Essay Rewrite plus Research

Arts One, Crawford Seminar, Spring 2017

Essay due date: April 11, by 5pm (email/PDF is acceptable)

Purpose of this activity:

  • To provide you with a chance to rewrite one of your essays—to improve the paper on the basis of comments you’ve received from myself, your peers, and your own fresh thoughts
  • To provide you with support in and practice doing outside research in the scholarly literature for an essay. Some of you are already doing this to some extent, but it hasn’t been required before now, and we haven’t emphasized how best to do it.

Specific requirements:

This essay should be a rewrite of one of the essays you have already written in Arts One. You don’t have to make the same argument as you did in the first version of the essay, but you should be addressing the same topic. It’s quite possible (even likely) that after you return to this essay, and especially after looking into what some other scholars have said, that you will decide to change the original argument.

The essay should follow the same guidelines as all your other essays except:

  • You have up to 2500 words instead of a maximum of 2000; your essay should be a minimum of 1500 words (this is a bare minimum)
  • You must discuss in significant depth at least two research articles from the scholarly literature on the text(s) you are discussing.

Finding and using scholarly articles in your revised essay

You should be thinking about this assignment as a way to delve into what some scholars are saying about the text or film you’re discussing (“secondary sources”), and then to position your argument in relation to theirs by responding to what they have to say. This is an important part of the scholarly research process: you find out what has already been said in the research literature and see whether you think those arguments are good ones, or add arguments where you think there are gaps. Of course here you don’t have time to do a full literature search on your essay topic, so you’ll be doing a smaller version of this research activity.

1. Finding articles or book chapters to use for your essay: these should be peer-reviewed journal articles or chapters in published scholarly books. If you want to use another source, or are unclear about what sorts of sources count as quality academic sources, please ask

2. Choose two articles/chapters you want to discuss. The idea here isn’t to find things that agree with the position you already have in your original version of the essay, or things that support what you want to say in the new version. The idea is to find some things in the literature that you think are interesting and relevant to your topic and make your argument in response to those in some way, such as:

  • The texts you choose could support your view, though in that case you don’t want to just say what they argue and then say you agree. You would have to add something to them.
  • The texts you choose could provide important background information that is needed to support your argument.
  • They could be things you argue against.

Marking for this assignment

The mark you receive on this second version will replace the mark on the first version of that essay, unless you do worse on the second version, in which case you will retain the mark from the first version. In other words, this assignment can only help and not harm your overall essay mark.

This assignment is required

If you don’t complete it, then what happens is: after dropping your lowest two essay marks, the next lowest will turn into a zero that you can’t drop. The point here is that this one replaces one of your essay marks if you do it and get a higher mark, but it also replaces an essay mark if you don’t do it at all (with a zero). This is bit complicated, but the only way we convince you to treat the assignment as a requirement

Instructions for reading The Essential Mengzi (2016) Written by our guest lecturer, Bruce Rusk (Asian Studies, UBC)

First, a note on names. Our translation uses the name Mengzi to refer to both the title of the book and the person whose words it records. Elsewhere you may see the same person’s name and the title of the same book written Mencius; this is just an older, Latinized form of the same name. Likewise, the person named Kongzi in our translation is more commonly known in English as Confucius.

Next, please read most the book, as follows:

  • Preface (ix-x)
  • Introduction (at least xi-xxxv, xxxv-xxxvii optional); the timeline on xli-xliii may also be helpful
  • Main text, Books 1A – 7B (1-91)You’ll notice that there are numbers in the outer margins of the main text; these indicate section and paragraph numbers and are added for convenience (they weren’t originally part of the text). Our translator refers to passages within Mengzi using these numbers. For example, 3A4.7 means Book 3A, section 4, paragraph 7. Where there’s a gap in the numbering, it’s because the editor of our abridged translation has chosen to leave out a chunk of text.The numbered footnotes in the text are by the translator, and usually either introduce his interpretation of a passage or provide some background information essential to understanding a passage. Additionally, at the end of some paragraphs, and occasionally in the middle of a paragraph, you’ll see the Chinese character 注. This just means “note,” and you can treat it as the equivalent of an asterisk indicating that there is commentary on the passages, which can be found in the back of the book starting on page 93. It is keyed to the section and paragraph numbers within each book with numbers in the outer margin. In general, the notes are of two overlapping types:

Those added by the translator to provide an explanation of something that would be unclear to a modern reader. For example, when the Mengzi mentions a person who would have been well known when the book was written but whom we are unlikely to have heard of, a note will explain who the person is. When you are puzzled by a passage, reading the note may help clarify its meaning.

Those in which the translator quotes or summarizes the views of later readers of Mengzi, especially Zhu Xi (1130-1200), who is probably the most influential Chinese thinker of the last thousand years. These notes may apply to passages whose basic meaning is not obscure but from which these later readers drew interesting conclusions. It’s worth reading some of these notes to understand how the later tradition approached the book. Keep in mind that these are the interpretations of a few readers living thousands of years after Mengzi, and other readers had their own take―as should you.

It isn’t necessary to read every bit of the commentary, but after reading the whole Mengzi try reading at least a couple of entries for each book, or flipping through the commentary and reading some of the longer or more interesting-looking passages (and referring back to the original, as appropriate). One reason for doing so is that throughout history most readers of a book like Mengzi would approach it only with the help of commentary, either written notes that appeared alongside the text or oral explanations from a teacher. Rarely would anyone―let alone a student just starting out―read a “plain” text with no commentary. So going back and forth between the text and the commentary was a normal experience for many readers.

Finally, on pp. 134-142 the translator provides a glossary of key terms. This may be useful for two purposes. First, if you are unsure exactly what a particular word means, you can check whether it appears here and find out more about its connotations and where in the book it appears. Second, if you happen to be studying Chinese or already know some Chinese, it will provide the original term that is being translated.