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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Assignments: Confucius (History, Theory, Text) Letter


[a] Text and illustration RF
Confucius: History, Culture, Text
History 310
Spring 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 Marx, Weber, and Durkheim

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 two 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 a lower limit of 3,000 words (about ten pages). Even if you are a very efficient writer (3,000 words is barely adequate), you will need this much “space” to give your reader a good picture of your work. 3,000 words (or a few more) is just about right. Include a word count at the end of our paper (e.g. “3,245 words” or Word Count: 3,245).
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 (I will, of course, be 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 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?” 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. Except for Max Weber, this was not 
              even common among our classic social theorists. 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 (in hard copy form) outside my door (MI 111)
by noon on Monday, February 22.

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Assignments: Writing From Sources III

[a] Icon RF
Japan, East Asia, and the Pacific World
History 210
First Paper Assignment
Writing From Primary and Secondary Sources 

This assignment is broken into three posts. 
Click below for the others (all are part of the assignment; don't skip any of them).
Sources 1               Sources 2               Sources 3
***  ***
Reading the Sources
This assignment is for a source analysis paper, not a traditional persuasive essay.  It is meant to give you a hands-on experience in working with historical sources. It is “artificial” in the sense that you will not be working in an archive, but it is no less serious for that. My best advice is for you to make separate copies (this may cost a few dollars, but will be worth it) of each of the readings you choose. Yes, that means I am encouraging you to go to a copy machine (or a scanner) and make a copy of the poem in McCullough (or the text in Lu) with which you plan to work. It also means that you should make a copy of the three-page section in Varley that you have selected (these are, of course, just examples).
[b] Volk RF

When you have finished your scanning (then printing) or your copying, you will have a bundle of texts in front of you—an artificial and miniature archive. Now is the time to go back through them, underlining and marking key points that will help you to form an argument. This is different from reading in preparation for class, when you should be trying to understand the documents in the wider context of our class discussions. You will now be reading them to help you construct an argument about a theme in Japanese history and culture. As you make your notes on the individual texts (some primary, some secondary), it helps to have a blank sheet close by, on which you can start to sketch an outline for the developing argument.

Writing the Paper
Audience, audience, audience.  As you begin to write your paper, have a clear audience in mind. Think of your essay as a way of both arguing a point and patiently explaining the historical and cultural themes that the texts raise.  The best way to maintain the correct perspective on audience is to imagine a small group of Beloit College professors who know little about Japan (imagine Steve Wright, Jill Budny, Lisl Walsh, Pablo Toral, and Daniel Brückenhaus—or just imagine all of the professors with whom you have studied). They are all very intelligent, and know how to construct a superior argument...but hey need you to teach them about Japan. To the extent that you remember this advice (think of the New York Review of Books), you will excel; to the extent that you fall into the habit of writing just for your professor, you will err. Remember this.
[c] History funtime RF

Your paper should lead the readers through the texts and through an argument about Japanese history and culture. Let us take the following example. You choose to write a paper about women and marriage in Japan, selecting an array of sources that includes The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagan, The Confessions of Lady Nijo and several poems from Lu. You also choose a passage each from the book by Varley and my Asia/Pacific lectures (secondary sources of, no more than five pages...or ten minutes of lecture). You read the texts carefully, and, as you begin writing your paper, you maintain a balance between explaining the genres and cultural frameworks of your texts and making your key point (your thesis).  

The thesis remains important. Let us say that your thesis is that women had significant room for creative social and even literary action (agency) within the traditional patriarchal household, and that the Western “narrative” about women’s life in Japan treats them (mistakenly) as merely passive figures—pawns among powerful men. If you were writing a traditional paper, you would state that clearly in the first few paragraphs and then find texts to support your point.  It is an important skill to develop, and an ability to frame a thesis will help in this assignment.
[d] Context RF

A source analysis paper is different, though. Let us say that your thesis statement is the same as above (women have “agency”—they are engaged actors in their social situations, no passive bystanders). Your paper will develop slightly differently as you make your argument. You will give a great deal of context from your sources. Indeed, your sources will figure far more richly in your paper than in most traditional persuasive essays. You will spend time showing, for example, how Lady Nijo’s comments on her cloistered life “work” as a narrative form—how she proceeds in a contrapuntal manner that gives context to her pathos.   

You will break down the verbal (and possibly even rhyme) schemes of the poems you analyze. You will, in short, open the world of the texts to your readers as little worlds unto themselves. This kind of paper argues a context and teaches cultural context. Your mission will be both persuasive and illustrative. You will persuade through your argument about female “agency;” you will illustrate (and instruct) by placing your texts in an interpretive universe that helps your readers—who don’t know Japanese culture well—see how the argument fits Japanese culture.

