Magic and Witchcraft in the Ancient World Midterm Essay

I’m working on a History question and need guidance to help me study.

II.Take-home essay

3) Argumentative Essay (8 points total). Write a 3-4 page (double-spaced, 12-point font) argumentative essay on one of the following essay prompts:

a) Do you agree or disagree with the argument made by Marcel Mauss in the essay “Outline of a General Theory of Magic,” regarding the differences between “magic” and “religion”? (See group activity #2, questions 3a-c.) Your essay should consist of three basic parts: (1) describe or summarize several of the key distinctions that Mauss makes between magic and religion in his essay, especially those that your essay will focus on

Magic and Witchcraft in the Ancient World

(2) take a stand on whether you agree or disagree with those distinctions; and (3) provide evidence for your position by parsing at least two primary sources from the syllabus. (By primary source, I mean any ancient magical text or artifact in the original language: Plotinus, Pliny, Augustine, Greek magical papyri, Aramaic bowls, Talmud, Hippocrates, Medea and Circe, or Coptic texts.)

(b) Do you agree or disagree with the general argument of James George Frazer in The Golden Bough that “magic is a spurious system of natural law as well as a fallacious guide of conduct” and “a false science”? Like above, your essay should consist of three basic parts: (1) describe or summarize what Frazer means when he says this (one way to do help you do this is to ‘control-f’ [find] all the references he makes to the word ‘nature’); (2) take a stand on whether you agree or disagree with his argument; and (3) provide evidence for your position by parsing at least two primary sources from the syllabus. (By primary source, I mean any ancient magical text or artifact in the original language: Plotinus, Pliny, Augustine, Greek magical papyri, Aramaic bowls, Talmud, Hippocrates, Medea and Circe, or Coptic texts.)

In general, your argumentative essays will be graded based on the following criteria:

 the overall quality, cogency, and specificity of the written essay

 the student’s ability to follow directions (note that we will discuss together in class

how to cite sources, use a bibliography, etc.)

 the essay’s accuracy in the summary and description of Mauss or Frazer, as well as

the primary sources

 the clarity and sophistication of the essay’s argument, with consideration of the

counter-argument

 the ability to locate relevant primary sources and to parse and interpret those sources

in a cogent and specific manner in support of the essay’s argument

 the extent to which the essay shows mastery over the course material and the stakes in

the field of the study of ancient magic

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