Tibetan Renaissance Seminar > Assignments

Assignments in the Tibetan Renaissance Seminar


There are 13 weeks in the semester after week 1's introduction. Students must do an assignment every other week; on the weeks when assignments are not due, students must provide a careful critique-response of an assignment by another student from the previous week. Thus, each week a student will either by submitting an assignment or a critique. On the first class, the seminar's participants are divided into two equal groups, and then assigned to do assignments on odd or even weeks so that there is an equal number of students doing assignments each week.

Assignments are chosen from three different groups of types of assignments given below in the corresponding three sections. You can not do a given type of assignment more than once and some types of assignments are required. Please read the following carefully. You cannot sign up for 2 assignments in 1 week, and use that to justify doing NO assignments in another week.

Posting Assignments in Participants, Student-Generated Content, and

You should post your assignments on three distinct pages: your own page under Participants, under the type of assignment as listed on Student Generated Content, and on Weekly Calendar of Activities. This is a trivial amount of work to post the assignments on these three pages. The Participants page allows the instructor to easily review each student's work as a whole; the Student Generated Content pages allow all participants to see all the work done for a given type of assignment - such as all biographies, etc., and the Weekly Calendar of Activities allows everyone to easily see new work that is being done.

You must plan out your assignments and insert them on the respective WIKI pages by the second class meeting. However, you are free to change your plans over the course of the semester. See the final section on this page for details.

Participants is the place where the instructor, other students, and yourself can and will enter assessment and responses to your work.

Collaborative Work and a Single Interpretative Arc

Each student is required to find a thematic arc overall in the assignments (even if a few assignments may not participate in this arc) - a region, a sect, a person, a theme (art, monastic structure, lay movements). You must choose this and post it on your participant by by the end of the second week. This will constitute a subject matter you are devoted to, that you can go continually deepen and nuance over the semestr. This encourages everyone to feel they are following through with a semester inquiry of their own, which constitutes a thread that gets woven into the fabric of the overall course.

Students are also required to do at least two assignments collaboratively, so as to enable more progress into meaning via the shared responsibilities, as well as explore the difficulties and rewards of collaborative work.

General Guidelines on Assignments

There are three basic goals in most assignments: factual/basic details, a synoptic presentation of the item in question, and analytical-interpretative comments on the significance of the item. The goal is to teach you how to do analytical work on sources, and then bring interpretative work out of that detail analysis.

The synoptic presentation should not just be a few facts strung together, but should show your ability to analyze the item and present its essentials in a smoothly flowing fashion that indicates the key features and their interrelationships.

The analytical-interpretative comments should address the issue of what is of note about this item? what is of interest? These comments should enable the reader of your entry to go away having felt they learned something of value, not just a bunch of uninterpreted facts. Ask yourself if a reader would look over what you have done and have a good sense of the significance and interest of the item. Ask yourself if someone looks would they be interested at all in what you wrote? have you given some broader context? Whether it’s a term, person, or place – ask yourself, what indicates how this thing is of interest?

Start with questions even if wildly speculative, then as you analyze the facts try to start answering these questions, and slowly refine your questions. Even if all you do is produce more interesting questions, that would be an achievement. You may think that I can never understand anything since to understand the smaller details I need to understand the bigger questions, while to understand the bigger questions I need to understand the smaller details. That is a classical hermeneutical dilemma that applies to all attempts to analyze and understand something. The practical resolution is we leap into the back and forth of questions and answers, by which we slowly develop better understanding through trial and error of both the big questions and the small details.

Also keep in mind that we are studying a specific time period of Tibetan history, so that you need to relate it back to.

Also remember the central role of the Blue Annals, and when at all possible, analyze how the item in question plays a role in the Blue Annals and give clear page references. Also keep in mind that the Blue Annals is a history positioned in a much later time period than the events it is discussing. Thus, like with all histories, you can both examine the time period of its author, and consider how the discussion and portrayal of the past is driven by the author’s agenda, or the assumptions and agendas of the communities he participates in; and you can examine the time period being potrayed, and treat the history as an imperfect but important source of information on that time period. Thus we have the Renaissance in terms of what was going on during that time period, but also the “Renaissance” and its events, figures, and movements as they are reinterpreted over time in Tibetan history. Both of these are important to us, though in general we are focused on the former.

You do NOT need to pick assignments that relevant to the readings for that week. You can do any subject at any date.

Whenever you have a bibliography or list of sources, put that at the bottom under a header that says “Sources”.

I. Blue Annals assignments (all 5/6 required)

These are all required assignments. Each one must be done for a different "fragment" in the Blue Annals. The one exception is that #2 and #3 may be done for the same chapter. This work must be done following the relevant guidelines, and is due at Sunday 12 noon the day before the class meeting in question on the Collab site for the seminar.

  1. Summary of a Blue Annals Chapter
  2. Thematic Markup of Blue Annals Chapter in English: Review & correction of thematic markup of chapter in translation from The Blue Annals.
  3. Thematic Markup of Blue Annals Chapter in Tibetan: Thematic markup of chapter in original Tibetan from The Blue Annals largely from scratch. THIS IS ONLY FOR STUDENTS DOING TIBETAN LANGUAGE STUDY.
  4. Annotated Thematic Bibliography: Annotated thematic bibliography of related resources to the week's topic(s).
  5. Timeline of a Chapter: This involves going through a chapter and extracting all events with a temporal anchor and putting them in a structured timeline database.
  6. Reference Analysis of a Chapter: This involves going through a chapter and drawing up an exhaustive list of one category of terms - either places, people, or organizations - with basic documentation of their attributes in a structured way, that you then analyze and interpret.

