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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bridges to Theory Assignment 2015

On this date on Round and Square's History 
Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Assignments"
[a] A Bridge(d) RF
The midterm assignment in all of my classes (usually scheduled for the week after spring break) is pivotal in several senses of the term. Of course, the first thing students realize is that it is important—pivotal.  A solid chunk of the grade turns (pivots) on it. The next sense is even more significant, though. The midterm assignment is designed to encourage students to consider all of the work they have done in the first half of the course and to put it together in a midterm assignment that helps them to pivot to the second half of the course. The results of this assignment are especially enjoyable for me to read, since students have engaged the fascinating and surprisingly complex novels Mrs. Bridge (1959) and Mr. Bridge (1969). These were written by the extraordinarily versatile writer Evan S. Connell, and told in a "polished fieldnote" sort of vignette style that works beautifully in a social and cultural theory course.

Social and Cultural Theory
Anthropology 206
Midterm Assignment“Bridges to Theory” 
[b] Too-too RF
The Basics 
Review Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge, then watch the film in class. Write a review essay of at least 3,000 words (about ten pages) commenting upon some of the many themes found in Evan Connell’s vignettes on the Bridges. Note the assignment title above, and show some of the many connections to the theoretical materials we have studied up to this point in the course. Because it is a review essay, you will be evaluating the examples in both the film and the two novels. Use your study of the New York Review of Books to craft an effective essay that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Review the New York Review of Books questions on the syllabus if you need a reminder.

Although this assignment is deliberately open-ended (allowing you to use any number of interpretive strategies), do not forget its role as a “pivot” in our course. Your work should engage, on some level, the full range of our materials from the first seven weeks of the course (your class notes, reading notes, abstracts, and even quizzes will be useful as you proceed). If you take the assignment seriously, it will give you a solid foundation—and significant momentum—for the second half of the course. 
[c] Ostentation RF

Review Essay 
You have been reading good review essays from the New York Review of Books for several weeks. Now is the time to write one that has a distinctly “theoretical” focus. 

The basic idea is as follows. A good review essay has a two-pronged approach. It is, on the one hand, a “review” of the books and the film. By this, I mean that you need to engage examples from the lives of the Bridges. This should not be at all difficult, given the immediacy of much of the material. In the “rest” of the essay you should show how the themes in the novels can be seen in the wider perspective of social and cultural theory. In other words, how might the essays and lectures we have read in Anthropology and Theory and Outline of a Theory of Practice connect to the specific issues in the novels you have read (or, from another perspective, the pile of “fieldnotes” you have been studying)? To be sure, you will blend these approaches, but how you do so will be part of your writing strategy. We’ll discuss this in class.

[d] Pineapple Bread RF
Additional Notes 
This assignment asks you to engage your two novels and to review all of the work you have done thus far in the course.  It does not require you to do “research,” and substantial outside work will almost certainly be counter-productive. For example, spending two or three pages on the history of 1930s Kansas City will be far less productive than spending those pages examining the world of the Bridges or theoretical perspectives that might help us understand them better. Background information is occasionally useful (and you may possibly have some from previous reading or coursework), but do not make the mistake of providing so much “background” that you don’t deal fully with the assignment itself. Again, with novels as “up front” as these, this should not be a problem.
[e] Tower RF

The greater challenge is to “use” our theoretical materials well. Plot out some of the themes (or scenes) in the novels and take notes to make sure you have dealt with the full range of possibilities in the theoretical materials. Your skills in spotting themes in the Moore, Bourdieu, and Moberg books will pay off a great deal in this assignment, as will the general contextual and theoretical knowledge you have gained in our discussions. You have all of Week 9 to pursue this project, and you should use it to review all of the readings and class discussions (not to mention themes) that we have studied thus far in the semester.

1. This assignment is meant to “tie together” much of the work you have done this semester. Just as on weekly quizzes, be sure to use the full range of your “sources” in your interpretations—classroom analyses, Moore, Bourdieu, and Eriksen.  As you know, the theoretical essays in Moore and the close reading of Bourdieu are the heart of the class, and I would like to see connections to them in your essays.
[f] Tarquin Plan RF

2. Don’t forget that I will be evaluating this assignment with the assumption that you are trying to explain these matters to “intelligent non-specialists.” That means that I do not want you to “skip” those portions that you know I know.  I want you to explain them. I want you to be the expert who is explaining these matters to someone who does not know much about cultural anthropology, but is certainly able to follow a complex argument. Imagine, for example, that you are writing for your FYI professor and those you have in other classes this term, with moi looking over her shoulder. Keep your letter reader in mind, too. It will serve you well.

3.   Follow standard Chicago Manual of Style citation form, and use my style sheet as you proceed. This is a “formal” review essay, and the style sheet’s guidelines should be followed closely.  

4.   There should be a short bibliography of sources (class books and any outside materials that you have consulted) at the end of your document.

5.   Be sure that you fill out a “paper checklist” and attach it to your essay. This checklist will be sent to you as an attachment.

6.  Good luck. There is more than enough material to write any number of essays. Choose several good points, scenes, or themes. Then write an essay. 

Due by 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 25.  (Put a hard copy outside my door).

Use the word count feature of your software and put the word total at the bottom of the essay, e.g. “3,062 words."
[g] India Louvre(s) Paris RF

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