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In the readings for this week, Farella begins his discussion by pointing out that in Navajo, “creation” is rendered as Niilyaii or “those entities that were placed.” Zolbrod’s translation of this event carefully outlines the process of thoughtful and purposeful arrangement by the Holy People. In the Western mindset, the creation in Genesis is characterized as “ex nihilo” or creation out of nothing. Yet, a careful reading of the Genesis text suggests something different. After you have read the Navajo material for this week returned to the Genesis text and read it through the lens of Navajo cosmology. Then, answer the prompts below.
- Farella, Chapter 3 (Farella, John. The Mainstalk: A Synthesis of Navajo Philosophy. ISBN 0816512108)
- Zolbrod, pp. 35-58; 81-94(Zolbrod, Paul. The Diné Bahane: The Navajo Creation Story. ISBN 9780826310439)
- Theme Topic 2
Making use of the Social-Epistemic reading model, how is the worldview presented in the Navajo creation count different from what you understand the Genesis worldview to be? Be sure to explain your understanding of the Navajo worldview before discussing similarities and differences between the two texts. In part four of your paper, reconsider Genesis as creation via arrangement. That is, if God is a great arranger rather than a creator from nothing (as outlined in the Navajo account), what is the moral lesson for human beings? That is, what is the appropriate model of behavior for human beings?Submit your assignment in a Microsoft Word document to this assignment dropbox no later than Noon on Thursday of Week 3.
Weekly Themes: Using the Social-Epistemic Reading Model In this course, we will be exploring highly symbolic texts that reflect a culture’s understanding of its own values and the appropriate actions of a human being based on those values. So, you will be reading not as a mere reader interested in the objective message of the text (what it says and a repeating of the message as a summary); rather, you will be reading as a philosopher working to tease out how the texts come to have meaning by looking at the purposeful way the text was constructed. In order to arrive at how a text has meaning, you will have to deconstruct the text and examine how its individual parts come to express cultural values in the text.Now, this sounds complicated and for many of you this is your first exposure to close, critical, analytical reading. The key to being successful in this course is in mastering a set of heuristics (questions that aid analytical reading, thinking and writing) that will allow you to structure not just your reading and analysis of the text but also the way you write about your experience in the text. To help you become better critical readers, thinkers and writers, this course will make use of the Social Epistemic Reading Model. In short, this model aids in the analysis of complicated texts in order to extract the ideological contexts that gave rise to the particular way a text expresses the culture that produced it and what that culture values.The Social-Epistemic Reading Model:Starting with week #2, you will produce a written analysis of the reading for that week. I would recommend that you approach each week as follows. First, read the “context” section for each week to get a general overview of the readings. Then, read the “Theme Topic” suggestion to help structure your reading. If you read with the topic in mind, you can more quickly locate the ideas that will help you write your paper. Most important, read with the Social-Epistemic Reading Model in mind. Once again, you can save yourself time by deconstructing the readings as you go—rather than read the material cold, try to reconsider the theme question from memory and then go back into the reading to find supporting evidence for your ideas.That being said, your paper should be organized as follows. In order to clarify the process, I will be using the readings from week one as an example.Part I: Discuss the key term(s) in the discourse and situate them within the structure of meaning they form in the text. In other words, as you read the material, what was, to you, the most important concept or character in the text? Why? What function does the “key term” have in the text? What does it do?Example: As you read the text for week #1, “God” emerges as an important term. So, in this section explain why “God” is a key term by specifically outlining what this “concept” does in the narrative. You will want to avoid abstraction that fall outside the text and focus only on what God is doing in the narrative you are reading. If you believe that God is great because He is Lord of the Universe, that is fine. But, you will need to examine what makes God great as exemplified by the His actions in the selection of required readings. You are encouraged to make use of the secondary sources (Farella and Kass) to help ground your ideas. But, be sure to use examples (quotes) from the primary text (Alter and Zolbrod) to round out your ideas. Part II: Set the term(s) from part one in relation to their binary opposites as suggested by the text. Who or what stands in opposition to the key term you discussed above? What must your “key term” work to overcome in order to realize its true potential? This section is very much like part one, but you are to focus on the Nemesis of the “key term” explicated above.Example: What must “God” overcome in order to establish Himself as a key term? In Alter’s translation, God must contend with the “welter and waste and darkness” that stand in opposition to the order God seeks to establish. So, what function does this opposite to the “key term” have in the text? What does it do? How is it a contradiction to the key term discussed in part one?Part III: Place the terms within the narrative structural forms suggested by the text, the culturally coded stories about patterns of behavior appropriate for people within certain situations. Letting the text tell you the story, what is the nature of the relationship between the “key terms” you discussed in parts one and two? Is it a friendly rival? Violent? Considering the tone of the text, which character exemplifies “ideal behavior”? What in the text led you to this conclusion? Be sure to explain your analysis.Example: Looking at Alter’s commentary, the welter and waste is empty and futile. Yet, the actions of God make it orderly and useful. So, what does this mean? Look deeply into the text and secondary sources to arrive at a sense of what exists, what is good, and what is possible.Part IV: Now that you have deconstructed the text, put it back together in such a way that reflects your newly arrived sense of meaning regarding the text. Simply put, turn your attention to the Theme Topic and specially address the question asked there. So, now you can answer for yourself “what is the relationship between the created and the creator?A Final Word: The point of these themes is to get you to think, for yourself, what these texts mean to you. Ultimately, as we progress through the course and you become more comfortable with the process, you may find yourself reflecting more deeply on your own experiences outside the classroom. Seeing the world as a significant place that has meaning is a good thing.The Particulars:
- These themes offer you an opportunity to explore the texts using your own ideas and interests. So, what is significant is up to you. I am looking for well thought out and explained answers to the questions posed above in red. Think for yourself!
- You will have a theme due every Thursday starting in week 2. You must have placed the papers in the blackboard drop box by Noon. I will not grade later papers. The only exception to this will be during weeks 7 and 8 when a theme will not be due as you work to complete your final paper. Just follow the syllabus and weekly schedule and you will be fine.
- Each theme should be 4-5 pages long.
- The themes will be worth 50% of your final grade.