Monthly Archives: April 2016

Final Project Notes

Congratulations: Our conferences this week have been productive and rewarding as your projects take shape. Most of the projects using Word Press, Tumblr, Wix, or another platform, are enabling you to gather your primary materials. Most of you have then worked to describe the materials as a body of work–describing the objects and artifacts, making connections and telling a story that expands and deepen our understanding of the natural and /or cultural history of California.

Your research into the natural and cultural history of California—and your answers to the question, “What is California?”—is significant. During the second half of your semester together we have shared the responsibility for directing our learning as we continue to study natural and cultural history of the Golden State. Your work is compelling evidence of the generative intellectual work that is possible in a first-year college course.

Below I offer a few reminders and the criteria I handed out in class a couple of weeks ago. In addition to your conference with me, please be in touch by email with updates and with questions. I am also able to meet with anyone next Tuesday or Wednesday.


Moving Towards Completion: After we wrapped our symposium sessions on Tuesday I encouraged you to attend to the following elements of your project during the week you have before the final version of the project is due:

  • Title and Subtitle: when a user navigates to your site the title and subtitle should offer an orientation to the subjext and the orientation of your project
  • Project Statement: the project statement will elaborate, albiet briefly, what is implied in the title
  • Design: the design of the site should provide access to the content. In conferences we have discussed the use of hashtags on Tumblr and pages and categories on Word Press. We have also explored the relationship between images and text and the use of themes
  • Analysis and Interpretation: It is imperative that your project have a narrative of some kind. There is no length requirement here. But without the analysis and the interpretation the project will have less significance and impact.

Checklist: I include the assessment criteria that I handed out a few weeks ago. This is the list that I will use to help determine your final grade.

  1. Symposium Contributions
  • Preparation and teamwork: Is the group work during the symposium workshops efficient and effective?
  • Progress and Meeting deadline: Is a revised title and project abstract sent to Mark by Thursday April 14 at noon?
  • Session contribution: Does the session provide the class with relevant and engaging materials that help explain California? Does the group effectively present the materials to the class (e.g. a series of written points or questions to help with discussion, visual materials using tools such as a powerpoint, prezi, or blog?) Do group members take responsibility for maintaining the flow and quality of the discussion whenever needed?
  1. First Version of Project
  • Meeting deadline: Is the first version of the project submitted by Thursday April 21?
  • Project development: the challenge of creatively and critically assessing a collection of primary materials takes place over time. It is also a challenge to use secondary materials to first describe and then to interpret the materials gathered. Does the first version of the project demonstrate progress commensurate with one month of work?
  1. Individual Conferences
  • Preparation and Reflection: Is there evidence of sufficient work prior to the conferences so that the conversation is driven by questions and problems and challenges?
  • Engagement and Purpose: Is the conference used to answer specific questions about the project, to explore complications, to address problems?
  1. Final Project
  • Offers a clear and distinct organization of the primary materials
  • Uses secondary materials to introduce or tell the story the materials suggest
  • Presents the materials in an organized manner, whether in a print essay or using a digital platform such as Word Press or Tumblr
  • Offers a thoughtful and evidence-based description of the materials
  • Makes clear what the project is doing to expand and deepen our understanding of the natural and /or cultural history of California

Dear Class

First, I want to thank each and every one of you for your projects. The work you are doing is significant. Your research into the natural and cultural history of California—and your answers to the question, “What is California?”—is of great value for others. Not incidentally, at this point in the semester, you are each sharing the responsibility for coauthoring the course. Your work is directing our learning as we continue to study natural and cultural history. And it is demonstrating the intellectual work that is possible in a first-year college course.

At the same time I need each of you to make progress before our conferences next week. As I have been intimating in the questions I am asking in the symposium we are conducting, it is not enough to compile primary and secondary materials. The next step is to organize and describe the materials. The use of blogs is working very well in this regard and I encourage those not using these digital tools to consider them as they offer affordances that are not possible in a more static product.

