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An update from the thirty-second Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday March 19, plus some of the output published below

This week, we turned our focus to two Greek words/themes—katabasis (descent) and anabasis (ascent)—both of which have a long standing tradition in literature. Before moving into examples of each, we clarified that themes of katabasis and anabasis can pertain to more than just literal plot or theme, specifically that a poem whose form becomes denser and more difficult to understand as it goes on can be understood as katabasis, and a poem that becomes lighter and easier to understand as it goes on can be understood as anabasis. Beginning with katabasis, we looked at the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, how Orpheus, the first poet, had to descend into the underworld to bring back his dead lover, Eurydice. As we looked at other examples of katabasis, like Odysseus in the Odyssey and Aeneas in the Aeneid, it became clear that oftentimes protagonists must perform katabasis in order to gain knowledge, or understanding—that they must first go down before rising up. We then moved onto anabasis, beginning with a discussion of the myth of the phoenix, a bird that is born (and reborn) from the ashes. We learned that anabasis often manifests in literature in the form of a literal rebirth, the overcoming of challenges, or the attainment of knowledge, and such characters might often be identified as enslaved, a struggling artist, a lone inventor, an underdog. We found the archetype of anabasis in examples such as Harry PotterAladdin, and Great Expectations. We also touched on Dante's Divine Comedy, which combined both katabasis and anabasis.

The Participants: Emma, Penelope, Amelia, Ethan, Ellie, Josh, Quinn, Gwynne, Lina, Zar, Alice, Chelsea

The Challenge: Write a story or poem that uses anabasis &/or katabasis in form &/or theme.

To watch more readings from this workshop, like Amelia's below, click here

Amelia, 11

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