How the Greeks saw their gods

For the Greeks, the gods were a species of being superior to humans in three main ways: they were immortal; they lived lives of ease and abundance; and they were extremely powerful. By contrast, human life, even that of the rulers, was short and hard, plagued by disease, famine, and natural calamity. The gods were primarily involved in their own world, with their own affairs; only rarely did they intersect with the human world. They did not create human beings and did not particularly care what happened to them. Sometimes they took humans as lovers, but humans were simply not interesting enough to hold the gods” attention for very long; the gods were partial to their children and sought to advance their interests.

The most serious fault–we would probably use the term “‘sin”–of human beings was to forget their limitations as mortals. As superior beings, the gods demanded honor and respect from humans; they (usually) rewarded those who honored them and punished slights, even inadvertent ones, severely. As immortals, the gods had long “memories,” and often punished or rewarded humans for acts of long-dead ancestors. Justice was important, especially to Zeus, and would be done, but not necessarily in the lifetime of the victim.

Greek Gods, Human Lives: What We Can Learn from Myths by Paula L. Reimers
review of: Greek Gods, Human Lives: What We Can Learn From Myths. By Mary Lefkowitz. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003.304 pp. $30.00.

What is a fairy tale?

Posted to SurLaLune:

I think that “fairy tale” has always carried the connotation of “improbable fiction,” for as long as the term has been around. That’s one of the distinguishing characteristics of a fairy tale, as opposed to a myth or a legend — the listeners understand it as a fiction crafted for entertainment purposes. Legends carry some semblance of belief — they’re usually told in a manner that suggests that somebody, somewhere, believes this to be true, even if the teller doesn’t. Myths are understood to be true on some level, at least in the culture that adheres to them. Of course, none of those categories can be absolutely fixed either, and there’s a lot of overlap. Too, as fairy tales became adapted for children, and then came to be seen as fit ONLY for children, the term became more derogatory. It’s linked, i think, to Andrew Lang and the cultural evolutionists; peasants (the folk) are sort of in the childhood of civilization, and therefore their products are on the same level as those of upper-class “civilized” children. All primitives, think alike, see. This theory died out, rightfully, in the 20th century, but the use of “fairy tale” to mean something juvenile stuck.

Fairy tales differ from more realistic folktales chiefly in the construction of the tale world. In a fairy tale/Zaubermarchen/wonder tale, magic is absolutely taken for granted. Nobody stops and says “Frogs don’t talk!” Strange things happen, and nobody bats an eye; that’s the major difference between a fairy tale and a realistic folktale. The main characters are generally human, as opposed to gods or demigods, and are of stock types. The fairy tale world is amorphous, unconnected to a time more specific than “Once upon a time” or a place more specific than “a faraway kingdom.” Legends, by contrast, take place in our own world — if not the here and now, than some specific time or place.

That’s the definition that I give to my students, and it seems to work well; there are, of course many others, but I’ve found this one the most useful. How’s that for a start?

Catja

Winston Churchill on learning to write English

[B]y being so long in the lowest form I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that. But I was taught English. We were considered such dunces that we could learn only English. Mr. Somervell–a most delightful man, to whom my debt is great–was charged with the duty of teaching the stupidest boys the most disregarded thing–namely, to write mere English. He knew how to do it. He taught it as no one else has ever taught it. Not only did we learn English parsing thoroughly, but we also practised continually English analysis. Mr. Somervell had a system of his own. He took a fairly long sentence and broke it up into its components by means of black, red, blue, and green inks. Subject, verb, object: Relative Clauses, Conditional Clauses, Conjunctive and Disjunctive Clauses! Each had its colour and its bracket. It was a kind of drill. We did it almost daily. As I remained in the Third Form three times as long as anyone else, I had three times as much of it. I learned it thoroughly. Thus I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence–which is a noble thing. And when in after years my schoolfellows who had won prizes and distinction for writing such beautiful Latin poetry and pithy Greek epigrams had to come down again to common English, to earn their living or make their way, I did not feel myself at any disadvantage. Naturally I am biased in favor of boys learning English. I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. But the only thing I would whip them for is not knowing English, I would whip them hard for that.
My Early Life: A Roving Commission.Thornton Butterworth [UK] and Charles Scribner’s Sons [US], 1930.
retrieved from: Richard Nordquist’s English pages at about.com

The ‘TEE’ formula for paragraphs & the Exit Exam

‘TEE’ paragraphs

 

Topic
Explanation/Elaboration (or “development”)
Examples
   A “TEE” PARAGRAPH:
Topic
sentence
The characters [in fables] are flat, with no inner life.
Explanation
(elaboration,
analysis, development)
They personify virtues and vices, such as courage and cowardice, honesty and dishonesty, patience and impatience, humility and boastfulness, kindness and cruelty, sincerity and flattery, cunning and artlessness, and the like.
Explanation The characters are generally types.
Examples They are meant to represent aspects of human nature: the proud peacock, the clever crow, the defiant donkey, the oracular owl, the plodding turtle, the cocky hare, the greedy pig.

