Short essay about History of Korean Civilization

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Compose an important historical question and write an analytical essay addressing that question. Alternatively, you may analyze a popular culture product (film, TV drama, or fiction) about a historical figure or event. The essay should include discussion of relevant primary source materials and engage key secondary literature on the topic.

This paper assignment tests your analytical thinking and writing abilities. In addition to your ability to incorporate the material covered in the course, grading will be based on the cogency and originality of the argument(s), the organization of the paper, and the clarity of the writing.

You are free to formulate your own research question(s) regarding the topic of your choice, but make sure to engage class readings and discussions as much as possible.

Depending on the topic and questions, you may have to do additional research at the library and find books, articles, and/or primary source materials beyond those contained in the syllabus. You are required to use some primary sources (at least two quotations), either from assigned readings or from your own research, as evidence for your argument(s).

Your essay should focus on a problem of historical interpretation. It should not simply be a description of events or a recitation of facts.

To reiterate, the paper should be organized around your own questions and argument(s). At the same time you need to demonstrate that you actually did the required work for the course by quoting or referring to material from the assigned readings, the lectures, and discussions. (I will send a link of class readings later.)

Format: Your essay must be 4-to-5 pages, 12 point font, 1 inch margin and double spaced. A short “Works Cited” page should follow the main body of the paper. It is not counted as part of the page length.


Sample questions (for your reference only):

  1. What are the nature and characteristics of the tribute relationship between China (Ming and Qing) and Chosŏn Korea? Include in your discussion why Chosŏn agreed to participate in the China-centered tribute system, instead of asserting its independence, and what were advantages and disadvantages for Chosŏn in doing so.
  1. What were the factors behind changes in women’s status from Koryŏ to early Chosŏn to the late Chosŏn period? What are some of the signs of the declining status of women in the late Chosŏn period?
  1. Compare the effects of Buddhism and Confucianism on Korean politics and society.
  1. Compare the elites of the Silla, Koryŏ, and Chosŏn periods. How were they different, and was there a trend in any direction over time? What is the yangban (Chosŏn period)?
  1. What were the effects of the examination system on Korean society and politics?
  1. Why has the Story of Spring Fragrance (Ch’unhyang-jŏn) been so popular among Koreans? What were the elements of its popular appeal? Was the story subversive? Or did it legitimize the Confucian system?

If you opt to write an analysis of a popular culture product (film, TV drama, or fiction) about a historical figure or event, read the text (popular culture product) as a historian hoping to use it as research material, and write an essay that incorporates the following issues (no specific order), citing examples from the material. This option also requires that you must engage class readings and discussions as much as possible.

  1. Think about the genre of the text, who the author(s) are, and the way the text was produced and circulated. How should a historian approach the text?
  1. How is the historical figure’s life (or historical event) being interpreted and remembered? What issues are salient in that representation?
  1. Can such portrayal be backed up by historical evidence? Is the narrative convincing?
  1. What might be the merit of this text in furthering our understanding of the period’s history? Any shortcomings?
  1. Any other aspects you would like to discuss.

Footnotes/ Endnotes

You are required to use footnotes or endnotes for all direct quotations and to indicate the sources of material you are using and the arguments made by others. As for form, you may follow any style manual, but the following are standard examples.

For a book, the first citation of any source should contain the name(s) of the author(s), the title of the book underlined or italicized, the place of publication, publisher, and date of publication, followed by the page(s) cited.

Example: Kyung Moon Hwang, A History of Korea (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 1-2.

For subsequent citations of the same source, you need only to provide the author’s last name, a shortened version of the title of the book, and the page(s) cited.

Example: Hwang, A History of Korea, p. 100.

For an article, the name(s) of the author(s), the title of the article in quotation marks, the title of the journal underlined or italicized, the volume number and number of the series (e.g., vol. 5, no. 2 or 5.2), and the page(s) cited.

Example: James B. Palais, “Confucianism and the Aristocratic/Bureaucratic Balance in Korea,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 44.2 (December 1984), pp. 427-428.

Exclusive or heavy use of information gathered over the Internet should be avoided. Much of the material on the web is unreliable. If, however, you believe that the information you have found on the net is reliable or you believe such information is essential for your argument, use it and clarify the source in a footnote or endnote, providing the day of access and the full web address. Papers that only or mostly contain URLs to web material as references in footnotes/endnotes will be severely downgraded.

Your analysis must be your own analysis. If you reference another author’s analysis, you must attribute their work by citing the source. Incident of plagiarism will be dealt with following official university rules.

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