Essay prompt: Along with the Greek concept of “anagnorisis,” another key concept we’ve explored is “xenia,” or hospitality. Can you make a case for how these two concepts are related? Is there an aspect of recognition, misrecognition, or even lack of recognition, in our relationship to the foreign and the foreigner? Discuss with reference to one to two texts and one film you’ve watched. Your argument should come from the primary sources, but should also include the relevant secondary sources as needed, such as Aristotle’s Poetics. Focus on the readings from our class without turning to outside sources. In addition to the texts the prompts ask you to write about, you must include a film. You can choose from any of these sources below but the ones that I believe will be most useful for this prompt are Homer, Odyssey, and Genesis and then the movie Incendies and Babette’s Feast
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
Suras 12 & 81
Excerpts from Professor Kennedy’s book (“Joseph in the Life of Muhammad”)
Gospels: Mark, Luke, John
*The Third Man
Blade Runner 2049
Some notes that may help you understand the prompt and give ideas for the essay (not my words):
The proper treatment and relationship between hosts and guests is perhaps the most consistent theme and moral lesson running thru each part of The Odyssey. Cite key examples of both correct and deviant hospitable behavior. In what ways does Odysseus himself both honor, demand and violate these mores? Why do you think hospitality is so important to Greek culture? How does all of this relate to Genesis 19 (Sodom And Gamorrah)?
For example Leviticus 19:34 commands “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” We can safely say that it’s ok to own slaves, have sex with your slave women or concubines, and invade any country you want to, but breaking taboo with hospitality ranks right up with murder in terms of moral transgression. Both believe that gods visit people in the form of strangers (Genesis 19, Athena’s visits throughout the Iliad and Odyssey), and thus there’s a moral imperative to treat strangers as gods. But why?
Well, simply put, what is more dangerous, especially in a time of war, then bringing complete strangers into your home? You simply cannot bring a stranger into your house, ever, unless that stranger agrees to treat your home as a sanctified space. And, of course, the inverse is true: the guest is literally at the host’s mercy; what’s to keep a host from killing you and your men and taking all your treasure and then saying “Telemachus? No, he never visited us. Why do you ask?”
Before turning to Luke 24, let us briefly consider another of the Odyssey’s favorite scenarios. Much of the poem partakes of the romance story type: the awaited return of a man who has been separated from family, trapped in an exotic land, climaxing in moving recognition scenes between him and family members who thought him dead. Such recognition scenes mark the final stages in his return. Even earlier, before Odysseus returns, the poem frequently depicts him among people who are prompted to think of Odysseus and his famous accomplishments, but unable to recognize him among them, prompting Aristotle’s famous observation on how central recognition is to the poem. Among the several different dynamics through which recognition scenes may unfold, the Odyssey prefers the specific subtype postponed recognition, in which Odysseus delays revealing his identity until he first tests those he encounters for loyalty.
We know that Abraham, in Genesis 18, entertained Jesus Christ and two angels. We know that Lot in the very next chapter, Genesis 19, entertained those same two angels when they arrived in Sodom. We know that Gideon entertained an angel, and we know that Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife, entertained an angel.
In each case, the angel or angels were bringing a blessing of some sort, maybe a message of good news. Even to Lot, the message was that he was going to be saved from the catastrophe that God was about to pour down from heaven. To Abraham, the good news was that he was going to have a son by Sarah—the promised son. To Gideon, the message was that he was chosen to deliver Israel. Samson’s parents were to have a son who would begin to deliver Israel. In each case, the angel came and gave some very good news and a blessing.
Before I close, I want to show you the prime human example of hospitality in the whole Bible, found in Genesis 18. We look to Abraham for so many things, and this is the reason why he is the Bible’s only type of God the Father. He just seemed to have it. He was a man that God called and had character just coming out of him. Just listen to what Abraham did here:
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