A TIMELINE OF AMERICAN CULTURE – ASSIGNMENT

Topic: A TIMELINE OF AMERICAN CULTURE – ASSIGNMENT

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A TIMELINE OF AMERICAN CULTURE –
ASSIGNMENT

This semester we are going to be working together on constructing an elaborate timeline of American texts and historical events. This assignment has several purposes:
• It will help train us to think as literary historians: i.e., to think about a literary text in relation to history and in relation to the texts that preceded and followed its publication.
• We will hone some basic research skills by investigating our chosen time period.
• We will exercise our critical skills by carefully choosing a representative text and by choosing a representative excerpt.
• It will give us a chance to do a little close reading.
• Finally, we will create a really cool tool for the use of future students in similar introductory courses!

STEPS
1. Go to the timeline signup sheet on google docs and choose a year-range in the left column. Insert your name and email address in one of the two columns to the right. Identify your partner for the project (if there is one – some of you may be working on your own) and get in touch with him/her to plan your joint work
(((((((((((((((((((( I chose the years 1853-1854 )))))))))))))))))))))))))
2. Begin your research by identifying the main historical events that occurred in your years. Some questions you may consider: What important political developments occurred in America or elsewhere in the world? Were there any wars or other conflicts? Major legislation or court cases? Significant scientific or technological discoveries/inventions? Important creations in music, art, or film? Were these years marked by economic crisis or prosperity? Who was born and who died? You can begin this stage by consulting our own timeline or the fuller timeline on which it is based, the Heath Anthology timeline. There are several other useful timelines, including this one created at Washington University. Find the best resources for your period.
3. Now that you know something about what happened during “your” years, proceed to locate a representative literary text published at that time (ideally, not one of the texts on the syllabus). “Literary” is used widely here: your chosen text can be a novel, a story, a poem, a play, a political, theological, or philosophical essay, a travel narrative, or an (auto) biographical narrative. Here are some suggestions of where you could find texts to choose from: the Heath Anthology timeline under the “Literary” column; tables of content of such anthologies as The Norton Anthology of American Literature and The Heath Anthology of American Literature; Literary histories such as A New Literary History of America (eds. Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors); for the past few decades, you could consult information on literary prizes, such as the Nobel or Pulitzer prize. Be creative in finding sources!
What makes a text “representative” of a specific period is a difficult question. It’s a question faced by editors of anthologies, literary historians, professors who design syllabi, and others. Here are some criteria that you may consider: thematically, does the text deal with the burning issues of its time? Does it belong to a genre that was dominant in its period? Stylistically, does it “fit” its era? Was it widely read and discussed at the time? Do contemporary readers turn to it today to understand the period? Your chosen text doesn’t need to fit all these criteria, and you may decide that there are other criteria that are no less relevant in choosing your text. You are the authority – but you’ll need to explain your rationale.
4. Write your assignment, using these headings (see sample on the next page):
o Your name(s) and your year range.
o The title, author, and year of the text you chose.
o A relevant image – this can be a portrait of the author, the book’s cover, an illustration or a page from the book. Whatever you find most illuminating. Please include a link to the image so we could put it in the timeline!
o Author’s short biography (100-50 words).
o A short passage from the text (this can be a paragraph, a stanza, or short scene not exceeding 250 words). Choose a passage that will help you explain why this text is representative of its time period.
o A short explanation for why this text was chosen, using the research you’ve done in preparation as well as close reading of the passage you quoted (around 300 words).
o A link to an authoritative, specialized, academic website where we could find additional information about your text (resist the urge to link general sites such as Wikipedia).
o A list of sources you used in preparing the assignment.
A word of caution: paraphrase all material you draw from secondary sources. Do not copy-paste anything other than the quote from the text. Carefully acknowledge all the sources you used for your ideas and information. An assignment that includes plagiarism will fail and no second opportunity will be given.

RESOURCES

A WORKING TYPOLOGY FOR NRMs1

Reactive Movements: Groups formed in response to significant social stress, usually brought on by drastic changes in the natural or social environment. Most NRMs are in some way reactive movements, although few are best classified as exclusively reactive. Often apocalyptic or “Golden Age.” The New Age movement is in some ways a reactive movement, with some of its groups reacting to drastic changes in the natural world.

