Critiques – Humanity in a World “Full of Gods”

It’s that time! Here are the details for your first critiques of the semester, including potential topics, basic requirements, and some helpful hints to consider while you work on your thesis statement.

Download the Word Document (identical to class handouts) below:

Critique – Gilgamesh/Sophocles

View the the rest of this post to see the web version of these documents.

Critique – Humanity in a World “Full of Gods”

So far, we’ve read three full-length pieces from the ancient world – Gilgamesh, Oedipus Rex, and Antigone. You may choose any of these as the central text for your first critique – though I also give you the option of pairing Oedipus Rex and Antigone in order to make broader claims about Sophocles and his themes.

You must form your own thesis – however, it should reflect a clear and specific theme about human life and/or humanity’s role in the world. Even though I group these texts because they all deal with religious, polytheistic societies, your thesis does not necessarily have to deal with religion, though make sure you can back up any thesis you choose with ample TEXTUAL examples. (Remember any feedback you might have received about your Oedipus papers – the myth and the text are two separate things!)

Here are some ideas:

¨         Gilgamesh: What are some themes about friendship and/or human companionship? How and why does that companionship contribute to a more human identity?

¨         Oedipus Rex: How and why does Sophocles show a conflict between humans and their spirituality?

¨         Oedipus Rex: Is fate truly a part of human life? (According to Sophocles – NOT according to your own beliefs!) If so, what impact does it have on human life – and if not, then what are the consequences of a human, religious tradition based on fate?

¨         Oedipus Rex and/or Antigone: Connect the texts to what you know about Greek thought and society at the time – specifically in connection to Tarnas. How do these plays show the “Mythic Vision”? A humanistic society? A split between the two? You’ll need to take Tarnas’s informational text and make your own decisions about how it applies to Sophocles.

¨         Aristotle: Consider Sophocles as an example, and Aristotle’s text as his own type of “critique’ of these plays; form your own thesis from there. (The most successful papers will most likely be those that challenge Aristotle in some way, rather than just supporting everything he says.)

¨         Come up with a ideas of your own and run them by me!



  • Your paper MUST have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Draw upon notes from class about what purpose each component of your paper should serve.
  • Follow any quote integration and citation conventions as outlined in class handouts.
  • Follow any writing conventions for literary criticism, including:
    • Appropriate spelling, grammar, and word choice
    • Present tense to describe plot events
    • Avoid vague pronouns (“it” and “they” specifically)
    • Avoid iffy language and first-person pronouns (especially when the two show up together – “I think”)
    • Avoid awkward use of the passive voice
  • MLA document formatting:
    • Size 12, Times New Roman, double spaced
    • Works Cited page and in-text citations in MLA format
    • Heading on first page: Name, Date, Ms. Perillo, and F Block listed in top left hand corner; title centered
  • Review the emailed work policy and late work policy for my class. There are so many checks in place for you that there are NO EXCUSES come the due date.


I’ve mentioned this in passing – but my pet peeve when reading papers is what I call the “glorified summary.” Your paper might follow every convention, be organized beautifully, and written equally well – but it might still contain little to no analysis. Some tips to keep in mind and hopefully use to avoid this. 

  • Beware of an overly simple thesis. This is most often the root of the problem in a “glorified summary.” For example, for some of the options above – it might be tempting to say, “Oedipus Rex shows that the protagonist, Oedipus, fulfills the gods’ prophecies and his fate.” Then, I would most likely read a paper that recounts, scene by scene (or even just w/ the myth’s background info) exactly what happens as the play progresses. Such a paper would receive a very low grade!
  • Your audience is a literary community who wants to know what you have to say about these texts. This means you can resist the urge to explain every little thing that happens in the text – only bring it up if it’s relevant to your paper. However, you DO have to consider any parts of the play that might contradict your thesis, and address them.
  • While chronological order makes sense, don’t feel confined to it. For example, it might be really helpful for you to juxtapose characters– or whatever else – as he/it appears in the prologue vs. Scene IV. As long as you’re clear about happens & when as you discuss your points, all is well. Organize your paper more along the lines of separate points/ideas rather than plot chronology.



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