You will be writing a critical essay on Antigone, this means that you will be utilizing critical sources to help develop and support your claim. For this essay you will be using the critical essays that follow the text of Antigone in the Norton Introduction to Literature (and a few on our course Blackboard page).
When writing a critical essay you begin the same way you have with the others you have written thus far: you develop a thesis that makes a claim about the text and then you develop support from both the primary and secondary texts.
One of the larger issues for students in doing literary research is that they did not know where to look for effective and acceptable sources. The essays that are in the Norton are both. What remains to as central is the need for the student to develop a clear and debatable claim that can be worked into an essay.
When using critical sources it is important to remember that often they are not going to be on exactly the same topic (why would you need to compose the essay then?). The critical essays will be on Antigone, but it will be up to you to find something in them that supports and develops your ideas. One of the elements that students often miss when working with critical sources is that they need to comment on what scholars have written. For example, Bernard Knox writes that
Loyalty to the polis was not an abstract cause; it was a practical necessity. War between one city-state and another was a normal and accepted condition, and defeat in such a war might well mean massacre and enslavement every Greek citizen knew that his individual freedom, property, and even life could be preserved only by the constant efforts and sacrifice of the citizen body as a whole. (85)
Instead of simply leaving that quote there and moving on, I would engage with the notion of necessity and about how that term fits the actions of characters and supports the claim that Ive made. It is also valuable to quote critics who disagree with you. That allows you the opportunity to respond, directly, to an idea and show how yours is correct.
Antigone, at its core, is about the divide between family and society and what happens when a choice must be made between the two. There are several strong voices and characters in the play and they grapple with large universal themes. For this essay you will develop a thesis from one of four areas:
1. Gender (How does a characters gender affect his/her choices?)
2. Religion (Which is the right path to follow?)
3. Family (How does family affect decision?)
4. Justice (What is the nature of justice in the play?)
The questions behind the areas are not the only things to consider, they are there to help prompt thought. Go back to the play and look at what strikes you as something that you can make a claim about. It is important to remember that this is not a book report. Avoid summaries and broad statements.
Please note that our contemporary concepts of family, gender, justice, and religion are different than the ancient Greeks. You will need to research what ancient Greeks believed about the area you have chosen to focus on.
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