Do you recognize the “yin-yang” image, but wonder what it really means? Find out as we explore the evolution of Daoism from the earliest masterss to its popularization in the West through a student-centered pedagogy that focuses on in-depth reading and lively discussion.
Your final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:
Students should be able to demonstrate the skills associated with the “close reading” of primary source texts or an analogous method of analyzing non-textual primary sources through (i) the detailed analysis of at least one primary source passage; (ii) the identificaion of significant ideas and/or themes in primary sources associated with the seminar topic; and (iii) the development of a thesis that utilizes the first two skills to argue for a coherent perspective that is relevant to the seminar topic.
All papers should be submitted on Blackboard/Assignments and must conform to the standards associated with one of the two main writing formats for the humanities: Chicago Style or MLA. References — both direct quotations and indirect references to the ideas of another author — should be properly cited according to the rules of your chosen format and must include page numbers so that the reference can be easily located. Late papers will be penalized a full grade (e.g. A to B) for the first day and one degree (e.g. from B to B-) thereafter. Papers that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs in accordance with college policy. All submitted work may be used for program assessment (with names removed).
MyJournalIn order to prepare for class discussions, you will write a 250-word reflection on the assigned reading for each class period. The reflection should not be a mere summary of points made by the author, but should focus on a single theme that connects different parts of the reading. Reflections must be posted to “MyJournal” on Blackboard before the start of class; twelve of your reflections will be randomly graded over the course of the semester and the two lowest scores will be dropped, for a total of 20% (10x2%). For guidelines on writing journal entries, see the MyJournal Rubric below.
Position Paper/Class Presentation
In addition to the MyJournal reading reflections, you will write a more formal 4-5-page (1000-word minimum) position paper on the assigned reading for a class session that you will select on signupgenius.com. As with the reading reflections, you should focus on a single issue, but for this assignment you must explore the issue in more depth and develop a “thesis” — the main point that you hope to demonstrate in the body of the paper. Your paper should begin by quoting a passage that exemplifies the issue you wish to explore. You should then write an introduction that briefly discusses the issue and concisely presents your thesis statement. The body of your paper should explain the author’s perspective on the issue through quotes from the reading as well as any other sources (primary or secondary) that you deem relevant. In order to develop a meaningful thesis, however, you will need to go beyond interpretation by directly engaging the author’s argument? Why is the author’s position significant? Is it supported by sound reasoning? Does it rely on questionable assertions? Are there important factors that the author has not considered? Is there a more coherent perspective on the issue? While it is ultimately up to you to decide how to engage the author’s position, it is essential that you develop a particular position on the issue, which should be clearly expressed in your conclusion. Finally, you will make a 10-minute presentation of your thesis during the class session that you selected on signupgenius.com. For presentation guidelines, see the Class Presentation Rubric below.
The Birth of Daoism
The Midterm Paper will be an 8-10-page (2000-word minimum) essay on the relationship between the first three texts that we are covering in the course: Neiye, Daodejing, and Zhuangzi. You may choose to emphasize the similarities that allow us to speak of an emerging “Daoist” tradition or the differences which remind us that the term “Daoism” did not yet exist when these texts were produced. You might highlight the historical factors that contributed to the development of Daoism or focus on a particular philosophical or religious issue that you want to explore in more depth. One way or another, your ultimate goal is to establish a unique thesis that represents your own perspective on “The Birth of Daoism.”
Topic Paper/Final PaperThe final assignment is a 12-15-page (3000-word minimum) paper on “The Evolution of Daoism.” You are free to explore the topic in whatever way you want, though you must discuss texts from all three periods that we focus on in the course: The Birth of Daoism (Neiye, Daodejing, Zhuangzi), Medieval Developments (Early Daoist Scriptures), and Contemporary Manifestations (Opening the Dragon Gate, The Tao of Pooh). In order to help you develop an appropriate thesis, you will write a 1-page (250-word) Topic Paper that summarizes your argument and concludes with a concise statement of your thesis. The Topic Paper include an annotated bibliography that identifies the sources you intend to use (with at least five primary sources from the course and three additional secondary sources) and briefly explains their relevance to your thesis. For more details, see the Topic Paper Rubric below. Since this paper is worth a significant portion of your final grade (5% for the Topic Paper and 25% for the Final Paper), you should expect to devote a considerable amount of time to this project; toward this end, I will be happy to meet with you individually to provide further guidance at any stage in the process. For submission and formatting details, see the section on Writing Standards above.
The Evolution of Daoism
The Class Participation mark (worth 20% of the final grade) will be based on your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material. All attempts to seriously engage with the readings — from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a relevant question — will contribute to your grade. Although your mark will ultimately depend on my subjective evaluation of the quantity and quality of your participation efforts, you may reasonably expect to receive at least a “B” if you attend class regularly and actively participate in class discussions.
Office Hours, Etc.
Tuesday: 4-5 ¤ Wednesday: 4-5 ¤ Thursday: 2-5 ¤ Friday (Tea/Talk): 4-5
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Class Presentation Rubric
Topic Paper Rubric