Monthly Archives: April 2009

Final Paper Prompts

Here are the final paper prompts. I expect there may be questions, so please direct them to the comments section of this post where everyone can see.

1. What is the relationship between memory and allegory  in Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men and how does that relationship aid the fulfillment of the text’s “project”? 

2. How does Lakota Woman– the book itself and the people, ideas and events it describes– undertake to repair the damage of colonialism? What difficulties and opportunities characterize this effort?

3. Explore the significance of the themes of mourning, melancholy and empire in The Reluctant Fundamentalist.  

4. Choose a contemporary cultural product or practice, and using the critical concepts of metonymy and the palimpsest discuss its significance in terms of the guiding theme of this course: Values in American Life.

Same guidelines as last time, with the added burden of 1) workshopping a draft of your paper at the LAC (as we’ve discussed repeatedly in class 2) and turning your final version into (details forthcoming).

Due Monday the 4th of May:  Bring in a provisional thesis statement and works cited page.

Maps and Figures

Here’s a map of Sioux reservations over time:


Map of military campaigns of the Plains Wars:


And two definitions from the Encyclopedia Britannica:


(from Greek metōnymia, “change of name,” or “misnomer”), figure of speech in which the name of an object or concept is replaced with a word closely related to or suggested by the original, as “crown” to mean “king” (“The power of the crown was mortally weakened”) or an author for his works (“I’m studying Shakespeare”). A familiar Shakespearean example is Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar in which he asks of his audience: “Lend me your ears.”


manuscript in roll or codex form carrying a text erased, or partly erased, underneath an apparent additional text. The underlying text is said to be “in palimpsest,” and, even though the parchment or other surface is much abraded, the older text is recoverable in the laboratory by such means as the use of ultraviolet light. The motive for making palimpsests usually seems to have been economic—reusing parchment was cheaper than preparing a new skin. Another motive may have been directed by Christian piety, as in the conversion of a pagan Greek manuscript to receive the text of a Father of the Church.

We can use these two concepts a critical tools with which to interpret not only Lakota Woman but the events that text describes.


It looks like the final project will take the form of a final essay, though there are two changes: 

1. Everyone will be required to workshop their paper at the LAC except those who were told in my comments that their papers were well-written. Please take this requirement seriously. Even if you feel that your writing is exemplary use the opportunity to hone your paper. Your goal is a grammatically pristine, conceptually rich and stylistically awe-inspiring final paper.

2. All papers will be submitted to because some people with no moral compass or sense of irony plagiarized essays for a class on VALUES. Fair Warning: I am so tired of busting people for plagiarism– or, worse, knowing they plagiarized via teacherly intuition (paranoia?) yet not having sufficient evidence– that I vow to prosecute any offenders to the limit. Potentially this means not only an F on the essay, but one for the semester and notification of the proper authorities, an action that can and has– believe it– ended in students’ expulsions. 


Yes there is extra credit. Here’s how it works:

Go to a museum or other cultural institution and write a 500 word “field report” on one or more of its features (a painting, a sculpture, the theme of an exhibit, etc.) and how they relate to the subject of this course. This assignment should be undertaken in a reflective manner. Points for creativity, profundity, and unexpected brilliance. I reserve the right to NOT grant extra credit if the response is, like, super lame.

Finally, all of you have been on my mind in recent days. On Friday I attended a meeting with professors in SJSU’s American Studies department. One of the topics of our conversation was the issue of “grade inflation” and a “culture of entitlement” which is said to characterize the current cohort of college students, the so-called Generation Y or Millenials. You might be interested to know that according to a fairly recent study (pdf) sociologists consider your generation to be dangerously narcissistic. You can read an account from the LA Times here. I like the last bit in particular:

Flacks summed up the attitudes he often encounters in students, who expect a tangible payoff from their education:

“The old model was a collegial one in which students and professors alike sought knowledge for knowledge’s sake. The new model is ‘I paid my money, give me my grade and degree.’ It makes me want to ask [students], “Want fries with that order?”