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Common Intellectual Experience 1

Fall 2008 Instructor: Nathan Rein
Section N: TuTh 10-11:15 (Olin 101) Office hours: MW 10-12 and by appointment
Section Y: TuTh 1:30-2:45 (Ritter 203B) Olin 211, x. 2571, nrein at ursinus dot edu

First paper assignment: Gilgamesh Monday, August 25, 2008

After Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh enters an extended period of morning and
experiences a crisis caused by his recognition of the power of death. He responds
to this crisis by embarking on a quest to escape death's power by finding a way to
become immortal. He comes close to achieving this goal, but in the end his quest
fails, and he returns to Uruk without the magical immortality-granting plant. The
story ends at that point without much explanation or elaboration.

Your task in this paper, which should be about 600 to 900 words long (that's
usually two to three pages), is to answer the question: in your understanding of
the message of the epic, does Gilgamesh's story end happily or tragically
(or something else), and why? Explain your answer with references to the
text. Your first draft will be due in one week (Thursday, Sept. 4); have a
preliminary version ready to share and discuss with the class on Tuesday. On
both days, submit your draft via email to me by the beginning of class.

A few ground rules:

This paper should make a persuasive argument. So: you will need to include a
thesis statement that clearly indicates where you're going to go with the paper,
and the thesis should occur at the beginning of the paper (by the end of the first
paragraph is usually good). Some thesis statements work better than others;
please see the attached sheet for a rough outline of different types of thesis, and
try for type IV. Each paragraph should also make a clear point that is
connected to the thesis and to the preceding and following paragraphs
in a way that the reader can understand. Don't summarize the story --
assume that the reader already knows it. Whatever statements you make about
the Gilgamesh poem should be backed up with references to the text, which
should be in the form of parenthetical page numbers, like this: "Enkidu is
'humanized' by his encounter with the harlot (64-65)."

Type I No thesis statement at all.

Example: “For centuries people have been debating about whether
Hector’s decision to fight Achilles was reasonable.” Doesn’t really say

Type II Announces the topic, but doesn’t give specifics about ideas.
Example: “In this paper I will answer the question of whether
Hector’s decision to fight Achilles was reasonable.” Describes the
question, but does not give any sense of where the paper is going with
an answer.

Type III Gives a clear position but doesn’t suggest an argument.

Example, “This paper will show that Hector’s decision was
reasonable.” Lays out a direction, but in a very nonspecific, general,
and unimaginative way.

Type IV Gives a clear position and suggests an argument.

Example: “I argue that Hector’s decision to fight Achilles was
unreasonable because the Iliad shows that he was actually a raving
loony.” Or indicates multiple reasons: “Hector’s decision was
reasonable for three reasons: first, he had a serious deathwish
because he hated his wife; second, the gods made him do it, and third,
Achilles was one ugly S.O.B.” Notice that this type of thesis has more
“personality” or “voice” — you can actually understand something
about what the author thinks about the material, unlike the other
three types.

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