This course explores the evolution of Daoism from the earliest masters to its popularization in the West through a student-centered pedagogy that focuses on in-depth reading and lively discussion. (Cardinal Directions: Humanities, Writing Intensive • iCons: Being Human, Experiencing Place, Thinking Globally)
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 (1,000-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 with the author’s perspective: 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 guidelines regarding both assignments see the Position Paper Rubric and the Class Presentation Rubric below.
The Birth of Daoism
The Midterm Paper will be an 8-10-page (2,000-word minimum) essay on the relationship between the texts that we are covering in this section of the course: Neiye, Daodejing, Zhuangzi, and assorted “Syncretist” writings. 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 paper should include references to at least three primary and two secondary sources with the ultimate goal of establishing a unique thesis that presents your own perspective on “The Birth of Daoism.” For details on the grading of this assignment see the Midterm Paper Rubric below.
Topic Paper/Final PaperThis course carries the “Writing Intensive” gen ed designation, which requires students to go through an “iterative composition process” that includes “invention, drafting, reviewing, and revising.” The result will be a 12-15-page (3,000-word minimum) paper that develops your own perspective on “The Evolution of Daoism.” You are free to explore the topic in whatever way you want, though you must discuss at least one text from each of the three periods that we focus on in the course: The Birth of Daoism (Neiye, Daodejing, Zhuangzi, assorted writings of the “Syncretists”), Medieval Developments (Early Daoist Scriptures), and Contemporary Manifestations (Opening the Dragon Gate, The Tao of Pooh).
The Evolution of Daoism
You will begin the process by writing a 1-page (250-word) “topic paper” that summarizes your argument and concludes with a concise statement of your thesis. Your topic paper should be accompanied by 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 to support your thesis. The bibliography should include brief annotations for each source, explaining how it is relevant to your thesis as well as any other relevant information, such as its strengths and weaknesses as an academic source. After receiving my feedback on the topic paper and annotated bibliography, you will write a first draft of the paper, which you will revise based on my comments to produce the final paper.
For details regarding the grading of these assignments see the Topic Paper Rubric and Final Paper Rubric below; for submission and formatting details see the section on Writing Standards above. Since this assignment 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.
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 & Contact Information
Mondays to Fridays, 10:30-11:30 AM ¤ Tea/Talk on Fridays from 4:30-5:30 PM
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Position Paper Rubric
Class Presentation Rubric
Midterm Paper Rubric
Topic Paper Rubric
Final Paper Rubric