows were likely helpful in the time of their conception, they appear to be too dated to have practical implications for widowed women in developed contemporary societies. Similar challenges still exist in the form of gossip, paperwork, and a lack of empathy, but the standing of females in most modern regions has risen to a level that is no longer compatible with the environment in which the advice was developed. It is true that women are still unfairly treated as the lesser sex on an almost universal basis, but the degree of disparity based on sex in lawful and other judgements has been substantially decreased throughout modern systems. The threat of lawsuits and similar demands are thus less pressing on widows than had been the case in de Pizan’s especially repressed time period. However, it is still true that legal matters must be taken care of following the death of a spouse, and this applies as much to a widower as a widow. Unfortunately de Pizan’s advice is useless to both sexes under current law systems as these matters cannot simply be avoided through kindness or by going into hiding. Neither sex would be faced with the same legal threats today that would have existed when this work was written and so there is no need to be concerned with having no representation or acknowledgement as human beings.             The above relates to the situation for widows in most developed countries, but there are still many cultures in which females find themselves in circumstances that are sadly similar to those faced by de Pizan. It is possible that the advice offered in this piece would have some relevance to current widows in such cultures, though there would certainly be limitations specific to the sociocultural environment that would also need consideration. For example, the spiritual beliefs of a culture may overrule any constructed principles of law, requiring the advice to be reframed within the spiritual perspective so that it can counter the challenge at the most appropriate and impactful level.

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World Literature

Everyman Lessons and Contemporary Communication

The primary lesson in The Summoning of Everyman is that the only aspect of life to accompany a person in death is their ledger of good deeds. The play symbolizes Good Deeds as a person, along with several other aspects of Everyman’s life, who represents his interactions with each as if recounting a personal relationship. In the Christian framework of this play, the characters serve to demonstrate that commonly misplaced values will ultimately be useless or even harmful to a person when they are called before God for judgement. For example, Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Wits are revealed to dissipate with age while Knowledge cannot make the trip past life’s end. Relationships with people as represented by Fellowship, Kindred, and Cousin demonstrate that they are in the same situation as Everyman and cannot aid him without letting their own ledgers suffer, thus showing them to be unreliable in death. However, no factor is as obviously negative as Everyman’s relationship with Goods. The play begins with God openly upset about the reliance of mankind on material objects. This displeasure is the motivation for the summoning of Everyman to judgement through Death. Everyman learns that bringing Goods on his journey would only make the situation worse by emphasizing his lack of charity in life.         Though Good Deeds is the only character available to strengthen Everyman’s case before God, there is another that is vital to the cause by providing the energy to survive the journey and to be a significant factor upon their arrival at the judgement. Everyman had not established a strong relationship with Good Deeds through his life, and thus required the absolution available by begging for Penance in the presence of Confession. Doing so allowed Confession to declare Everyman absolved and greatly boosted the impact of Good Deeds as a ledger component             As a standard morality tale, Everyman is still easily relatable to Christian values and should be clearly interpreted as a warning against materialism in combination with the promotion of charitable acts as vital components of the faith. The use of allegorical characters remains an effective means of conveying these and other important messages within the play. Materialism is perhaps more prominent of a moral issue today than it has ever been, and this piece presents the issue in a uniquely Christian manner by contrasting the matter with the impact of good deeds during judgement by God. Also, the often misunderstood role of confession and penance in the religion is perfectly demonstrated in this work, giving it an enduring quality of relevance that stands out among the wealth of complex religious adaptations found throughout the history of performance art. However, one of the emerging topics in all of academia is the need to use a multicultural perspective when forming current and future hypotheses. This issue has arisen as the world continues to undergo a mixing of cultures that is changing the nature of previously assumed standards based on ethnocentric perspectives. Accordingly, it is necessary to consider the contemporary effectiveness of Everyman in delivering traditionally Christian values to the modern multicultural society. An immediately noticeable concern from this viewpoint is that the notion of discounting other people in the assessment of personal value through judgement or any other form is in direct conflict with the ideas held by most collectivist cultures. However, the importance of good deeds is perfectly in tune with collectivist values. This inconsistency could pose a threat to the widespread impact of this work or it could motivate the viewer to more closely inspect the particular Christian views that underlie the apparent discord and may actually lead to a better understanding of the religion.

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World Literature

The Position of Women in the Islamic World

The issue of women’s rights is age old, and has existed in almost every culture seen on every continent to some extent. There is evidence of this in almost every contemporary religion–analyzed best by the cultural differences the religion exists in. With specific regards to the Muslim world and women’s rights, the correlation in the contemporary world exists more as a cultural norm than a product of the religion itself, best illustrated by the recent Muslim uprisings, as well as the assimilation seen by Muslims existing in Western countries.

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World Literature

Parallels Between the Quran and Judeo-Christian Traditions

The Quran is the central religious text of the religion Islam. A text which Muslims believe to be the verbatim word of God. It is widely regarded as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language. Many parallels can be drawn between what is written in the Quran and other present day religions. Muslims believe that the Quran is the “recitation” of God. In Judeo-Christian tradition, parallels can be drawn between what is written in the Quran and what is believed by both Jewish and Christian followers today.

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World Literature

The Image of The Tree and the Fruit in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount

Towards the conclusion of Jesus Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount”, he gives the following teaching: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:19-20) This remark occurs in the context of Christ’s discussion of false prophets, which suggests that the point of this teaching is to beware of those who give advice, who attempt to explain existence, who afford some type of knowledge to others: instead of merely taking such teachings at face value, one has to instead look at what the deeds and teachings of these so-called “prophets” produce. One therefore has to separate the temporary words of the “prophet” and then see what these words produce, so as to then judge if these prophets or spiritual teachers are true or false.

