Written Assignments

Multimedia Final Project
Multiculturalism, Disciplines, Critique


The Final

   Write an essay from the following question that answers the question as knowledgeably, intelligently, and creatively as you can manage. There is no time limit because no time limit can be enforced (there is no page limit either); however, you should keep in mind that the average final requires ten to twelve hours of study along with the two hours required to write the final. If you go over this twelve to fourteen hour limit, you are probably spending too much time on this final in comparison with your other coursework; if you spend significantly less than twelve hours on this exam you are either a genius on a good day or you are under-working the essay in a serious way. Since this is a take-home exam, you will have to work overtime in a superhuman way to fail (that's the nice thing about a take-home); at the same time, the final will be graded using higher standards than a regular sit-down final. Whereas a regular final requires that you show off your memorized knowledge and your thinking, a take-home final doesn't really tell me what you know by heart, so the stress will be on thinking. Since an A will be hard to get, here are a few principles for writing an excellent exam:

Guidelines


   Your essay should have an overall, coherent and cohesive thesis that synthesizes the broad amount of knowledge that will be incorporated within that thesis.
   Your essay should display detailed knowledge of concepts covered in the class; this includes general concepts as well as culturally specific concepts. Name the concepts that you are using! Also, you must show that you not only know these concepts, but understand them in a complex way and can compare them with other concepts. You will not do well on this exam if you haven't before this point internalized a significant part of the major concepts we've dealt with.
   Your essay should be creative and original; this creativity and originality should be expressed in terms of synthesizing various ideas from within cultures and between cultures. Don't just go for obvious contrasts or similarities—anybody can state the obvious; find contrasts and similarities that are genuinely new and interesting. Your grade will in part be based on what you can teach me about the relations between these cultures. You will not do well on this exam if you haven't been making an effort in class, on the tests and quizzes, to think in new and different ways.
   The evidence you use to talk about these cultures should be drawn almost entirely from the primary readings in your course packet and in your handouts; you may draw on the lectures or textbook for general or culturally specific concepts, but you are not to repeat material from textbook or lecture. Simply repeating things said in class or written in the textbook will not constitute a passing exam. When drawing on the primary readings, you shouldn't just state the obvious (i.e., Mwindo is a bad chief because he couldn't get married): find details and correspondences that aren't obvious. You will not do well on this exam if you haven't kept up on the primary readings.
   I cannot demand that you not talk with other members of the class for I can't enforce this and it does help to talk out your ideas with others. Several of you have formed highly productive collaborative relationships with friends or other members of the class, but it is vital that your exam reflect your thinking more than somebody else's. Do not turn in an exam that is very similar to or identical with anybody else's exam. If you discuss your exam with somebody else, make sure that your exams are substantially different—not worded differently, but founded on and containing entirely different ideas.

The Question

   Imagine the following: You've been selected from among the most talented students (because you are among the most talented of students in General Education) to completely revise the General Education 110 course, but, in particular, you've been asked to assess your textbook and come up with a new textbook that more accurately incorporates world view into the history that it tells. What the people who have hired you really want to do is to try to take the European world view out of the textbook and replace it with the world views of the cultures that it deals with. In other words, you will be reading your textbook as if it were a primary reading that gives you information not about other cultures but the culture (modern America) which produced that textbook. [Make sure you reread that last sentence and understand it--in order to do well on this question you should be able to identify the European Enlightenment or modern ideas that animate the presentation of information in your textbook.] Because of your expertise in a particular area (science, architecture, literature, and so forth), you've been asked only to focus on that area. You are to revise the textbook in three of the cultures we've studied and discuss how the world view of that culture should determine how the textbook should teach your area of expertise as it applies to that culture. You don't need to do research; all you need to do is to figure out how you would expand or revise the textbook's discussion of your area of expertise using the world view of the cultures you're talking about rather than a Western or European world view. If your textbook doesn't have much about your area of expertise (such as music), then you will need to speculate how the world view you understand from that culture would affect that area of expertise (and you might have to do a little library work). There are several questions you can answer in order to frame your essay (but you don't need to answer these questions): What are the basic ideas informing that culture's world view? How are these basic ideas relevant to understanding the phenomena in your area of expertise (architecture, art, music, etc.)? Where does this world view contrast or complement the European world view that dominates your textbook? What is the difference between the way your textbook talks about that culture and the way the people in that culture talk about that culture? What accounts for these differences? To derive the world view of the three cultures you're talking about, you are to derive your information from the primary readings only (and a little bit from lectures) and not the textbook. Your answer should incorporate language I've taught you both in general terms (teleological world view, crisis of legitimation, exoteric religion, etc.) and in culturally specific terms (jen, kokugaku, wahdat al-wujud, etc.); you need to demonstrate the knowledge you've learned in this class. There are several formats you can use to answer this question: you could actually rewrite the textbook, you could provide a proposal, a critique, or a dialogue. Your answer will be graded primarily on how creatively and intelligently you approach the question as well as the quality of your answer's content. The general philosophy of this question is to teach you how to take any intellectual activity, such as General Education, and convert it to your own purposes. The main idea of this question is that you will be comparing three of the traditional cultures we've studied with modernity as it is embodied in your textbook, and you will be doing so by focussing on your area of interest.

