Cultural Foundations II · Final exam short essay prompts

Our final exam is to be taken in class on Wednesday, May 2. In answer to any two (2) of the following prompts, you are to hand in two (2) short essays (of 3-4 double-spaced pages in length) at the beginning of test time. This means that you’ll have to plan ahead. Don’t get caught waiting in a line for the printer on the morning of the exam!

1. One major theme that we have barely discussed this semester is that of relations between masters and servants. Compare the representation of master-servant relations in the Arabian Nights, The Tempest, and Don Quixote and/or Don Giovanni. What aspects seem to remain constant, and in what aspects may changes be observed from period to period, region to region, or from text to text?
2. Shakespeare and Cervantes (who share a death-date of April 23, 1616) both create representations of their art within their art. The Tempest gives us the supernatural stagecraft of Prospero, which seems to mirror the playwright’s own. Cervantes, meanwhile, fictionalizes the authorship of his own fictions, not only through the figure of Cide Hamete Benengeli but various sub-narrators (as in the Captive’s Tale of I.38-41). How well do these allegorizations parallel each other? Are Shakespeare and Cervantes up to the same selfreferential tricks, or are there differences in the way they go about it?
3. A similar set of questions may be asked of storytelling in the Arabian Nights. Shahrazad’s tales are told for the purpose of calming a ruler driven berserk by hatred and mistrust of women. If hers is the figure of the heroic storyteller, then what of Shahrayar? For that matter, what of the demon in the story of “The Merchant and the Demon,” or Harun al-Rashid at the end of “The Porter and the Three Ladies,” or the three ladies themselves at the beginning?
What do the many scenes of storytelling in the Nights say about the storyteller’s audience? What is the value of a tale told under duress?
4. Of the many sub-narratives in Don Quixote, the main theme is romantic love and the complications befalling those affected by it; no one, as Leonela says in I.34, is capable of resisting it. Is this true of Don Quixote himself? Is his attachment to Dulcinea of Toboso strictly in imitation of chivalric models (as laid out in I.13, I.25 and elsewhere), or do you find evidence that Don Quixote is subject to unfeigned erotic longings? Does Don Quixote give any evidence for a love that arises wholly independent of imitated models?
5. Male anxiety about the faithfulness of wives and the chastity of girls is a hallmark of the greater Mediterranean region in the pre-modern period (and after). Where have we seen this anxiety expressed in our reading, and in what sorts of controls over women’s bodies does it result? What methods do have female characters have at their disposal for evading those controls?
6. In his 1580 essay “Of Cannibals” (which was of course known to Shakespeare), Michel de Montaigne claims that the traditional societies of the Americas “have been fashioned very little by the human mind, and are still very close to their original naturalness.” Is the character of Caliban endowed with any such natural, primeval qualities? Explain your answer using evidence from the text.

Insturction: Feel free to choose two prompts you find confident to write two short essays (each 3-4 pages). Like the first one, I think it looks easier to handle since it is a comparison. Please clarify the prompts you are writing. You might use the required texts in our class if the prompt points out, which you can find through the syllabus I attach below. And please be careful that do not disgress from the subject.

Sample Solution