The 15 Blue Annals chapters vary from 20 pages to 320 pages, so obviously it would not be fair for the six specific Blue Annals assignments if people simply chose a single chapter. The bibliography assignment should be keyed to a single chapter, and the chapter summary just makes no sense to break it down further, except that for the very lengthy chapter eight, which for summaries we can break down into 3 one hundred page segments. For the latter, I would like three people to work together on that hopefully to negotiate the boundaries, and so something collaborative. The other four assignments - thematic markup in two languages, timeline, and reference analysis, I would like to see you do 40-60 page segments. If you are involved in a chapter that is longer, I hope you can reach out and negotiate with others. I have set up a WIKI called Seeking Partners to register your advertisements on this issue! What I want is an average of 40-60, so its ok to me if you do a short chapter for one thing, and a longer chapter for another thing, as long as the AVERAGE is 40-60.

Structured Analysis Assignments (select 5/6)

  1. Biography: an interpretative biographical sketch of a major figure
  2. Gazetteer Feature Entry:
  3. Structured Monastery Entry:
  4. Text Analysis: could be chapter analysis. an analysis of a single Tibetan text
  5. Term Dictionary Analysis: a study of 3 key Tibetan terms as they appear across The Blue Annals and supplemented by references in our other readings.
  6. Event Analysis:
  7. Background Topical Research: Background research on specific topics from the readings

Essay assignments (select 2)

  1. Place Essay: town, cultural region, etc. an interpretative-analytical essay on a single place, polity, ethnicity, or monastery
  2. Organization Essay: This should be interpreted very broadly an type of collective body or corporate entity with formal or informal character. Examples include clans, monasteries, polities, political organizations, sects, religious lineages, deity cults.
  3. Concept Encyclopedia Analysis:
  4. Suspicious Topical Essay: Critical/suspicious analysis of readings
  5. Interpretative Topical Essay: Interpretative synthetic essays on topics from the readings
  6. Methodological Essay: Additional analysis of theoretical issues and approaches

Subject Index

This is just a short list of subjects that could be covered in the above essays - Architecture, Art, Environment, Literature, Medicine, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Religious Practices, Ritual, etc.

Posting Assignment Plans in Calendars

Once you have made your selections, please post them in the calendar. Go to the week in question, and under the "student generated content" header, add to a bulleted list there (i.e. put an asterisk and space in front of the item). Until you are ready to post something, do NOT make a WIKI page with brackets, but rather just write the item in plain text with your name and date. For example, "A Biography by John Smith (last revised 01/09/2007)". When you do post a draft of the item, give it an actual title, and make that into a WIKI page. For example, "Joe Doe 1456-1521 by John Smith (last revised 02/09/2007)". If you revise it later, keep changing the revised date in the list. Also, when you actually post the WIKI page, also link it to other relevant pages. The following give the guidelines for how to post the initial intention to do that assignment, and then also how to title the actual WIKI page when you know the details. If only one guideline is given, it means the actual title will be the same:

  1. [Summary of Blue Annals Ch 1 Imperial]: for subsequent chapters, use these short hand abbreviations in place of "Imperial": Later Spread, Early Translations, New Mantra, Kadampa, Philosophy, Tantra, Kagyu, Shangpa, Kalacakra, Great Seal, Peace-Making, Cutting, Great Compassion, Miscellaneous.
  2. [Blue Annals English Ch 1 Imperial]: see above.
  3. [Blue Annals TibetanCh 1 Imperial]: see above.
  4. [Timeline Blue Annals Ch 1 Imperial]: : see above.
  5. [Reference Analysis Blue Annals Ch 1 Imperial]: : see above.
  6. A Thematic Bibliography TO [Weapons Annotated Bibliography]
  7. A Biography TO [Sonam Gyatso 1456-1521]
  8. Gazetteer Feature Entries TO [Lhasa], etc. for as many places as you do.
  9. Structured Monastery Entries TO [Ganden Monastery], etc. for as many monasteries as you do.
  10. Text Analysis TO [Stages of Path by Tsongkhapa]
  11. Term Dictionary Analysis TO [chos nyid], etc. for as many terms as you do.
  12. Event Analysis TO [The Great Council of 1234], etc. for as many events as you do.
  13. Background Topical Research TO [Title of Essay]
  14. A Place Essay TO [Title of Essay]
  15. An Organization Essay TO [Title of Essay]
  16. A Concept Encyclopedia Analysis TO [Title of Essay]
  17. A Suspicious Topical Essay TO [Title of Essay]
  18. An Interpretative Topical Essay TO [Title of Essay]
  19. A Methodological Essay TO [Title of Essay]

Student Critiques/Responses to other Students' Work

Every other week students are expected to write a formal critique/response to another student's assignment from the previous week. This provides students immediate peer feedback, and is invaluable in building a community in the classroom where dialogs are transpiring outside the classroom as well as inside. It also provides students helpful insights into how to write useful critiques.

Details to be posted.