Topics on Disciplines

Architecture
   Your question is going to concern how architecture can be incorporated into the textbook. What you're going to talk about is how the architecture is understood by the people in that culture; you're not going to describe architecture, but what that architecture means. You have everything you need to answer this question: your textbook has pictures of architecture (so you can build your discussion of architecture off of these pictures), you have a basic definition of architecture on the Internet, and you have primary readings to determine what the cultural world view is.

Art
   Art, you remember, is about representation; representation is the combination of seeing and world view. So what you're going to do when you revise your textbook, is that you're going to talk about art as "world view" in some way. You have everything you need to answer that question: your textbook has artwork in it and you have primary readings from which you can derive world view. So your project in some way will involve bringing together what you've learned about world view in this class with the artwork you find in the textbook. (You could always disagree with the textbook and demand that other artwork be included).

Economics
   In order to answer this question, you need to only keep one thing in mind: economics is the science of the production and distribution of goods without any regard to any other issue (art, taste, sociology, etc). The foundational idea of economics as it was invented in both Europe and Japan is that the fundamental value of human life is productive labor. So you can approach this question from several angles: how do you think a culture would regard the production and distribution of goods? With what system would they associate it with? If that culture would not separate production and distribution as a separate endeavor, how would it fit in with the rest of their world view? With religion? With social organization? With art? Or you can focus on labor. What do you believe labor would look like and be understood as in that culture? You can derive all your information from the textbook (which deals with economic issues) and derive all your information about world view from your readings.

Literature
   The fundamental aspect of literature is that it deals with several ways of understanding human existence. The issues we have covered is "narrative": how time and history is organized and understood; "heros": how the highest potential of human beings are represented; "villains": how a culture defines what it is not or behavior it does not associate itself with. You can cover any of these issues, but your discussion will involve taking your primary readings and figuring out how you can use them to significantly change how literature is talked about in your textbook.

Philosophy
   Philosophy is difficult to define, but in general concerns the human endeavor to understand in a rational way the order of the universe: the human order, the material order, and the supernatural order. The key aspect to dealing with philosophy is "reason"; you may remember, that the Enlightenment was primarily about the elevation of "reason" as the principle human activity and an activity separable from other activities (deism). The fundamental view of the Enlightenment is that the world and universe operate from rational principles. Therefore, we are a philosophical society (all science and engineering is "philosophical"). So the basic question you should focus on when answering this question is: what do you think this culture's attitude towards reason is? What does that culture value? Once you answer that question, you can deal with the type of philosophy that culture would create. Using your primary readings, you want to present a picture of that culture's "philosophy" as it would be viewed by that culture. In other words, you should talk about how it is basically different from the Western world view.

Political Science
   Political science, as I talked about in class, is about the nature of human collective decision-making. What do certain social groups decide are problems that need to be collectively solved? Who is invested with the authority to decide what these problems are? Who is invested with the authority to make decisions about these problems? Who is invested with authority to carry out the solutions? What legitimates that authority? These are the issues that political science deals with. The question you're faced with involves how the cultures you're dealing with approach these problems; I want you to focus on world view, that is, how that culture understands how political processes fit into a larger picture. How does that culture understand the organization of society and society's relation to the outside world? How does that larger world view result in a particular political structure? How does that world view produce a certain legitimation of authority? You should construct your answers not by doing research, but by "guessing": use your primary readings to come up with what you think are persuasive arguments about how world view produces a certain political ideology.

Psychology
   Psychology is difficult to define; the science centrally concerns the non-rational processes that produce external behaviors. The entire science is based on the notion that there is a separation between your interior world and your external behavior and that these often don't coincide. So your basic question should be: what is a "self" in this culture? What defines who a person is? The interior world or external behavior? How are emotions and non-rational behaviors dealt with or understood? You should construct your answer by deriving your arguments from your primary readings and integrate your insights with the presentation of that culture in your textbook.

Religions
   Your textbook talks a great deal about religions, and your job is to revise your textbook. Perhaps the most fruitful approach to take is to realize that your textbook talks about religion as if it were a separate issue (this is an Enlightenment bias: different issues can be talked about as if they were separable). But I've been arguing that religion is the center or core of a culture and a culture's world view; even Enlightenment science "secularizes" the Christian world view (eschatology becomes "progress," etc.). So you should take primary texts we've read, talk about how you would redo not only the presentation of religion but you might also talk about how you'd redo much of the discussion of that culture and its history using religion as your explanatory tool.

Science and Mathematics
   You should read the passage on "philosophy" above to help you with this answer. Keep in mind that the word "science" means "knowledge," so one question you might want to consider as you revise your textbook is what knowledge seems to consist of in the primary readings you've read.

Sociology and Anthropology
   These disciplines deal with a couple fundamental issues. Sociology deals with the question of how social groups form, interact, and make collective decisions. Anthropology deals with the same questions, but concerns itself primarily with the differences between social groups. So the question you want to address is: how does this culture understand "society"? What does it think a "society" is? What does it think is the purpose of human social groups? What you're going to do, then, is not describe Chinese or African society, but describe what you think the Chinese or Africans believe a society consists of and what provides identity or order to that society. You have alot of data to work from; you should construct your answer (it will be a guess) from your primary readings.

Theater and Film
   In order to answer this question, you should look at the guidelines of art and literature above. But this question has one added difficulty: your textbook doesn't talk about theater and film, so when you choose a culture, you're going to "guess" how the textbook should talk about these issues by deriving your answers from the primary readings. What, for instance, would a film or theater look like if Confucian principles were applied to it? How do you think a culture would film or present its history? That sort of thing.

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Updated 9-10-97