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:

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.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Writing From Sources I (Autumn 2017)

[a] Meiji RF
Japan, East Asia, and the Pacific World
History 210
Final 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 (we have been discussing examples of this work in class all semester long). Then, using the knowledge you have gained through reading your assignments, choose twelve to fifteen 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 Sunday, December 10, 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 the last day of finals, December 19 at 5:00 p.m.
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 approximately a dozen 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 somewhere between two-thirds primary and one-third secondary (at the most) to half-and-half.

As we have discussed at length, engagement with both primary and secondary sources are important skills in historical analysis, and this assignment gives you an opportunity to work on them. Do not use exclusively primary or secondary sources. Have a healthy "mix" of them, perhaps with slightly more emphasis on the primary documents.

Just to get you thinking about possibilities, I have included some possible broad categories. Whatever you choose, you will need to refine the topic 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

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