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Introduction

I have a few beginning announcements.

  1. The syllabus is located at this URL: http:// www2. latech. edu/ ~bmagee/ 452/ eng452.htm.  The assignments should stay as they are now, but I'm still adding page numbers and note links, so refresh the page from time to time.
  2. Iím trying to make everything iPhone friendly. That means my syllabus and lecture notes should fit well on your smart phones. Also, Iím posting recordings of my lectures on the notes pages. The links are surrounded by boxes ó The first downloads the mp3 to your device. The second is an iTunes link; the third a Stitcher link. The last streams the recording to your device. My goal is for you to be able to listen to the lecture while you follow along in the notes page. iTunes and Stitcher both work on my iPhone; Stitcher is available for Android devices as well. All of it is free. Let me know if you hit any snags with the downloads. The packet is in .pdf form and is best viewed on a larger screen.
  3. I number the lectures by week and period for a normal quarter Tuesday-Thursday class. So Thursday of the second week would be 2B. Mostly you just need make sure the number of the lecture youíre listening to matches the number in the notes.
  4. I'll give you a quiz every week. Itíll be available on Moodle Friday through the weekend. 
  5. We'll have one essay exam.
  6. Everybody will write a research paper. The criteria sheet is posted here with a lecture of me grading a sample research paper. Undergraduate papers should be 10 pages; graduate students should write papers that are 13-15 pages long. Use MLA form with at least 10 sources, with a mixture of primary and secondary sources. Also include one definition from the Oxford English Dictionary.
  7. We will have discussions on Moodle each week. For each discussion question, write at least one response and reply to two others.
  8. Graduate students. In addition to the longer paper, graduate students will need to give a presentation and lead a discussion. I'd like you to choose one of the presentation topics on the syllabus & provide a basic introduction to the class. Check in the packet and notes for some basic information on most of the topics; let me know if you have any questions. For your presentation, you can use MS PowerPoint, Emaze, Haiku Deck (has an iPad app version), Prezi, or Sliderocket, Slides, etc. It's important to select one you are comfortable with.  They all have learning curves. I tried to learn Prezi last year without much luck, so I went back to PowerPoint. I like the way Prezi presentations look but couldn't get it to do what I wanted.

Let me know if you have any questions. bmagee@latech.edu.

We believed all your Stories: Why do you refuse to believe ours?

Our first reading is an essay by Ben Franklin arguing that the "savages" or America are more civil and civilized that people living in European-style "civilization." The paragraph I want to focus on is the one that tells about the meeting between the Swedish Minister and the Saquehanah Indians. The minister tells them the "principal historical Facts on which our Religion is founded, such as the Fall of our first Parents by eating an Apple; the Coming of Christ, to repair the Mischief; his Miracles & Suffering, &c." He is outraged when the chief tells him a fable about the tribe moving from hunting/gathering to agriculture through and act of hospitality. "The good Missionary disgusted with this idle Tale, said, 'What I delivered to you were sacred Truths, but what you tell me is mere Fable, Fiction and Falshood.'"

 The Indian offended, replyíd, "My Brother, it seems your Friends have not done you Justice in your Education, they have not well instructed you in the Rules of common Civility. You saw that we who understand and practise those Rules, believíd all your Stories: Why do you refuse to believe ours?"

So I have a couple of points to make about Franklin's parable.

  1. We'll do better with the texts we read if we're like the Saquehanah than the minister. When we approach the texts with an open mind, we'll get more out of them than if we're already certain we're right. Certainly the minister didn't learn anything from his hosts.
  2. How do you get to the truth?
    1. The minister's belief is that you can add up a bunch of facts, and the sum of them will be the Truth. It's this belief that leads some Christians to believe that the Bible is infallible. They think that if even one item in the Bible is not 100% factually accurate, the whole book is untrustworthy. For them:  
      fact
      fact
         fact   
      Truth
    2. Another approach is to see the facts and the Truth as existing independently of each other:
      fact                        
      fact                    Truth
      fact                        
      For this approach, it wouldn't matter whether Jonah got swallowed by a whale, a fish, or whether the whole thing is a parable. The truth of the story is the same regardless of the facts. In his Poetics, Aristotle argues that myths are superior to history because history tells us the accidents that happen through time, but myths tell us the universal truths about the human condition.

At certain times, the church has been willing to identify with the truth of other traditions, "baptize" them, and incorporate them into Christianity. That's how Saturnalia became Christmas, OEster became Easter, etc. At other times, the church has thought it has the truth, and everything else is "fiction, fable, and falsehood," and must be stamped out. Thus missionaries would take Native Americans from their families and put them in orphanages where they would be taught English and Christianity, and where they would be punished for using their original languages and religions. One way to destroy a group is to kill them all. Another way is to wipe out their culture, and too often missionaries were part of that.



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