Note, the edition of the Popol Vuh/Popol Wuj that you have includes the transliteration of the original Kʼicheʼ Maya language. This was an oral text centuries before it was transcribed. The presence of the Kʼicheʼ version allows you to see the poetic form of the story and reminds us to be humble as we think about/interpret the story in a different language and different context whence it came.
Every week, in preparation for class, students will write a pre-class journal entry between 300 and 500 words written in paragraph form using proper sentence structure and grammar. This entry is not as formal as an academic essay, but it should demonstrate a clear effort to organize one’s thoughts.
The journal entry for each week should do the following:
1. Summary (1-2 paragraphs depending on the number of readings): Provide a comprehensive summary for each of the readings (primary and secondary). The summary should explain the main idea of the reading. For example, I might write the following: “The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Akkadian/Sumerian myth that follows the exploits of the hero Gilgamesh to provide the religious and ethical framework for ancient Mesopotamian society. Gilgamesh is a brutal king but is directly favored by the gods such that his punishments are often merciful opportunities for him to learn lessons about what it means to be a good person. Through a series of mis-steps and lessons learned—including losing his best friend--Gilgamesh realizes the meaning of life and the place of humans in the world.” Those few sentences would be sufficient for a summary of a reading.
2. Analysis (1-2 paragraphs): Offer an analysis on the readings that identifies one major themes in the reading as it relates to questions of religious imagination or worldview. Name specific events, characters, tone, setting, and/or other elements of the reading as evidence that clearly supports your reading. For instance, if I might say the following: The first chapter of Genesis is one of two stories of creation in the Hebrew Bible (and Christian Old Testament). I was struck by the ways that the world was divided in accordance with time. For instance, every new day marked a new differentiation of creation. I also noticed the repetition of phrases such as, “And God said,” “And God created,” followed by “And God saw…it was very good” (Genesis 1, 1-31). Based on the way the text moves methodically without privileging any particular day or type of creation, I would argue that the focus is on two things: (1) establishing the significance of sacred time in the world and (2) emphasizing a non-hierarchical goodness of all creation.
Once again, it only takes a few sentences that incorporate a few quotations or specific references to make your initial analysis. This will be a springboard for our discussions because we will try to use these cursory reflections to tease out the more intricate ways that texts provide us with the tools for interpreting them.
The analysis is your opportunity to focus your reading and begin to interpret the ideas we will engage in class discussion. If there is more than one reading for a given week, identify a theme that the readings share in common and articulate how the readings demonstrate that theme and/or support your assessment. Be sure to provide one or two quotations and/or excerpts from the readings that support your reflection.
Journal entries must be typed and properly formatted in either APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian style, using 12-point font (Times New Roman or similar)
EVIDENCED-BASED ANALYSIS: After class weeks 1-7, students will complete an analytical reflection in which they identify one idea for further exploration or research. The reflections should be approximately 500 words, written in complete sentences and properly formatted. Students must complete 4 analyses. If a student chooses to complete more than four, the instructor will choose the four highest grades among the submissions.
Each reflection should do the following:
(1) identify a common element or theme in two or more of the readings for the week
(2) explain where this element/theme occurs in each of the readings
(3) cite one passage or quotation from one of the readings that clearly provides evidence to support your claim that this element/theme is held in common. Use in-text citations with page numbers to document evidence.
(4) in your own words, reconnect the quotation cited to your main idea, making it clear why this quote or passage is good evidence to justify your claim
(5) repeat steps 3 and 4 for each reading you are examining
(6) despite the above commonality, briefly identify one fundamental difference in the way this element or theme emerges in the readings (such as the way a different historical or cultural context engenders a different emphasis on the theme)