Sunday, December 14, 2014

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Dear Mythology Students,


1. Today we discussed the many literary allusions to Icarus! Each student received the following four poems. The first one entitled, "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph" by Anne Sexton, was discussed as a class, and then we wrote an analysis of the work together. This is what we created as a class (see example below). Students were then asked to select TWO of the other THREE options and write a literary analysis. This was due at the end of the period.

To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph

Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on,
testing that strange little tug at his shoulder blade,
and think of that first flawless moment over the lawn
of the labyrinth. Think of the difference it made!
There below are the trees, as awkward as camels;
and here are the shocked starlings pumping past
and think of innocent Icarus who is doing quite well.
Larger than a sail, over the fog and the blast
of the plushy ocean, he goes. Admire his wings!
Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually
he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling
into that hot eye. Who cares that he fell back to the sea?
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down
while his sensible daddy goes straight into town.

LITERARY ANALYSIS that we developed as a class! YOU may use this as an EXAMPLE to follow for the remaining pieces of work!

Anne Sexton’s poem, “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph, references the mythological flight of Icarus as an accomplishment. Her use of the myth guides the reader in realizing that risks must occur in order to obtain goals.  Sexton describes Icarus's flight as the “first flawless moments over the lawn of the labyrinth.” She continues to say, “look at the difference that it made.” Both lines indicate that Icarus’ flight was not a mistake, but rather he achieved something memorable.  In addition, the allusion to Icarus flying too close to the sun offers the reader insight into the value behind attempting a goal, even if it might seem too lofty; the value comes in the attempt, even if it comes at a significant risk. Sexton’s states, “Admire his wings! Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling into that hot eye. Who cares that he fells back to the sea?” Although Icarus does perish in the myth, the fact that he chose to do the impossible, even though he did fail, acts as a metaphor for life. One can never reach a goal without genuine risk and effort, and if the goal is not reached, more is actually accomplished purely from the attempt “to fly.”

Icarus did not die in the fall.
     What his father, Daedalus, never saw was this:                                                                 
 Icarus fell toward the Aegean Sea; fell through clouds,
 through billows and canopies and flotillas of clouds; and  fell away. 
 They were carried on the stratospheric currents, miles away from the drop point at which Icarus had vanished through the cloud foam.  When Daedalus banked and swooped and did his air-search, he found the pinions floating in the Sea.  But he did not find his son, because Icarus had come down miles away.
      In a wagon filled with sheep’s wool.
      But even from that height, even falling that distance, even though he had blacked out with fear and the air wrenched from his throat…the impact was enormous.  And Icarus broke both legs.  And Icarus slipped an inter-vertebral disk.  And Icarus went into total systemic shock.  And Icarus had his memory smashed out of him. 
     When he awoke in the hospital, he could not tell his name, could not relate the facts of his accident, could not offer a clue as to where he had come from, who he was, what he did for a living.  He was tabula rasa.
     He was taken in by a kindly family; and they raised him as their own son.  The family was poor, but honest.  Traditionally, they were vineyard hands and Certified Public Accountants during the months of October through April.
  After many years, Icarus left home and immigrated to Switzerland, where the need for vintners and notaries and young men who never seemed to age was limitless. 
     He settled in Berne.  Where he works to this day.  Frugal, fair-haired, unmarried, and neat, he shares his two-room flat with a small gray dog, and gets nine hours sleep every night.  And dreams of the sky.
     Every morning he washes the fever sweat from his body.
     And sees unfamiliar faces in the clouds.
                                               by Harlan Ellison

 ICARUS by Edward Fields
Only the feathers floating around the hat
Showed that anything more spectacular had occurred
Than the usual drowning. The police preferred to ignore
The confusing aspects of the case,
And the witnesses ran off to a gang war.
So the report filed and forgotten in the archives read simply
“Drowned,” but it was wrong: Icarus
Had swum away, coming at last to the city
Where he rented a house and tended the garden.
“That nice Mr. Hicks” the neighbors called,
Never dreaming that the gray, respectable suit
Concealed arms that had controlled huge wings
Nor that those sad, defeated eyes had once
Compelled the sun. And had he told them
They would have answered with a shocked,
uncomprehending stare.
No, he could not disturb their neat front yards;
Yet all his books insisted that this was a horrible mistake:
What was he doing aging in a suburb?
Can the genius of the hero fall
To the middling stature of the merely talented?
And nightly Icarus probes his wound
And daily in his workshop, curtains carefully drawn,
Constructs small wings and tries to fly
To the lighting fixture on the ceiling:
Fails every time and hates himself for trying.
He had thought himself a hero, had acted heroically,
And dreamt of his fall, the tragic fall of the hero;
But now rides commuter trains,
Serves on various committees,
And wishes he had drowned

Icarus by Wendy Shaeffer

Did Icarus,
        watching white feathers flutter upward,
        curse the wax as a fair-weather friend?
It seemed such a strong solid type,
        but it melted away
        when things got hot.
Did he rail at the sun,
        which beckoned enticingly,
        and then changed from a beacon to a furnace?
Did he blame Daedalus, his father?
Who warned him not to fly too high
        in the same distracted tones with which
        he admonished his son
        to put on a sweater in the cold,
        to eat his lima beans,
        to not run with scissors.
How could he have known that this time the old man really meant it?
Or did he regret that the illustrious inventor,
        when creating his flying apparatus,
        did not take the obvious next step:
        the emergency parachute?
He must have thought
        all of this
                and more.
It was
        a long
But as he neared the ocean,
        came close enough to wave to the startled fishermen in their boats,
        he laughed,
                and admitted
                that even had he known
                        of the many failings of fathers and feathers,
                                he would have done it anyway.

1. Remember that your "Movie Essay" or "Literary Allusions" assignment is due on Wednesday. I have included an example introductory paragraph that you are welcome to use to assist you.
2. Make sure that you have your mosaic and all your supplies with you on WEDNESDAY!


According to Joseph Campbell, Mythologist, and author of The Hero’s Adventure, stories possess merit only if they contain a hero.  Campbell states, “Even in popular novels, the main character is a hero or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience.  Without a hero there is no story.” (The Hero’s Adventure) This explains why so many forms of entertainment, from novels to films contain plots that involve the heroic archetype. Characters such as, _________________________ (name of character), in ______________________ (name of film/make sure you underline the title) possess archetypal characteristics that guide _______ (him/her)  along a difficult journey, which ultimately assists __________________ (name of character) in gaining a heightened sense of self or what Campbell calls “enlightenment.”  

NOTE: So, for each body paragraph, you would need to discuss how the particular archetypal trait that you are discussing leads the hero to enlightenment!