In short, you will teach your reader how to read your sources...even as you make a powerful (thesis statement) point.

This kind of paper can be a joy to write, at least once you develop familiarity with it. It is a necessary skill, too, because writing for audiences unfamiliar with your topic is central to academic life. The source analysis paper encourages you to take the persuasive essay form you learned in junior high school and high school and give it the kind of cultural and historical nuance that we have developed in our class discussions. You might want to think of your explanations of how the sources “work” as a kind of “thickening” of your argument. We will discuss this in class, but the key ideas to remember are: sources, audience, argument, and context.

This assignment is broken into three posts. 
Click below for the others (all are part of the assignment; don't skip any of them).
Sources 1               Sources 2               Sources 3
[e] Audience + Sources + Ideas + Argument = Asia RF

Monday, February 8, 2016

Assignments: Writing From Sources II

[a] Shorthand RF
Japan, East Asia, and the Pacific World
History 210
First Paper Assignment
Writing From Primary and Secondary Sources 

This assignment is broken into three posts. 
Click below for the others (all are part of the assignment; don't skip any of them).
Sources 1               Sources 2               Sources 3
***  ***
Your paper should have a title at the top of the page, followed by a “shorthand” list of your sources.  From there, space down twice and start your essay...(double-space the essay itself).  Examples:

A Week in a Country Jail:
Peasant Uprisings, Social Disorder, and Punishment in late-Tokugawa Japan
Thomas T. Hall
31 January 1970
1. Peasant Uprisings (Tsuchi Ikki, or Do Ikki), 1428 (Lu, 165)
2. (and so forth)

Salt Miner's Daughter:
Family, Commerce, and Rural Migration in Twentieth Century Japan
Loretta Lynn
19 December 1970
1. Free Market and Abolition of Za, 1577 (Lu, 189)
2. (and so forth)
[b] Saigo RF

Heaven Says Hello:
Cosmology, Religion, and Popular Belief in Medieval Japanese Narratives
Sonny James
17 August 1968
1. Nembutsu and the Founding of a New Sect (Lu, 127)
2. (and so forth)

Come Live With Me:
Barbarians, "Otherness," and Foreign Beliefs During the Sengoku Period
Roy Clark
12 May 1973
1. Limitation on the Propagation of Christianity, 1587 (Lu 196)
2. (and so forth)

Somewhere Between Right and Wrong:
Education, Moral Learning, and Proper Conduct in Meiji Japan
Earl Thomas Conley
18 December 1982
1. Education of Children (Lu, 258-261)
2. (and so forth)

HIST 210—Japan, East Asia, and the Pacific World
Paper Assignment
Source Paper Checklist

______ Read the assignment carefully and think about possible paper topics.
  
______ E-mail (or stop by and ask) me any questions you may have.

______ Choose six-to-ten sources from an array of materials.

______ Create a provisional title for your paper and e-mail it to me with the sources 
              in the form listed above.

______ DUE NO LATER THAN Friday, February 12 at 5:00 p.m.

______ Carefully (re-)read your chosen sources in light of what you have read and 
             learned from the course thus far.  
[c] Expert RF

______ Write an essay on Japanese society, culture, or politics by relying primarily on those sources you have chosen.  Your "audience" should be very intelligent people (such as your professors in other classes) who know relatively little about Japan.  You are the expert, but you must convey the cultural and historical details you have learned to someone who knows a good deal about academic argument.

NOTE: For this assignment ONLY, you should not make a separate title page.  Center your title at the top of the first page, followed by your sources.  Begin your essay immediately below.  Double-space the text of the essay.  Finally, put the word count number at the very end of the paper.

Due at my office by noon on Monday, February 15

Stylistic Matters 
*Use Chicago-style footnotes or endnotes for this paper (check my style sheet for instructions, and make sure that you know how to use them before you begin writing).

*Although you will list your sources at the beginning of your paper, please include a bibliography that includes the full reference to all of those sources, as well as any others you might use for a quotation or paraphrase in your paper.  
[d] Making history RF

*The sources at the beginning of your paper should be written in an effective “shorthand” that makes it apparent to the reader what you will be analyzing.  The full source reference will appear in the bibliography (see above), as well as in any footnotes you might use.  For example, you should note the chapter or name of the source at the beginning of the paper—just enough to get your point across (e.g. Mary Berry, “Preface”). Please refer to the examples on page two.

*You must use accurate citation, with no mistakes in commonly cited items (e.g. single author books).  Make sure that you master the relevant skills (and practice with your remaining abstracts).  If you need a refresher, check the following website.

