Hessler’s River Town or Chang’s Factory Girls

GHUM 252 Final Paper
For this paper you will produce a close reading of either Hessler’s River Townor Chang’s Factory Girls. Your close reading will focus on how you think the author curates their depiction of China and its Chinese inhabitants. The argument should involve external research that covers similar topics in a different fashion. After you’ve analyzed the way in which the author curates their material, you will make an argument about how that curation affects the accuracy of their depiction. This argument will also depend on external research that supports or conflicts with what you see in the original author.
Important things to remember:
1) You don’t have to cover every single way in which the author curates his/her material. As with the first paper, find a single theme you think shapes the book’s approach to key aspects of Chinese culture.
The theme could be economics, gender, education, psychology, subjectivity—whatever you happen to see as important to the author. You’ll need to figure out the author’s attitude towards that theme, how that attitude shapes their selection and presentation of material, and whether that selection is more or less accurate.
2) Remember to focus on close reading. Find specific passages and specific words that you think provide evidence for your claim. You might also look at how the book is structured—which information gets presented when? Take time to go back and find places where the author talks about how she/he approaches the material. Are they consistent in their approach?
3) Make sure you define accuracy, both for you and for the author
4) You’ll need outside research for both sections, but primarily the second section. In the first section I’d like to see outside research used as a counterpoint to your argument about the author’s approach to curation.
For instance: “Although he never states his belief explicitly, Peter Hessler thinks that Chinese people are made out of hot lava. This comes out in his focus on heat-based topics such as spicy food, as well as his use of metaphors that invoke verbs and adjectives associated with volcanoes. Notice, for example, how Hessler describes noodles as ‘melt in your mouth’ delicious. Typical descriptions of noodles talk about them as slimy or chewy, as in this restaurant review: ‘The noodles were slimy, and also chewy!’
In the second section you’ll be more thorough with your research, trying to evaluate the accuracy of the author’s depiction. Find specific claims that the author makes, or come up with an implicit claim based on their approach to curation. Then, compare that claim with other sources. Are they similar? Different? Both? Which is more accurate and why?
Example: “Although Hessler’s belief that Chinese people are made out of lava is mistaken, this actually allows him to be more accurate in his depiction of Chinese culture.”
5) Each section should be 3-4 pages, which means your paper should be between 6-8 pages. Don’t sweat the page limit—focus on good writing.
6) Think about counter-arguments. A counter-argument doesn’t respond to the author; it responds to your claim about the author.
Wrong: “It might appear as though Chinese people aren’t made out of lava because, well, people aren’t made out of lava.”
Right: “It might appear as though Hessler doesn’t think Chinese people are made out of lava, because that’s a very extreme claim, and most authors would make those kinds of claims explicit.”
7) Proofread your paper.
8) Proofread your paper.
9) Make sure you leave yourself time after completing your first draft. That way you can go over the paper with fresh eyes and find inconsistencies. Don’t be afraid to make big changes—your paper will thank you for them!