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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Midterm Assignment: Rice, Self, and Society

On this date on Round and Square's History 
Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Assignments"
[a] Grain RF
Japan, East Asia, and the Pacific World
History 210
Midterm Assignment
Rice, Self, and Society
The Basics 
Read Rice as Self and watch the Seven Samurai (this will be shown in class on March 15 and 17). Write an essay of at least 3,000 words (about ten pages) commenting upon some of the many themes found in these very different “documents” and showing their connections to the materials we have studied up to this point in the course. The essay is due by noon on Monday, March 21.

The Pivot
Remember what I said in class about this assignment being a “pivot” experience. In that way, it is the most important assignment of the entire course. Your source letter was meant to get you thinking on new levels about primary and secondary sources, and to help you review the material in your various readings during the first five weeks. The rest of the term, as you already know, will be spent engaging a number of significant secondary texts that have shaped Chinese or Japanese studies during the last half-century—covering the bulk of the last thousand years. Later, you will write a "final" paper that asks you to put it all together—primary and secondary materials, as well as the various historiographical and ethnographic(al) arguments that have been employed over the centuries.
[b] Pivot RF

That makes this assignment central to your task. It is as though you are looking back at the first seven weeks of study, processing and reprocessing the material, and then pivoting to engagement with the film and the book…with an eye to preparing yourself for the second half of the course. In short, although this assignment asks you to write a review essay about Rice as Self and the Seven Samurai, you will be using all that you have learned as a backdrop for your work. To the extent that you really make the first half of the course your foundation for this assignment, you will prepare yourself beautifully for what is yet to come.

Review Essay
A good way to approach the assignment is to write a “review essay.”  You have already read several essays in the New York Review of Books, and have seen a number of authorial strategies being employed. In other words, you have a few models (highly and moderately successful) in front of you. The basic idea for your own assignment is as follows. A good review essay has a two-pronged approach. It is, on the one hand, a “review” of the book (Rice as Self) and the film (the Seven Samurai). Imagine that your ten-page essay contains an “embedded set of reviews of each of these, totaling about four pages—maybe five. In the “rest” of the essay you should show how the themes in the book and the film that can be seen in the wider perspective of Japanese history.

In other words, what do the sources in Varley and Lu have to do with what you have encountered in Rice as Self and the Seven Samurai? What are some of the wider East Asian themes that might contribute to an understanding of Japan's identification with rice? Write about it.

[c] Background RF
Additional Notes
This assignment asks you to engage the text (and film) at hand, 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 casting and shooting of the Seven Samurai would be far less relevant than spending those pages examining how themes of rice and community weave their way(s) through the book and the movie. Background information is occasionally useful (and you may 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. 

Plot out some of the themes and take notes to make sure you have dealt with the full range of possibilities in the materials. Your skills in spotting themes in the deBary source readings will pay off a great deal in this assignment, as will the general historical and cultural knowledge you have gained from your other sources and from class sessions. You have all of Week 9 (the week after break) 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 you must do on weekly quizzes, be sure to use the full range of your “sources” in your interpretations. Strive to "master" the Japanese sources from Lu's reader, and then to integrate broader understandings from the Chinese and Korean materials we have encountered in the Great Courses lectures.
[d] Complex 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" (exactly the way that New York Review writers must.  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 Japan, but is certainly able to follow a complex argument. Imagine, for example, that you are writing for your FYI professor, with moi looking over her shoulder

[3] Follow standard Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) citation form, and use the style sheet as you proceed. This is a “formal” paper, 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] Good luck. There is more than enough material to write any number of essays. Choose several good points, scenes, or themes. Then write one.

Due by noon on Monday, March 21. (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. “3,262 words.”
[e] Reflection RF

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