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Heroism and Argue, Annotated Bibliography Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1292

Annotated Bibliography

The thesis of my essay is that the portrayal of the tragic hero in classical myth and literature shows an evolution in the human ideal of heroisms. The basic thrust of my argument will illustrate the changing conception of the tragic hero from a religious to humanist personification. The three literary works that will be used to support my thesis are: The Epic of Gilgamesh by anonymous, Oedipus the King by Sophocles, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: the Prince of Denmark. These three works will be  explored through the additional use of secondary materials that will provide evidence for my thesis, as well as placing the idea of the tragic hero in a historical context.

The sources that serve as secondary materials are listed below. Each of the listed resources has been chosen because it provides direct support for the idea that, while certain forms of tragedy have remained more or less intact through the ages, the conception of what makes a tragic hero has evolved over many centuries from an initial conception that stressed Divine destiny, to a conception that focused on the existential lack of belief in divinity or destiny.

For this reason sources that are specifically about one of the three literary works are included as well as sources that approach the subject of the literary hero in a more general way.  Works such as W. Thomas. MacCary’s,  Hamlet A Guide to the Play (1998) offer the ability to make general points about various aspects of Hamlet, that will cite consistently in support of the thesis. Works such as  Charles Segal’s, Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Heroism and the Limits of Knowledge (2001) allow for the framing of historical context regarding the evolution of the idea of the tragic hero.   Similarly,  Jeffrey H. Tigay’s, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (2002) allows for an exploration of the deepest history of the tragic-hero and also provides a model for the evolution of the cultural ideal of the tragic-hero.

Annotated Bibliography

MacCary, W. Thomas. Hamlet A Guide to the Play. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. This source is crucial for placing Shakespeare’s Hamlet in both an historical and literary context. This source is also important because it directly supports my contention that the character of Hamlet shows a movement away from religious to psychological principles in the cultural conception of the tragic hero. For example, MacCary writes that “The evolution of the text and character shows Shakespeare’s consistent concern with the nature of the tragic hero: to what extent does he accept responsibility for his actions and their significance?” (MacCary 9) which supports the idea that Hamlet was conceived of as a secular character rather than as a religious symbol.

Moddelmog, Debra A. Readers and Mythic Signs: The Oedipus Myth in Twentieth-Century Fiction. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993.

Moddelmog’s study is a  needed resource because it offers evidence to support my contention that myths are reinterpreted throughout history and come to reflect the social evolution and mores of changing civilizations. Myth is the underlying principle behind all literature and is therefore a crucial aspect of the conception of the tragic-hero. Moddelmog offers the following insight into how myth and (modern) civilization are connected: “When Sigmund Freud chose the Oedipus myth to exemplify his theory of infant development, he changed forever the way we look at the myth […] the Oedipus myth was now a psychological drama about desire”  (Moddelmog 86). This provides evidence that modern society interprets on a psychological rather than religious basis.

Segal, Charles. Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Heroism and the Limits of Knowledge. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

This source provides solid evidence for the rooting of ancient literature in religious ideas. It also shows that future ideas based in psychological and secular ideas evolved naturally from the ancient ideas that were expressed in the conception of the Greek tragic-hero. Segal writes for example that “The ancient Greek dramas were performed each year in Athens as part of the

festival of Dionysus, god of wine, vegetation, religious ecstasy, the mask, and the theater. ” (Segal 15) which shows a direct connection between ancient literature, myth, and religion. The era of classical Greek tragedy forms the “transition” section of my thesis when the emphasis becomes slightly less focused on religion. This era provided the direct ground for the future development of a psychological basis of tragedy.

Tigay, Jeffrey H. The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 2002.

This source is necessary to show the ancient roots of religion and myth in Western culture. The close connection between religion and the idea of what characteristics made a tragic-hero are explored by Tigay. He notes that in The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, “The section describing Gilgamesh’s creation begins with his name being called-that is, destined by the gods for kingship-on the day of his birth ” (Tigay 153). In ancient myth and literature, virtually no separation existed between the idea of the tragic hero and Divine power. This is the “starting point” of my thesis and shows the most fundamental historical basis for the evolution of the conception of the tragic-hero. The evidence provided by Tigay helps to show that literature first emerged from a religious and mythological standpoint and only later evolved to a form of psychological expression.

Van Nortwick, Thomas. Somewhere I Have Never Traveled: The Hero’s Journey. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

This is the best source for comparing cultural myths and the idea of tragic heroes in Western Society over a long period of history. For example, Van Nortwick mentions about the character of Gilgamesh that, “”Gilgamesh is the first in a long line of western heroes who straddle the boundary between human and divine. Such creatures are by nature problematical, to themselves and those around them.” (Van Nortwick 12). It is vital for my thesis that I am able to establish with concrete support the fact that ancient hero’s were hero’s primarily due to their connection to religious ideas. The Gods represented not only the myths of ancient cultures but symbolized their highest ideals and values. As such, the ancient conception of the hero as closely connected to the Gods is the most obvious evidence that the ancient idea of the tragic-hero was based in religion.

Welsh, Alexander. Hamlet in His Modern Guises. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Welsh’s study  is my key source to show the manifestation of the tragic hero as a vehicle of secular, rather than religious, ideas. Since the play I am using to illustrate the secular conception of a tragic hero is Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it is necessary that I show that Hamlet as a character is, in fact, a secular persona. Welsh writes that “The emphasis in act 5 is increasingly on the hero’s own readiness to die […]  the hero abandons all attempts to script it for himself” (Welsh 38) which shows that Hamlet, as a character, has embraced a personal fate, but there is no mention of Divine intervention or retribution. The fact that Hamlet has proliferated as an influence on many works of modern art and literature is also explored by Welsh. This lends a very convincing body of evidence to show that Hamlet is an icon of modern, secularist culture.

Works Cited

MacCary, W. Thomas. Hamlet A Guide to the Play. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Moddelmog, Debra A. Readers and Mythic Signs: The Oedipus Myth in Twentieth-Century Fiction. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993.

Segal, Charles. Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Heroism and the Limits of Knowledge. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Tigay, Jeffrey H. The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 2002.

Van Nortwick, Thomas. Somewhere I Have Never Traveled: The Hero’s Journey. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Welsh, Alexander. Hamlet in His Modern Guises. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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