RUSSIAN TALES QUESTIONS
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Assigned: Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales: "The Lay of Igor's Campaign" (167-90); "Tale of the Life of and Courage of the Pious and Great Prince Alexander Nevsky" (224-36); "The Life of St. Michael, a Fool in Christ" (300-10); "The Tale of the White Cowl" (323-32); ; "Shemiaka's Judgment" (449-52).
"The Lay of Igor's Campaign"
1. Who is Igor, and what is the cause of his campaign against the Kumans? How does the narrator describe the conduct and attitude of both sides during the battles they wage? That is, what value do they place in warfare?
2. The narrator makes many references to animals (birds, wolves, etc.) and to nature's most striking features. What effects do such references allow him to generate with respect to human attitudes and actions? Choose several examples from any part of the Lay and discuss your findings.
3. How does the narrator represent the most distressing of the events in the Lay--namely Igor's defeat and captivity? How, that is, does he foretell, describe and explain what happens to Igor? (Sections V, VII-VIII, XI would be particularly appropriate.)
4. What is the point, structurally and thematically, of the rather long series of appeals to Russian princes made in Section X -- how do they affect or add to a reader's understanding of the material surrounding them?
5. Igor escapes and makes his way home in Section XII-XV. To what extent does this ending redeem or transform his failure to defeat the Kumans?
"Tale of the Life of and Courage of the Pious and Great Prince Alexander Nevsky"
6. The biography of Prince Alexander Nevsky is unusual in that it's about a political figure and not a man of the Eastern Orthodox Church. What are Alexander's main qualities and his greatest accomplishments, as the narrator gives them to us?
7. What role does religion play in events: how do they influence and structure the story of Alexander's life and deeds?
8. How is Alexander's opponent Khan Batu portrayed? What seem to be his designs with regard to Alexander and his Russian allies?
I will finish posting the questions soon....
"The Life of St. Michael, a Fool in Christ"
9. What is a "fool in Christ"? Respond mainly with regard to examples of St. Michael's words and deeds in the story, rather than the introduction. It's often said that Jesus set the pattern for the redemptive human life, which is lived as imitatio christi, an imitation of Christ. To what extent is Michael's life a special or significant variation on this pattern?
"The Tale of the White Cowl"
10. Choose a couple of the tale's anecdotes building up the remarkable history and symbolic power of the White Cowl: what characterizes the creation and subsequent movement of this holy object from Rome to Constantinople and finally to Novgorod? And how does the Cowl itself affect those who come into contact with it? If presenting on this question, try to craft your responses to show the importance of symbol in the religious culture in which the the text as a whole is rooted.
Edition. Zenkovsky, Serge A. Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales. New York: Penguin, 1974. ISBN-13: 978-0452010864.