Essay on Song of Songs, or symposium

| March 2, 2014

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Possible Thesis Statements for Paper 1—Choose one and write 500-750 words. Find evidence in the text to support the thesis and offer a conclusion detailing the importance and implications of your reading.
The Song of Songs
1. Many passages in Deuteronomy (The Old Testament) regulate the proper sexual relationship between members of the Hebrew society. In some ways, the characters in The Song of Songs act contrary to these laws. Indeed, desire itself seems to represent a higher law for the Shulamite and her lover. Explain how.
2. The Hebrew society of the Song of Songs is a strict one, where it comes to sexual transgressions. The Shulamite’s run-in with the guardsmen, who beat her and tear off her shawl, is indicative of this fact as are the many strictures detailed in Deuteronomy. The impulse on the part of the characters that drives them towards these transgressions might have the function of social commentary. Explain how.
3. The Shulamite seems trapped between her desire and her reasoning. She warns the ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’ not to awaken love before it is ready, indicating that she believes she has done just that. Yet, the poem is a celebration of this awakening. Importantly, the sexual awakening of the man in the poem is muted and does not seem to be the focus. The awakening signifies both the sexual awakening of the Shulamite as a defined object of desire, and the potential this sexual awakening has to destabilize society. Explain how.
4. While some aspects of the poem might seem critical of society of the period, the use of metaphorical language engages essential aspects of an agrarian society. Indeed, the use of that language suggests an attempt to interweave the traditional agrarian society and human sexuality into one worldview, critiquing restrictions on sexuality as alienating man from his world. Explain how.
5. Many aspects of the poem suggest a questioning of the patriarchal society. Explain.
The Symposium
1. Love is the central theme of The Symposium. However, the relationship between the physical and
spiritual aspects of love varies from speaker to speaker. Another division is that between the social
practicality of sexual relationships and the metaphysical aspects of them. Explain.
2. Diotima is one of two women mentioned in The Symposium. She has an experience vast enough as to
warrant a conversation with the preeminent thinker of the Athenian era: Socrates. That implies that female knowledge, especially when it concerns the mysterious realm of emotion and love, was as important if not more important than masculine knowledge. Explain.
3. Alcibiades speech, which finishes the discussion at the symposium, is intended to highlight the manner in which Socrates lives by the very concepts he has developed in his speech. Explain.
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Category: Religion and Theology

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