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World Literature

Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount”

Found in the Book of Matthew, Jesus Christ’s discourse to his followers, commonly referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”, is viewed as one of the most crucial texts in terms of Christian teachings, in so far as Christ addresses a wide-range of ethical issues in this speech, ranging from the beatitudes to a rejection of false prophets. One of the most crucial teachings from a contemporary point of view is the section in which Christ critiques materialism, stating that “Do not hoard material possessions; the moth will consume your finery, rust will tarnish your gold, thieves may break into your strong-rooms and carry all away.” In other words, what makes this particular idea compelling from an American capitalist context, is that Christ’s words go against this very ideology: the materialist life style of America is rejected as a false way, in the obsession with possessions and dollars.

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World Literature

Satire and Social Change

Juvenal’s »Against the City of Rome« if often classified as a satire; at the same time, the text is also critical of the social conditions of the Roman city, thus revealing a potentially close link between satire and social commentary and ultimately critique. This would indicate that satire is not merely a form of humor, but also aims to reveal some of the presuppositions, false logical conclusions and prejudices of a given society or social discourse.

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World Literature

The Contemporary Relevance of Juvenal’s “Against the City of Rome”

Juvenal’s “Against the City of Rome”, written in the late 1st and early 2nd Century A.D., is an explosive diatribe against what Juvenal views as a declining Roman metropolis: Juvenal makes explicit many of the concerning social issues that existed in the Rome of this era, for example, alerting the reader to issues of traffic congestion, substance abuse and violent crime. What is most compelling about Juvenal’s texts is that it seems to point out some of the existing social issues in the urban environments of the late twentieth and early twentieth century. In other words, when reading Juvenal’s text about Ancient Rome, the reader sees that not much has changed in terms of social issues in the urban space.

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World Literature

Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address

Thomas Jefferson was one of the most prolific thinkers of his time, spanning with a much wider scope than helping to construct the United States, and establish the nation in the international community. Though elected to the highest office in the United States twice, his first inaugural address was very reflective of social changes taking place at the time, as well as new and more liberal thoughts associated with the Enlightenment, Romanticism, as well as transcendentalism.

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World Literature

The Character of Tiresias in Oedipus Rex

In Sophocles’ famous drama Oedipus Rex, translated to Oedipus the King in English, the main plot revolves around a self-centered king who becomes obsessed with avenging the murder of his successor, to his own overall demise. There is one character that has frequently popped up in mythology as a seer of the future that was a center character in this play, the blind prophet Tiresias. With regards to the play as a whole, the character of Tiresias serves many purposes to enhance the plot, as well assist in the development of Oedipus himself.

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World Literature

Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”

Satire can be described as the use of irony, sarcasm or ridicule within literature. In this type of writing, human folly and vice are highlighted and held up to scorn, derision, or even ridicule. “A Modest Proposal”, written by pamphleteer, poet, and political satirist Jonathan Swift, addressed Ireland’s complex social, political, and economic problems. In this pamphlet, Swift use heavy satire and hard-edged economic reasoning to make his proposals for a new solution to the rapidly growing problems in Ireland’s economy. Swift’s use of satire to address the problems in Ireland in 1729 can be related to many present-day instances where people have tried to raise awareness regarding social, political and economic problems.

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World Literature

Pericles’ Funeral Oration and His Ideals for the States

Pericles was a prominent Greek general, orator and statesman during the Golden Age of Athens. Pericles had a profound affect on Greek society. Pericles was a great orator, and one of his most famous speeches came during the History of the Peloponnesian War. The speech, titled Pericles’ Funeral Oration, addressed his components of an ideal Athens- a democratic alternative to the totalitarian political philosophy that had been a stronghold for Greece for decades. Pericles’ view of society greatly contrasts that of Plato’s view for the society of Athens. Pericles’ desires freedom in a democratic city-state style Athens. This greatly contrasts Plato’s view for Greece as is written in The Republic. In Pericles’ city-state, activity within the community is imperative, military practice is used to foster community strength and things like pleasure and joy are of high value.

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World Literature

Perikles’ Logic of the Greatness of Athens

Set during the time period of the Peloponnesian War, when the Greek city state of Athens’ existence was challenged by a conflict with the Greek city state of Sparta, Perikles’ Funeral Oration can be understood as a sincere attempt to bolster patriotic morale by citing the innovations of Athenian political and cultural life, and thus underscoring the reasons why Athens should be defended. Yet it would be a mistake to consider the text as merely a form of propaganda, encouraging jingoistic objectives to overcome Sparta in the war: Perikles’ reasoning gives the reader (or listener) a logical series of arguments as to why Athens should be considered a historically significant state.

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World Literature

A Modest Proposal

Jonathan Swift’s text A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick is a satire of economic disparity in the time period of Great Britain in which he wrote. The satirical thesis of the text suggests that the economically underprivileged Irish should consider selling their children as food to the higher classes. Here, Swift is clearly promoting the opposite thesis, by expressing the dire situation of the underclass and poor in these dark and morbid terms, he surfaces the life and death situation of their existence, showing the desperation of economic poverty. At the same time, he refers to a clear gap in class difference which is crucial for creating the social structure as it is: extreme poverty is contrasted by a wealthy elite, creating a situation in which social justice is opposed, such that in Swift’s words, for example, the elites may make from the skin of children “admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.”