But it is also not enough to offer a descriptive account of the objects and artifacts that you have gathered. You are organizing and describing your objects and artifacts to offer insight into the richness and complexity of culture. To understand a place or a culture requires interpretation, and interpretations offer interesting and useful answers to the question we are asking: What explains California?

Second, I need you you to put in the time and the intellectual work before we meet next week in our individual conference. By the time we meet for our conference every one of you should have gathered your materials. You should also have organized and described the materials. The more you can do the more productive our conference session will be. In addition to putting in the time necessary to do good work, I want you to come to our meeting prepared with questions. The questions can be about design (for example, how to organize materials, or the relationship between organization and interpretation) or interpretation (what is the significance of these materials when gathered together). By this point your project statements should be crisp and clear and accessible to a reader. These statements will most likely be the final piece that you are tinkering with but the more times you work on them the better they will be.

If you have not sent me your URL or a document with your work I need you to do so. Conferences will be held in my office, 206 Parker Hall. Bring your laptop, if you have one.


Writing with Sources

Please remember that it is your responsibility to quote accurately all material you cite, paraphrase, or summarize. If you do not understand the obligation to attribute words and ideas of others please talk with me, refer to a handbook, such as Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference, or consult the Keene State College Policy on Academic Honesty.

  1. Identify the speaker or writer of the quotation. Usually precedes the quoted material. (“Takaki proposes, . . .”).
  1. When you introduce a quotation, consider using verbs other than “says.” “Argues,” “adds,” “contends,” “points out,” “admits,” “comments,” “insists.” Or, with just the right verb, consider the use of a transitional phrase: “In an apparent contradiction, Takaki goes on to argue that. . . .”
  1. Distinguish between short and long quotations. Enclose short quotations (fewer than four lines of type) in quotation marks. Set off long quotations (more than four lines of type). Do not use quotation marks. To set off a long quotation, begin a new line, indent ten spaces from the left margin, and double space throughout. Note well that long quotations need adequate introduction and are most often immediately preceded by a full sentence ending in a colon.
  1. Don’t introduce a long quotation into the middle of one of your own sentences. Too often the reader will get lost as you transition from your own writing into a long quotation. It’s better to use a short introductory tag (as described above) and then follow the quotation with your own sentence.
  1. An embedded quotation (that is, a quotation embedded into a sentence of your own) must fit grammatically into the sentence of which it is a part.
  1. Quote exactly. Check your quotation for accuracy at least twice. If you intend to add or substitute a word in the quotation (to conform with 5), enclose the words in square brackets. Indicate omissions of material with an ellipses (three periods, with a space between each period). If you omit words at the end of sentence, indicate the omission with three periods (an ellipses) and end punctuation (a period).
  2. Use punctuation accurately. Commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Semicolons and colons go outside quotation marks. Question marks, exclamation points and dashes go inside if they are part of the quotation, outside if they are your own.
  1. Use single quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation. “Listening to the conversation following Howard Dean’s speech, I overheard an audience member say that she had ‘never encountered such a frank and honest politician.’ She went on to say, ‘I don’t know what to make of him. But I like him.’”
  1. Enclose title of short works in quotation marks. Longer works should be underlined or italicized.

A Few Examples

In his essay “The Making of Mountains and Rivers Without End,” Gary Snyder describes the poetic sequence Myths and Texts as his “first venture” into “the challenge of interweaving physical life and inward realms” (154). The challenge Snyder faces is more than this statement might suggest. For the “interweaving” of the physical world must take into account not only its present but its past state. “The piles of stone” stacked by earlier miners in “The Canyon Wren” and the “dendritic endless fractal streambed riffs on hillsides” in “The Mountain Spirit” together reveal evidence of the history of human presence on the land as well as the landscape’s “endless” geological transformations. These ongoing human and the natural processes are vividly evident in the following lines from the first two stanza’s of “Finding Space in the Heart”: . . . . Similarly, the “inward realms” of Snyder’s imagination are constructed out of history and not simply the more limited psychological realm of the poet. The indigenous traditions of North America and the cultural traditions of East Asia are just two of the inward “realms” present in Snyder’s imagination. . . . .

