Purpose: For this assignment, you’ll choose one of the topics below, evaluating
Popul Vuh, and write a 6-10 paragraph essay arguing for and supporting your conclusions to submit as a well-developed essay. This assignment will build your writing, analytical, and evaluative skills.
You may be able to further flush out the writing you have already done in discussions towards these goals. If you choose a different topic than the ones on which you have already written, the discussion posts and responses may still be useful and inspiring to you. However, be careful you don’t plagiarize your classmates’ work.
We encourage you to use the background material in the course to further develop your own original interpretations and arguments; researching other secondary sources is not required for this assignment, and plagiarism of other sources will not be tolerated.
First, choose one of the following two topics:
Topic #1: One of the Five Great Themes of World Literature is
“Sacred & Secular.” As stated in Unit 1B of this course, “We will find in our study of literary masterpieces from the past many intricate negotiations between the divine and the earthly realms.” Discuss what we learn about how divine powers and earthly beings interact in
Sundiata (in an area with a syncretic religion) and
Popol Vuh (which is not a sacred text but presents the Mayan cosmology). Which values embodied by these interactions are considered significant by their societies?
One of the passages you should quote (all or in part) and analyze is the following:
At the time when Sundiata was preparing to assert his claim over the kingdom of his fathers, Soumaoro was the king of kings, the most powerful king in all the lands of the setting sun. The fortified town of Sosso was the bulwark of fetishism against the word of Allah. For a long time Soumaoro defied the whole world. Since his accession to the throne of Sosso he had defeated nine kings whose heads served him as fetishes in his macabre chamber. . . . So his countless sofas were very brave since they believed their king to be invincible. But Soumaoro was an evil demon and his reign had produced nothing but bloodshed. Nothing was taboo for him. His greatest pleasure was publicly to flog venerable old men (41).
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