Accommodationist Movements: Groups that form as local modifications of powerful religions introduced into new cultural settings. The Unification Church from Korea is an accommodationist movement, and so is the Church on Earth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Spirit Movements: Generally cosmological, these groups affirm the existence of an extra-natural but not wholly transcendental realm. This realm interpenetrates the physical world and there is communication and interaction between beings that dwell in this realm and persons on Earth. Beings of the extra-natural realm may be understood as ghosts, ancestors (in the primal sense), disembodied souls of the recently dead, angels, fairies, ascended masters, elves, etc. Spiritualism is a classic Spirit Movement. Theosophy would also qualify. Many New Age groups are Spirit movements.

New Revelation Sects: Groups that are clearly off-shoots of another religion but offer a new (often seen as “true,” “original,” “restored,” “reformed”) understanding of the religion. Typically, they have a profound reverence for their founder/prophet. They are very rigorous in their demands on followers, critical of the mainstream of their tradition, and often overtly and publicly counter-cultural. They may also be cultural separatists. The Shakers were an NRS, so too was Christianity in its formative period. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is an NRS, which has generated a rather large NRS of its own, called The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Import Religions: Import religions are simply religions that are “new” in so far as they are imported into one culture (where they did not exist previously) from another culture (where they originated). In America, Vedanta is an import religion, so is Zen. In Central and South America, Pentecostalism is an import religion. Importantly, to qualify as an import religion, the religion must become established in the culture, maintain its distinct identity, and become large enough to be fairly easily identified. The Huguenots, for example, are not an import religion in America because when Huguenot individuals and communities came here, the Huguenot tradition essentially disintegrated, in some cases melding with other forms of Protestantism and in other cases being exterminated by religious rivals.

Golden Age Groups: Groups based on beliefs that in an earlier time (usually a primordial/sacred time) life and “the world” was more sacred and/or there was greater interaction with or respect for the ultimate power(s). Their myths tell of this time and their rituals reenact this time. Often the “golden age” of these groups came to an end because of some terrible catastrophe, and believers are engaged in trying to restore and recreate the original world. Neo-Paganism is a Golden Age Group as are some groups in the Feminist Spirituality movement.

Globalization & Religion
(see Ellwood Many Peoples Many Faiths 443-445)

??Globalization refers to the process though which distinct human cultures interact with each other across the planet, leading to a shared global culture; but not to the exclusion of various individual cultures, which interact with the global culture in a wide variety of ways and with widely diverse levels of acceptance.

??Globalization features a dominant worldview (Divinity of emperor/empire, Pax Romanum, Capitalism, democracy, economic development)

??Globalization is necessarily multi-cultural (languages, worldviews, religions, ethnicities)

??Earliest expressions of Globalization are found in the multi-cultural empires of antiquity (e.g., Persian, Alexandrian, Roman), and multi-cultural religions of antiquity (e.g., Judaism and Buddhism).

??Globalization as it pertains to religion, can be traced to great cosmological empires (noted above), where we see early expressions of syncretism in the melding of pantheons.

??Syncretism is a feature of globalization.

??Globalization is emphatically present in Axial Age religions, which tend to universalism, and later in the monotheisms of West Asia (Christianity and Islam).

??Globalization/Global Context as it pertains to the study of religion takes into consideration the impact of global processes on religion(s) in a given culture and the impact of religions, as global processes themselves, on cultures into which they enter.

Globalization & Religion

Consider:
(1) impact of global processes on religions
(2) impact of religions on new cultures they enter

As religions globalize, be attentive to

(1) New forms of religions
(2) Insulation & Exclusivity
(3) Adaptation & Modification
(4) Coexistence with other religions & cultures
(5) Conflict with other religions & culture
Globalization and NRMs – Four Significant Types

Although these four types of NRMs are the most common types to be generated through the process of globalization, they are not exhaustive. Any of the types can and do occur in a global context.

Import — Import religions are simply religions that are “new” in so far as they are imported into one culture (where they did not exist previously) from another culture (where they originated).

Accommodationist — Groups that form as local modifications of powerful religions introduced into new cultural settings.

Hybrid — These religions are the classic examples of religious syncretism. They feature a melding together beliefs from various (often otherwise conflicting) religious systems, thus creating something entirely different from any of the previous traditions.

Reactive — Groups formed in response to significant social stress, usually brought on by drastic changes in the natural or social environment. Most NRMs are in some way reactive movements, although few are best classified as exclusively reactive.

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