Grades/Level: High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: Long–Term Unit
8 class periods
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff


Curriculum Home
Lesson Plans
Image Bank
Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment Overview
Timeline: Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment
California and National Standards Charts

Lesson Overview

Students will read and compare excerpts from The Odyssey and The Adventures of Telemachus. They will create an original story based on a secondary character from The Odyssey as well as a sketch of one of the pivotal scenes from the story.

Learning Objectives

• Students will be able to read and compare excerpts from two texts.
• Students will be able to point out ways that a painting is a form of storytelling.
• Students will write an original short story or fictional narrative based on secondary characters in The Odyssey.


• Image of The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis by Jacques-Louis David
• Information about the painting from the Image Bank
• Overhead projector
• Books 1–3 of The Odyssey, written by Homer
• Books 1–7 of The Adventures of Telemachus, the Son of Ulysses, written by François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon
• Sketch paper
• Colored pencils
• Writing paper, pencils, pens, or a computer

Lesson Steps

1. Have the students read Book 1 through Book 3 of The Odyssey, in which Telemachus is mentioned. Have students extract the references to Telemachus that they feel describe him or his actions to discuss in class.

2. Discuss Telemachus's personality and social class and how Homer describes his actions. Explore his role in The Odyssey and what this character represents in the story.

3. Have the class read Book 1 through Book 7 of The Adventures of Telemachus, the Son of Ulysses by François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon. Before the class gets to the point in the last section of Book 7 where Telemachus ends his romance with Eucharis, display the an image of painting by David for discussion.

4. Looking at the image, have students work with a partner to write down answers to the following questions:
• What do you see in the image?
• What do the figures seem to be doing? How can you tell?
• What do the figures seem to be feeling? How can you tell?
• Where are they? How can you tell?
• If you had to give this work of art a title, what would it be?

5. As a class, discuss students' answers and analyze the painting as a narrative. You may use the Questions for Teaching found in the Image Bank to further the discussion. Determine how David uses body language and expression to communicate this scene from the stories by Homer and Fénelon. Do these elements translate to the descriptions in the text (costumes, setting, mood)? Reinforce students' responses by providing details and context from the Image Bank about the object, the artist, and his intentions.

6. Read the last section of Book 7 of Fénelon's novel describing when Telemachus leaves Eucharis. Discuss whether or not David's interpretation was successful in depicting this part of the story. Discuss how the painting helps us to visualize the story with details not included in Fénelon's book. What was left out? What was added? What aspects of the painting enhanced the students' understanding of Telemachus's decision to leave? Students may create a graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram to assist them in these comparisons.

7. Discuss Telemachus and Eucharis as characters. Explore their roles in Fénelon's story. What is their purpose in the story? How is Telemachus different or similar in Homer's and Fénelon's texts? Does David's painting better reflect Homer's or Fénelon's portrayal of Telemachus?

8. Select several other passages from The Odyssey that contain secondary characters whose story could be embellished by an artist or writer.

9. Have students read and choose one of the selected passages in The Odyssey. Using sketch paper and colored pencils, have students draw their interpretation of the text by visually representing characters, setting, clothing, actions, and emotions.

10. Students will pick one of these passages to write an original short story or fictional narrative in the same style that The Adventures of Telemachus, the Son of Ulysses was written. Students should include descriptions of main characters and settings and use the plot of their story to teach a lesson in the same way the plot does in the story of Telemachus and Eucharis.

11. Before writing their story, students should select one pivotal scene and sketch out the characters, settings, and actions. Students should use the sketch to aid in developing their story. Finished stories and sketches should be turned in together.

12. Ask for a couple of volunteers to share their stories and sketches with the class. After sharing the stories, discuss the students' experience with the sketching/writing process. Was it helpful? How did the sketch guide the students in their writing process? Did it help them to focus in their writing?

Telem. & Eucharis / David
The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis, Jacques-Louis David, 1818


Observation of student discussion for inclusion of the following:
• Identification of the Telemachus and Eucharis painting as a narrative.
• How time, place, and cultural influence are reflected in selected works of art.
• An understanding of Telemachus's role in Homer's and Fénelon's works, and of the similarities and differences in the way the characters are depicted.
• Articulation of the theme of a work of art and demonstration of their understanding of the important ideas behind the Neoclassical style.
• Articulation of the relationship between the sketching process and writing, both as an individual, and generally.

Evaluation of student presenters for:
• Ability to create a nuanced character from one that is mentioned cursorily in earlier literature.
• Inclusion of elements from their sketches into their stories.
• Ability to articulate the creative process from sketch to written work.

Students should be able to articulate in discussion and presentation:
• Creative process, from sketch to written work, including which elements from the sketch ended up in the story.

Standards Addressed

English Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 9–10
Writing Applications
2.1 Write biographical or autobiographical narratives or short stories.

Grades 11–12
Literary Response and Analysis
3.7.a Analyze recognized works of world literature from a variety of authors. Contrast the major literary forms, techniques, and characteristics of the major literary periods (e.g., Homeric Greece, medieval, romantic, neoclassic, modern).

Writing Applications
2.1 Write fictional, autobiographical, or biographical narratives.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grades 9–12
Historical and Cultural Context
3.3 Identify and describe trends in the visual arts and discuss how the issues of time, place, and cultural influence are reflected in selected works of art.

National Standards for English Language Arts
Grades K–12
Reading for Perspective
Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

Communication Strategies
Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Applying Knowledge
Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

National Standards for Visual Arts
Grades 9–12
Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
Students conceive and create works of visual art that demonstrate an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relates to the media, techniques, and processes they use.

Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
Students demonstrate the ability to form and defend judgments about the characteristics and structures to accomplish commercial, personal, communal, or other purposes of art.
Students evaluate the effectiveness of artworks in terms of organizational structures and functions.
Students create artworks that use organizational principles and functions to solve specific visual arts problems.

Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
Students reflect on how artworks differ visually, spatially, temporally, and functionally, and describe how these are related to history and culture.

Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
Students differentiate among a variety of historical and cultural contexts in terms of characteristics and purposes of works of art. Students describe the function and explore the meaning of specific art objects within varied cultures, times, and places.

Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
Students identify intentions of those creating artworks, explore the implications of various purposes, and justify their analyses of purposes in particular works. Students describe meanings of artworks by analyzing how specific works are created and how they relate to historical and cultural contexts. Students reflect analytically on various interpretations as a means for understanding and evaluating works of visual art.

Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
Students compare the materials, technologies, media, and processes of the visual arts with those of other arts disciplines as they are used in creation and types of analysis.
Students compare characteristics of visual arts within a particular historical period or style with ideas, issues, or themes in the humanities or sciences.