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Course Documents

Paper 2: "Reconsidering Lin Yutang" (Critique Essay)

Due: M-Tu Jan. 28-29, in class

Length: ~800 words

Formatting: for this and all your other assignments for this class, please following the directions on Formatting Guidelines for Written Work.

Reading Lin Yutang’s My Country and My People eighty years after it was written, what do you think of his ideas? Does what he wrote still hold true? Do you think it ever held true?

For Paper 2, please write an essay in which you critique Lin Yutang’s ideas about a specific facet of Chinese culture. What do you think Lin Yutang got right—and what does he get wrong? Write this essay in such a way that it could serve as a second introductory essay in our book, after the preface.

The task:

  1. Choose one of the broad subject areas Lin Yutang wrote about—whichever one you find most interesting. (When I say “subject areas,” I mean the topics covered by the different chapters: “The Chinese Character,” “The Chinese Mind,” “Ideals of Life,” “Woman’s Life,” “Social and Political Life,” “Literary Life,” “The Artistic Life,” “The Art of Living.” So in other words, choose one chapter.)

  2. Read all the sections in the chapter you chose. (As before, feel free to read the Chinese edition. But consult the English version when you write your essay to make sure you understand how Lin Yutang makes his points in English.)

  3. Write an essay in which you weigh the merits (consider the strengths and weaknesses) of Lin Yutang’s ideas. Consider some or all of the questions below:

Questions to consider:

  • What generalizations that Lin Yutang makes in this chapter strike you as accurate? Which “ring true,” and why?

  • Which generalizations don’t ring true? Do any of these strike you as inaccurate?

    • Are they oversimplications, i.e. stereotypes?

    • Are they out of date—no longer true?

    • Does Lin Yutang only “tell part of story”? Is this an incomplete picture?

  • For those generalizations that you believe are inaccurate, what would you add or change to create a more accurate, nuanced picture of that aspect of Chinese culture?

  • As regards this subject area, are there any topics or aspects of Chinese culture that Lin doesn’t talk about that you think are “glaring omissions”? Is there anything crucial that is missing from Lin’s discussion?

  • What do you think of the way Lin writes (as opposed to what he says)? If you were to read (or write!) an essay about this aspect of Chinese culture in the 21st century, would you want it to be written in a different way?

How you’ll be graded:

A successful (A) paper will:

  • Be written in an engaging way, such that if it were featured as an “introductory essay” in our book it would draw in our readers and get them interested in reading the rest of the book

  • Summarize what Lin says about this subject, and in the right amount of detail—not too much, not too little

  • Make some meaningful points about Lin’s writing, and interest the reader in hearing what we will have to say on this subject

  • Make its points vividly, using specific examples (either from the text, or from real life)

  • Include at least one good quotation from My Country and My People

  • Have focus: don’t scatter your attention too widely. Say a couple things in depth rather than many thinks shallowly.

  • Include a title that crystallizes your central point and would capture a reader’s interest

  • Be written in English that is accurate enough that problems with the language do not distract much, if at all, from your ideas 

  • Follow my Rules of Thumb (all the stuff you learned in EAP101)

  • Not be plagiarized

  • Follow my formatting guidelines

  • Cite your sources and include a reference list (Note: you may use whatever citation style you prefer as long as it is consistent )

For information on how I grade your written work and on the marks I use when correcting it, see Grading Scheme for Written Work and Austin’s Editing Marks.