Paragraph drawn from:
D’Angelo, Frank J. Composition in the Classical Tradition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2000. Print. (60).

My impression is that published paragraphs often have just a single ‘E’: some paragraphs offer examples while other paragraphs offer elaboration, analysis, and explanation. However, this is just an impression. I may be wrong.

I’ll come back to this post later when I have a better sense of how academic authors distribute elaboration and example throughout their work.

The graders for the Exit Examination will be looking for paragraphs that include a topic sentence, development (elaboration), and examples, which is as it should be. A 5-paragraph essay is a highly compressed form, so elaboration and examples must reside together within the same paragraph.

AND SEE:
The “T.E.E.” formula for paragraphs and the exit exam
An exemplary paragraph by Frank D’Angelo
Terrific explanation of a stand-alone paragraph
NV’s perfect paragraph

An exemplary paragraph by Frank D’Angelo

The characters [in fables] are flat, with no inner life. They personify virtues and vices, such as courage and cowardice, honesty and dishonesty, patience and impatience, humility and boastfulness, kindness and cruelty, sincerity and flattery, cunning and artlessness, and the like. The characters are generally types. They are meant to represent aspects of human nature: the proud peacock, the clever crow, the defiant donkey, the oracular owl, the plodding turtle, the cocky hare, the greedy pig.

D’Angelo, Frank J. Composition in the Classical Tradition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2000. Print. (60).

D’Angelo’s paragraph is an excellent example of the “TEE” paragraph (see here).

You will need to write “TEE” paragraphs for the Exit Examination.

exemplary: worthy of imitation; commendable: exemplary conduct. (Dictionary.com)
Sentences using the word exemplary from YourDictionary.
Sentences using the word exemplar from YourDictionary

N.V.’s perfect paragraph

When the Grimms revised their tales, they made the stories less controversial but more violent. To achieve this goal, they took out realistic violence and left in the violence that parents thought was acceptable. For example, they removed “The Starving Children,” a story in which a mother is willing to eat her own child due to hunger. Also, in “Cinderella,” the birds poke out her stepsisters’ eyes.

This is a wonderful paragraph – wonderful and also pretty rare in the work of novice writers, I think. A paragraph to aspire to!

Here’s a break-down:

  1. TOPIC SENTENCEWhen the Grimms revised their tales, they made the stories less controversial but more violent.
  2. ELABORATION and/or EXPLANATION of the topicTo achieve this goal, they took out realistic violence and left in the violence that parents thought was acceptable.
  3. EXAMPLES that illustrate and provide evidence NV’s claim is true: For example, they removed “The Starving Children,” a story in which a mother is willing to eat her own child due to hunger. Also, in “Cinderella,” the birds poke out her stepsisters’ eyes.

Number #2 – ELABORATION &/or EXPLANATION – makes this paragraph a stand-out. Most students open with a topic sentence and then proceed directly to their examples. That is a perfectly fine way to write a paragraph, and you’ll see many such paragraphs in newspapers, magazines, and books, as well as on websites.

However, in analytical writing, which is what most college writing entails, we often want something “more,” and that something more goes by various names, including “elaboration,”development,” or “analysis,” among others.

Analysis is what NV has done here: she has analyzed what kind of violence the Grimm brothers included in the 2nd edition, and what kind they cut. Wonderful!

postscriptWilliam J. Kerrigan always told his students to “say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.”

He was talking about paragraph development.

update 4/26/2012: I’ve posted a question for you to answer in the Comment.

S.M.’s cohesive passage

Here is a terrific passage from one of S.M.’s papers:

In “ Mercury and The Woodman,” we meet a very hardworking woodsman, and a jealous woodsman as well. In “ The Milkmaid and The Pail,” we are introduced to a girl who wants to accomplish her dreams just like most of us want to do today. Last but not least, in “ The Old Man and Death,” the old man is so horribly poor that he wishes Death upon him and ends up regretting what he has wished for.

Remember: Martha Kolln, in her book Rhetorical Grammar, explains three methods of creating cohesive paragraphs:

  1. The subject of all or most sentences in the paragraph is the same.
  2. In each two-sentence pair, information included in the predicate of the 1st sentence becomes the subject of the 2nd sentence.
  3. In paragraphs of description, a list of details follows the topic sentence.

S.M. has used a variant of #3 to link her first two examples. Then she  uses the expression last but not least to signal her 3rd and final example. Very nice!

Coming up: the known-new contract. Each sentence begins with the known and ends with the new.

AND SEE:
Sentence Cohesion – excerpt from Rhetorical Grammar
Kolln, Martha J. Rhetorical Grammar:
..Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects.
Coherent paragraphs & the bride on her wedding day