|[a] Text and illustration RF|
|[b] Reaching, teaching RF|
Teach it, really.
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 “doing theory”).
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.
Click on the second blue circle on the right side of the page (it is worth it)
2. Just in case you think that writing 8-10 pages is a matter of spilling your random thoughts onto the page and turning it in, pay very close attention to my writing guide and our class discussions. I expect this to be a well-written essay in letter form (we'll discuss the genre in class).
3. I am asking you to connect with a very specific reader, and to explain “Japanese historical sources" in a level of detail that she 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 her shoulder). I have found that this kind of assignment helps students to explain even abstruse matters, because the personal relationship they have with their readers demands an attention to patient explanation that is often lacking in more “academic” forms of writing, in which they assume that a professor already knows what they are writing about.
Your reader probably doesn't.
Make it make sense.
with at least a few ways of thinking about it.
including Lu, McCullough, Stalker, and others..
d. You must have at least one illustration. Think about "the rhetorical role of
illustrations" in the New York Review of Books.
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|