From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project: http://magazine.beloit.edu/?story_id=240813&issue_id=240610

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Confucius and Social Theory Letter Assignment 2016


[a] Text and illustration RF
Confucius and Social Theory
History 310
Autumn 2016

Preliminary Writing Assignment 
History, Theory, Text: The Letter
By choosing the letter format for your first writing assignment, I am asking you to build upon the skills you have already begun to develop in analyzing (and providing examples for) theoretical constructions and key elements of Confucius's Analects. You have already reached a point where you have some experience with “social theory” and "Confucius. Your job now will be to explain it to an intelligent non-specialist.
[b] Reaching, teaching RF

Teach it, really (think of the New York Review).

Letters from “the field” (or our modified “archive” of theoretical works on the syllabus) are a good way to refine your thoughts about ethnographic and historical study, and they are a useful medium for beginning the intellectual “framing process” that will accelerate as we move through the next two-thirds of the course. The letter writing exercise is especially useful while studying theoretical source materials, such as those in our seminar.

The nonfiction writer John McPhee explains to his Princeton students that a letter is often precisely the solution to problems of interpretation or clarity—when in doubt, write to mother, he says. In this case, it is not a plea of “send money” that the letter contains, but a reworking, rethinking, and contextualization of your work. You need not limit yourself to kinfolk, but you need to think about who the recipient will be (ideally someone who will welcome a letter about “doing theory”).

You owe it to yourself to listen to this long interview with McPhee. At the very least, listen to the first few minutes. It is the very purpose behind this assignment.


Now start writing. Toward that end, you should pay attention to the following issues.

1. The letter needs to be “long enough” to get you deeply into several issues regarding Confucius and social theory, including particular approaches and a few examples.  There is no absolute upper limit, but I am going to make an absolute lower limit of 1,000 words (about three pages). Realistically, your letter should probably be somewhere in the 1,500 word range (about five pages). 1,000 words is the bare minimum. Do not turn in an assignment shorter than that.
2. I am asking you to connect with a very specific reader, and to explain “Confucius and social theory” in a level of detail that she will find satisfying. You are the expert, and your “audience” is the person who will be reading your letter (think of my role as reading over her shoulder). I have found that this kind of assignment helps students to explain even abstruse matters, because the personal relationship they have with their readers demands an attention to patient explanation that is often lacking in more “academic” forms of writing, in which they assume that a professor already knows what they are writing about.

Your reader probably doesn't. 

Make it make sense.

3. You may approach your materials from any angle that you like, but you will need to “cover” at least the following items, no matter what order you choose.

          a. You must discuss the “what is social theory?” or "what is a 'sociological 
               imagination'" question at the heart of our course. Provide your reader with 
               at least a few ways of thinking about it.

          b. Give your reader a sense of what you have learned up to this point about 
              Confucius and the Analects. Use examples from your studies thus far.

          c. Finally, give your reader some sense of what it is like to “learn theory” while
              thinking about a classic text from China. What is it like? Explain. 

          d. You must have at least one illustration. Think about "the rhetorical role of 
               illustrations" in the New York Review of Books.
4. The best way to approach the writing process is in three parts (this is a friendly suggestion). First, jot down some notes for each of the “sections” of your letter. Second, using those notes as a guide, write a rough draft of the whole letter. Third, revise, polish, and refine.  

Voilà you will have something not unlike what Alexis de Tocqueville might have written about understanding a complex, foreign culture that baffled and enticed him 180 years ago. While your letter won’t be as long as Democracy in America, it is likely—if it is done well—to be much like Tocqueville’s rich and evocative letters back to his family about encountering people, texts, and institutions in a strange land called the United States. 

You get the idea. If you don't, just raise your hand and ask me (or send me an e-mail message). I'll be happy to help.
***  ***
Letters are Due (as .pdf files—attach to an e-mail to lafleur@beloit.edu)
by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 18.

Add the word count and your box number to all papers!
[e] And then you may rest RF

Monday, August 29, 2016

Social and Cultural Theory Letter 2016

On this date on Round and Square's History 

[a] Text and illustration RF
Social and Cultural Theory 
Anthropology 206 
Autumn 2016

Preliminary Writing Assignment 
Theory: The Letter
By choosing the letter format for your first writing assignment, I am asking you to build upon the skills you have already begun to develop in analyzing (and providing examples for) theoretical constructions. You have already reached a point where you have some experience with “theory,” and your job will be to explain it to an intelligent non-specialist.
[b] Reaching, teaching RF

Teach it, really.

