|[a] Text and illustration RF|
Teach them, really.
The letter writing exercise is especially useful while studying primary source materials, as we are doing right now. 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 “studying sources”).
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.
|[c] I said, "start writing" RF|
3. You will be reading a book this week devoted to letter writing in early medieval China. It should help you to think about letter writing and "sources" (letters are among the richest of historical sources). Our class discussions of this book should guide you in the letter writing process, as well.
own) of "primary" and "secondary" sources.
examples, either from the course or your own work.
c. You must discuss the book (Letters & Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China)
in at least a few paragraphs of your paper. It is filled with "source examples," so
this should not be difficult.
d. You must include at least one illustration in your letter. Think of the rhetorical role
of illustrations in the New York Review of Books.
sources" by discussing the literary and historical dimensions of some of our
the kinds of themes you have studied in the deBary source reader.
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.
|[e] And then you may rest RF|