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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:

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Confucius and the World Final Letter Assignment

On this date on Round and Square's History 
25 April 2016—China's Lunar Calendar 2016 04-25

[a] Text and illustration RF
Confucius and the World
History 150
Spring 2017

Final Writing Assignment 
History, Imagination, and Confucius's Analects: The Letter
By choosing the letter format for your final writing assignment, I am asking you to build upon the skills you have already developed this term in analyzing (and providing examples for) Confucian scholarship and key elements of Confucius's Analects. You have read six translations of the Analects, studied a wide range of books about the text and the Confucian tradition, discussed these matters extensively in class, and chosen fifty items in the text as you own "specialty." 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 books by and about Confucius and the Analects) are a good way to refine your own approach to historical rigor and imagination. The letter writing exercise is especially useful as a way to wrap-up your thinking at the end of a course that is entitled "Introduction to Historical Thinking."

The nonfiction writer John McPhee explains to his Princeton students that a letter is often precisely the solution to challenges 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 Confucius and historical thought).

You owe it to yourself to listen to this long interview with McPhee (but I know that you are pressed for time). At the very least, though, listen to the first few minutes. It is the very purpose that lies behind this assignment.

John McPhee NPR (1978) 22:40
Click on the second blue circle on the right side of the page (it is worth it)

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, the Analects, and the Confucian tradition, 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 1,250 word range (about four pages). 1,000 words is the bare minimum. Do not turn in an assignment shorter than that. 1,500 words is more than enough.
2. I am asking you to connect with a very specific reader, and to explain “Confucius and historical thinking” in a level of detail that she (or he, or they) 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 a shoulder). I have found that this kind of assignment helps students to explain even abstruse and technical matters, because the personal relationship they already have with their readers demands an attention to patient explanation that is often lacking in more “academic” forms of writing, in which students often assume that a professor "already knows what they are writing about."

Your reader probably doesn't, and this letter really will be sent.

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 “who was Confucius,” "what are the Analects," and "what is
               "historical thinking?" Provide your reader with at least a few ways of thinking 
               about them.

          b. Give your reader a sense of what you have learned in your various books about 
              Confucius and the Analects. Use examples from your studies.

          c. Give your reader some sense of what it is like to "think historically" while
              studying a classic text from China. What is it like? Explain. 

          d. Give your reader a sense of how a person or group might "live" the teachings of 
              Confucius. How is it a book that might go beyond the classroom, school, or test?

          e. 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 send me an e-mail message). I'll be happy to help.
***  ***
Letters are Due (as a hard copy outside my office door)
by 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3.

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

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