Examples of Footnote and Endnote Formats

[e] Noted RF
Items listed in the bibliography at the end of the paper (note that the last name comes first in bibliographies).

Ebrey, Patricia. Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. New York: Free Press, 1993.

Mair, Victor. The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Footnotes or endnotes (first reference to a book; note that the page number follows the last comma—there is no need anymore for use of “p.” for “page”). Note the first name/last name format.

Patricia Ebrey. Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. (New York: Free Press, 1993), 154.

Victor Mair. The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 617.

This assignment is broken into three posts. 
Click below for the others (all are part of the assignment; don't skip any of them).
Sources 1               Sources 2               Sources 3
[f] Anthology RF

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Assignments: Writing From Sources I

[a] Meiji RF
Japan, East Asia, and the Pacific World
History 210
First Paper Assignment
Writing From Primary and Secondary Sources 

This assignment is broken into three posts. 
Click below for the others (all are part of the assignment; don't skip any of them).
Sources 1               Sources 2               Sources 3
Read the following assignment carefully and reflect for a few moments upon what historians really do when writing about the past—blending the sources and their analyses into readable and intelligent essay form. Then, using the knowledge you have gained through reading your assignments, choose six to ten documents that revolve around a general theme that interests you, and which you would like to pursue further. Once you have chosen your topic and sources, please e-mail this information to me (see below). The deadline for this preliminary work is Friday, February 12, but I encourage you to send it earlier. Finally, write a medium-length (3,000-word) essay from these sources. The paper is due in my office by noon on Monday, February 22.
As you write your historical source analysis, imagine that you are writing for intelligent people who know little about Japan, and that your task is to convey an honest, interesting picture of some aspect of Japanese social, cultural, political, or intellectual life during the periods we have studied. (Imagine a New York Review of Books audience). 

It might help to think of this as an extended reflection on six (or more) different sources, in which you write confidently and intelligently about your understanding of the themes in the documents. Your main focus is the documents, and you are encouraged to quote from them. You should use the knowledge you have gained from general reading and lectures to set the historical context, but you will be judged mostly on your ability to grasp themes in and between the documents you have chosen. Your balance of primary and secondary sources should be about half and half.

Engagement with both primary and secondary sources are important skills in historical analysis, and this assignment gives you an opportunity to work on them.

Just to get you thinking about possibilities, I have included some possible categories. You, however, will need to refine them as you think about your paper. These categories are intentionally broad, in order to encourage you to choose freely from among a wide variety of readings in your course books and supporting material. Your actual topic will be more focused.
            * women, gender relations, family...
            * rebellion, social disorder, war, banditry, famine
            * poverty, peasants, agriculture, tenancy
            * outcasts, rebels, "barbarians"
            * family life, social organization
            * bureaucracy, taxation, land ownership, government work
            * intellectuals, examinations, ruling
            * religion, spirits, ancestors, ghosts, "heaven...."
            * myths, historical writing, and other narrative prose

[c] Heian rose RF
Remember that choosing appropriate sources is part of the assignment. Part of the skill I am looking for is the ability to choose appropriate sources. The better you know your readings, the better you will do when you choose from among your many class readings and outside readings.

Your paper should be between 3,000 and 3,500 words, or approximately ten to twelve pages. There is usually little to gain by exceeding 3,500 words. If you do, you are likely writing for reasons other than a good grade. If you “need” to write a longer paper (if you are compelled to write thirty pages about Tokugawa economics, for example) please feel free to do so. I will read every word, and comment accordingly. 3,500 well-written and well-argued words will put you in “95+” territory, though, so consider your other classes before using this assignment to begin your doctoral dissertation.

The real problem lies with “minimalism.” Please put enough time into your paper so that you write more than a handful of pages. Papers that under 2,500 words almost always lack development and serious analysis of the sources. I admire efficiency, but don’t assume that it courses through your authorial veins. Papa Hemingway might write a beautiful 1,783 word masterpiece called “The Aged Literatus and the Sea of Japan” or “Goodbye to Munitions.” You’re not Hemingway…yet. Write 3,000+ words.

You may consult any other books you deem necessary, but your work will be judged on your ability to write directly from the sources you have chosen. While it is acceptable to choose a source or two from beyond our course materials, my intention is for you to make the most of the detailed syllabus we have studied in this class.This assignment is meant to judge your ability to use primary and secondary sources. It is not meant to be the final word on the subject!

This assignment is broken into three posts. 
Click below for the others (all are part of the assignment; don't skip any of them).
Sources 1               Sources 2               Sources 3

[d] Sources RF