The most stunning and simple formulation of this crucial argument in favor of comparative thinking is by Arthur Kleinman, a psychiatrist and medical anthropologist at Harvard University. Kleinman’s “Eight Questions” do more than merely guide the medical practitioner toward the step of gathering information about cultural background. The questions prompt a reevaluation of one’s own cultural perspective as one that is not universal. As Kleinman explains, “If you can’t see that your own culture has its own set of interests, emotions, and biases, how can you expect to deal successfully with someone else’s culture?” (Qtd. In Fadiman 261). This position requires a radical reorientation from simply considering “the other” as outside the norm to understanding one’s own normative cultural conventions. This provocative reversal makes possible. . . .”

Whitman Ah Sing’s resistance to the hyphen (and the binary thinking about identity it perpetuates) is further illustrated near the opening of the final chapter in the novel, One-Man Show”:

There is no East here. West is meeting West. This was all West. All you saw was West. This is The Journey In the West. I am so fucking offended. Why aren’t you offended? Let me help you get offended. Always be careful to take offense. These sinophiles dig us so much, they’re drooling over us. That kind of favorableness I can do without. They think they know us—the wide range of us from sweet to sour—because they eat in Chinese restaurants. . . . I’ve read my Aristotle and Agee, I’ve been to college; they have ways to criticize the theater besides for sweet and sourness. They could do laundry reviews, clean or dirty. Come on. What’s so ‘exotic’? (308)

The tirade is triggered by the reviews of his play. Whitman is offended by the “sinophiles” who consider themselves knowledgeable about the experiences of the “Chinese.” Of course as the language of this passage suggests, Whitman is performing—he is on stage, speaking to the audience, waving the reviews in his hand. His veiled reference to Wu’s The Journey to the West reminds his audience, as he puts it elsewhere, that “we allthesame Americans” (282). His rambling monologue therefore has a very particular rhetorical end” to challenge his audience to see how easily they construct a binary opposition that forces him (“I’m common ordinary”) to be either American or Chinese.

Tripmaster Monkey’s critique of the critic’s cultural construction of ‘Orient’ as a system of representation shows how easy it is to essentialize a biologically inferior and culturally backward, peculiar, and unchanging other. Whitman’s on-stage tirade is consistent with Edward Said’s seminal argument that the Western discourse of “Orientalism” functions in other discourses on the other. As Said argues, this way of thinking provides the West with its conceit of cultural and intellectual superiority as well as its rationale for imperialism. For Whitman, the cultural conceit of intellectual superiority is projected both unwittingly and pervasively. In the third chapter, in conversation with Tāna, he elaborates on the pervasive way an apparently neutral descriptive taxonomy re-inscribes the discourse of the other:

Annnotated Works Cited

Diane Simmons. Maxine Hong Kingston. New York: Twayne, 1999.

Twayne’s United States Author Series provides the reader with a general critical overview of the life and work of its featured authors. The volume on Maxine Hong Kingston begins with a biographical essay. The book then traces the development of major themes in hong Kingston’s books The Woman Warrior, China Men, and Tripmaster Monkey. The biographical essay and six additional chapters are especially attentive to the cultural reception of Kingston’s work following the publication of The Woman Warrior in 1978. An Appendix includes an interview with Maxine Hong Kingston by Diane Simmons and a useful (but now incomplete) bibliography of sources.

Hunt, Anthony. “‘The Hump-Backed Flute Player’: The Structure of Emptiness in Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 1.2 (Fall 1993): 1–24.