Letters from “the field” (or our modified “archive” of theoretical works in Moore) are a good way to refine your thoughts about ethnographic and historical study, and they are a useful medium for beginning the intellectual “framing process” that will accelerate as we move through the next two-thirds of the course. The letter writing exercise is especially useful while studying theoretical source materials. 

The nonfiction writer John McPhee explains to his students that a letter is often precisely the solution to problems of interpretation or clarity—when in doubt, write to mother, he says. In this case, it is not a plea of “send money” that the letter contains, but a reworking, rethinking, and contextualization of your work. You need not limit yourself to kinfolk, but you need to think about who the recipient will be (ideally someone who will welcome a letter about “doing theory”).

You owe it to yourself to listen to this long interview with McPhee. At the very least, listen to the first few minutes. It is the very purpose behind this assignment.


Now start writing. Toward that end, you should pay attention to the following issues.

1. The letter needs to be “long enough” to get you deeply into several issues regarding Confucius and social theory, including particular approaches and a few examples.  There is no absolute upper limit, but I am going to make an absolute lower limit of 1,000 words (about three pages). Realistically, your letter should probably be somewhere in the 1,500 word range (about five pages). 1,000 words is the bare minimum. Do not turn in an assignment shorter than that.
2. I am asking you to connect with a very specific reader, and to explain “social and cultural theory” in a level of detail that she will find satisfying. You are the expert, and your “audience” is the person who will be reading your letter (think of my role as reading over her shoulder). I have found that this kind of assignment helps students to explain even abstruse matters, because the personal relationship they have with their readers demands an attention to patient explanation that is often lacking in more “academic” forms of writing, in which they assume that a professor already knows what they are writing about.

Your reader probably doesn't. 

Make it make sense.

3. You may approach your materials from any angle that you like, but you will need to “cover” at least the following items, no matter what order you choose.

          a. You must discuss the “what is theory?” question. Provide your reader with 
              at least a few ways of thinking about it.

          b. Give your reader a sense of what you have learned up to this point about 
              how to “apply” theory. Use examples, either from the course or your own work.

          c. Finally, give your reader some sense of what it is like to “learn theory” by 
              discussing the literary and historical dimensions of some of our texts.  It 
              might be useful to think of the “pragmatic/historical” dimensions that are 
              explained on the syllabus.

          d. You must have at least one illustration. Think about "the rhetorical role of 
               illustrations" in the New York Review of Books.
4. The best way to approach the writing process is in three parts (this is a friendly suggestion). First, jot down some notes for each of the “sections” of your letter. Second, using those notes as a guide, write a rough draft of the whole letter. Third, revise, polish, and refine.  

Voilà you will have something not unlike what Alexis de Tocqueville might have written about understanding a complex, foreign culture that baffled and enticed him 180 years ago. While your letter won’t be as long as Democracy in America, it is likely—if it is done well—to be much like Tocqueville’s rich and evocative letters back to his family about encountering people, texts, and institutions in a strange land called the United States. 

You get the idea. If you don't, just raise your hand and ask me (or send me an e-mail message). I'll be happy to help.
***  ***
Letters are Due (as .pdf files—attach to an e-mail to lafleur@beloit.edu)
by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 18.

Add the word count and your box number to all papers!
[e] And then you may rest RF

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Round and Square Syllabus: Autumn 2016

[a] Round RF
Round and Square Syllabus
All Classes
Autumn 2016
Robert André LaFleur                                                             Office Hours:
Morse Ingersoll 111                                                                 Monday           12:05-1:35
363-2005                                                                                   Wednesday         12:05-1:35
lafleur@beloit.edu                                                                    …or by appointment

NYRB and Round and Square readings are due on Mondays, and will be a part of both the quiz and class discussion on those days.

Week One—August 24
Syllabic Cycles—Introduction, a-d (read all four posts, not just the first one). 
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week Two—August 29
Quotidian Quizzes—Introduction, a-h (skim the first four posts, but read the last four carefully (they get to the heart of our course).
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week ThreeSeptember 5
Styling Culture: Chicago-style Footnotes and Endnotes
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it! 

Week Four—September 12
Writing and Time—Introduction
Writing and Time—Reading Logs, a-b (read both posts, not just the first one)  
(Filling out "reading logs" is voluntary, but reading all posts is mandatory!)
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it! 

Week Five—September 19
Theory Corner—Bricolage, a-c (read all three posts, not just the first one).
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it! 

Week Six—September 26
Prairie Ethnography—The Thousand Ask Question, a-c (read all three posts)
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week Seven—October 3
Fieldnotes From History—Introduction
Fieldnotes From History—xxx 
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week Ten—October 24
Structure, History, and Culture—Introduction (read both posts)
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week Eleven—October 31
Structure, History and Culture—Packing the Car
Structure, History, and Culture—Interstate Highways
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week Twelve—November 7
Felicitous Felinity—Introduction
The Power of Five—Introduction
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week Thirteen—November 14
Primary Sources—Introduction, e-f (read all both posts, not just the first one)
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week FourteenNovember 21
Primary Sources—Introduction, g-h (read all both posts, not just the first one)
Check the lunar calendar every day (posted at midnight). Scroll down until you see it!

Week FifteenNovember 28
The Philosophy of History of Philosophy (a History)—Introduction
[b] Square RF

Saturday, August 27, 2016

New York Review of Books Syllabus: Autumn 2016

On this date on Round and Square's History 
27 August 2015—China's Lunar Calendar 2015 08-27
27 August 2015—New York Review of Books Syllabus: Autumn 2015
27 August 2014—China's Lunar Calendar 2014 08-27
27 August 2014—New York Review of Books Syllabus: Autumn 2014
27 August 2013—China's Lunar Calendar 2013 08-27
27 August 2013—Syllabic Cycles: Chinese History and Culture (2013)-b
27 August 2012—The New Yorker and the World: Course Description (f)
27 August 2011—Annals of Ostracism: The Crime of Cephu
[a[ Gates to learning RF

New York Review of Books (NYRB) Syllabus
All Classes
Autumn 2016
Robert André LaFleur                                                             Office Hours:
Morse Ingersoll 111                                                                 Monday           12:05-1:35
363-2005                                                                                   Wednesday    12:05-1:35
lafleur@beloit.edu                                                                    …or by appointment

NYRB readings will be "due" on Mondays in all classes unless I tell you otherwise through e-mail or in class.

This semester, we will read the complete issue of 
The New York Review of Books for July 14, 2016
Week One 
(22 August)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
Read all front matter (cover, inside-cover advertisement, table of contents, contributors) 

Week Two
(29 August)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
8-10  Hilton Als, "The Heroic Art of Agnes Martin"           
            Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art by Nancy Princenthal 

Week Three
(5 September)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
4-6      Cathleen Schine, "Weiner!"            
              Weiner a documentary film directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg

Week Four 
(12 September)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
19-21  Patricia Storace, "The Shock of the Little" 
              Small Stories: At Home in a Dollhouse (museum exhibition)

Week Five  
(19 September)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
21-23  Paul Krugman, "Money: The Brave New Uncertainty of Mervyn King" 
              The End of Alchemy by Mervyn King 

Week Six
(26 September)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
24-26  Helen Vendler, "Wallace Stevens: The Real and the Made-up" 
              The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens by Paul Mariani

Week Seven
(3 October)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
30-3Darryl Pinckney, "Blacks and Jews Entangled" 
              Oreo by Fran Ross 

Week Ten 
(24 October)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
28-30  David Cole, "The Terror of Our Guns" 
              Multiple texts

Week Eleven 
(31 October)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
32-34  James Romm, "The Great Rescue in Timbuktu" 
               The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer

Week Twelve 
(7 November)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
35-36  Peter Brooks, "On the Track of Evil in Dublin" 
              Even the Dead by Benjamin Black

Week Thirteen
(14 November)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
37-39  Peter Brown, "The Glow of Byzantium"  
              Multiple texts

Week Fourteen
(21 November)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading
40-41  Fintan O'Toole, "The Ultimate Oedipus at the Opera"             
              Oedipe by George Enescu

Week Fifteen
(28 November)
Review the "Questions to Ask of Every NYRB Essay" before each week's reading 
11-13  Jerry Brown, "A Stark Nuclear Warning"               
              Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist by Pierre Birnbaum
[b] Shepherding the argument RF