Anthony Hunt is among the most knowledgeable readers of Gary Snyder and this article offers new information about the making of Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End. Although Snyder completed MRWE in 1996, this essay illuminates a crucial part of the text, “The Hump-backed flute player,” a poem that appears as the final poem in the second section of the 1996 edition. The image of the Hopi Kachina figure is especially important, argues Hunt, in understanding Snyder’s ecological/Buddhist themes. The presence of Kokopilau registers a cultural awareness grounded in the creation and migration stories of the Hopi as well as the Zen-inspired meditation on interdependency, emptiness, and impermanence.

The Hmong Resource Center

The Hmong Resource Center provides a comprehensive collection of Hmong-related literature, scholarly research, and multimedia materials. The site includes links to census data, bibliographies, Hmong arts, a recently revised Hmong dictionary, and the online Hmong Studies Journal.

The Hmong Studies Journal

The Hmong Studies Journal is a unique and established peer-reviewed Internet-based academic publication devoted to the scholarly discussion of Hmong history, Hmong culture, Hmong people, and other facets of the Hmong experience in the U.S., Asia and around the world. The Hmong Studies Journal has published 6 online issues since 1996. The Hmong Studies Journal is the only peer-reviewed scholarly journal in the world devoted to academic studies related to the Hmong diaspora and Hmong culture and history.

“Snyder, Gary. “Remarks for the California Biodiversity Council, Grass Valley / Nevada City, 6 June, 1996.”



Wall art explains California

Public Murals have been a part of the cultural landscape of southern California since the early twentieth century. A brief history of the social mural movement is available at the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). The vision of SPARC is rooted in the Mexican social mural movement as expressed by David Alfaro Siqueiros: “We repudiate so-called easel art and all such art which springs from ultra-intellectual circles, for it is essentially aristocratic. We hail the monumental expression of art because such art is public property.”

city of passion

Ernesto de la Loza, “City of passion,” 1800 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

The brief history includes an abridged version of of an article by the Artistic Director and Founder of SPARC, Professor Judith F. Baca, written in 2001, entitled Birth of a Movement. In the article, as recounted on the SPARC site, she describes “how the ideals of the Mexican social mural movement inspired Los Angeles muralists in the 1970’s and how her work painting murals with at-risk youth formed the basis of the first city-wide mural program and eventually led to the creation of SPARC.”


Dogtown Coffee, the site of the Zephyr Skate Shop, 2003 Main Street, Santa Monica

Robin Dunitz Slides of Los Angeles Murals, 1925-2002 This digital collection consists of more than 2,000 digitized 35mm slides of murals in Los Angeles photographed by Robin Dunitz. The murals date from 1925 to the early 2000s and were photographed by Robin Dunitz in the late 1980s and early-mid 1990s to early 2000s. Dunitz, was a long time resident of Los Angeles, and an independent researcher on the city’s murals.

Elliot Pinckey pillars of progress _0

Elliott Pinkney, “Pillars,” Santa Fe Ave. at Artesia Blvd. (under 91 Freeway) Compton

Dunitz’s archival collection on Los Angeles murals is housed in the University of Southern California (USC) Architecture and Fine Arts Library. A listing of the contents of the archival collection may be found in the finding aid at Robin Dunitz California and Los Angeles Murals Files.

Since 1987, the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA) has worked to restore, preserve, and document the murals of Los Angeles. The MCLA works to protect the legal rights of artists, prevent the loss of significant works of public art, and preserve the artists heritage of Los Angeles as one of the mural capitals of the world. The MCLA maintains a database of Los Angeles’ Mural History linking artists, murals and neighborhoods.


Charles Felix, “Mestizo,” 1516 Grande Vista, Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) has a Citywide Mural Program

Further Reading

James Prigoff (co-author). Walls of Heritage, Walls of Pride: African American Murals. Pomegranate Press, 2000

Street gallery: guide to 1000 Los Angeles murals. Revised edition, RJD Enterprises, 1998

James Prigoff (co-author). Painting the towns: murals of California. RJD Enterprises, 1997

FatCap is a graffiti and street-art resource that provides examples of public art in cities around the world