Feedback on Exam 2

Essays had to incorporate details from selections in the reader to receive a passing grade.

Commonly misspelled words:

Question #1:
Identify and discuss a reading from Reading About the World either by or about women in each of the following cultures: Rome, Christianity, India, Confucian-influenced China, other aspects of China. Explain briefly what each selection tells us about the roles or status of women in their culture.

Most people did fairly well on this question, though many skipped the "other aspects of China" section, losing a full point. Note that essay questions almost always have five parts, one point to a part. If you don't see five points at first, re-read the question.

Most people used the "Epitaph for a Roman Wife" to convey the idea of a good wife and mother in ancient Rome. The best answers specifically mentioned details, such as that one of her children had died, or that she span wool. More creative answers used Propertius' poem "Like Ariadne Lying on the Shore" to discuss the surprising assertiveness that a woman could have in a romantic relationship.

Most people used "Paul on marriage vs. celibacy," but some read things into it that just aren't there. He isn't urging virginity before marriage here--he takes it for granted. If you haven't been married before, he assumes you're a virgin--male and female.

He also does not assert that the main goal of marriage is to bear children. He says specifically that since "the time is short" "let even those who have wives be as though they had none." Paul is not always so anti-sexual as in this passage, but it is not justified to import what you know from other selections to explain this one. Nothing in the passage urges people to reproduce. Few people seemed to grasp the point about marrying if you can't control your desire for your fiancée. Paul prefers self-control, but if you're afraid you will get carried away, you'd better get married. In this passage marriage is more an accomodation for human weakness than an exalted institution for the begetting of children.

One interpretation of this passage is that women are viewed to some extent by Paul as an encumberance and obstacle to spiritual perfection. Note that most of the passage is addressed to men.

There were some nice answers on India from Sakuntala, particularly impressive because I didn't discuss it much in class. Some people talked about women's beauty, others about submissiveness and love.

Other people chose one of the love poems, particularly the Love Songs for Krishna, though some people seemed confused about their religious meaning. Some repeated my point that in a polygamous society a religious belief that encourages women to be tolerant of other women in a relationship makes sense from a male perspective.

Ban Zhao's essay on women was the obvious answer for Confician China, and most people did find on that, though quite a few had trouble spelling her name.

The most popular choice for non-Confucian China was Fu Hsüan's poem, and most people did fine jobs with it. A few used the moving eulogy to his dead wife by Mei Yao Ch'en, which showed inventiveness.

Weak answer:
In the Propertius' poem he brings apples home to his wife after a party when he comes home drunk. [Cynthia is not his wife, and what does this tell us about the roles of women in Rome?] In Christianity, the miracle based on faith shows a woman being healed by her faith. [Again, what does this have to do with the question?] In the Vidyapati poem "For heaven's sake, listen, listen, O my darling" the swears he will be faithful to his wife. This shows the importance of women in India. [In the first place, this is not about a husband and wife; it's the god Krishna speaking to his lover, Radha. Other poems make clear that he is in fact not faithful to her, though he professes his love here. Women did not have very powerful roles in India.] In Ban Zhao's poem "Lessons for Women" women are treated as not important. [Right, but 1) it's not a poem and 2) you need to give a few details from the selection to illustrate what she has to say. This answer also omits the last required part of the essay: "other aspects of China."]

Good answer:
The "Epitaph for a Roman wife" makes clear that men valued good looks, housekeeping skills, and child rearing in women. Paul's passage on marriage and celibacy is clearly addressed to men, since he says "you" to people considering taking a wife. He seems to see wives as mostly a burden, to be avoided if possible because the world is about to end. Women are tempting, however, and if a man can't control himself around his fiancée, he can go ahead and get married to avoid sin. But he generally prefers celibacy. In Vidyapati's poem "He promised he'd return tomorrow," Radha has to learn to accept the fact that Krishna loves other women beside her. This reflects the values of a polygamous culture in which women sometimes have to tolerate additional wives. Ban Zhao's "Lessons for Women" contains traditional Confucian teachings on women, admonishing them to be submissive, hard-working, and modest. She objects to the Chinese tradition of not educating them, however. Finally, Fu Hsüan's poem about being a woman describes the downside of Confucian values: girls are not valued and women suffer from neglect when their husbands take new wives.

Question #2:
Compare what you learned in class about Christianity with what you learned about Hinduism: number of Gods, goal and nature of salvation, life after death, ethics, rituals, how important it is to hold specific beliefs. Draw on lectures, Reading About the World, and Duiker for your answers: this is a test on what you've learned here, not what you already knew about these religions.

A weak answer to this question:
Christianity believes in one God, but Hinduism believes in a lot of different ones for different things. [In the first place religions don't believe; people believe in religions. Write "Christians believe" or "Christianity teaches." No gods named or described.] Christians want to go to heaven, Hindus to Nirvana. [Too sketchy, and "Nirvana" is a Buddhist term, not a Hindu one.] Christians are saved by being good and Hindus have strict rules to follow. [Here's the perfect place to draw on the reader and give details.] Christian ethics are the Ten Commandments [These are Jewish, though most are commonly followed by Christians.] Hindus have to follow a lot of specific laws. [Examples?] Christians don't have set rituals except Christmas and going to church but Hindus have many important rituals you have to do [neither of these statements is true]. Hindus do self-mutilation. [I was careful in lecture to stress that Duiker's mention of "self-mutilation" is misleading and that you shouldn't use it in a test; such behavior, and animal sacrifice, are highly unusual, very untypical of Hindus.] Believing in Jesus is important in Christianity and Hindus have many important beliefs. [The question doesn't ask what beliefs are important; it asks how important it is to hold certain beliefs.]

Good answer:
Christians believe in a single God divided into three persons, as stated in the Nicene Creed: Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit. Hindus believe in thousands of gods with different functions, but they are all ultimately part of a single spiritual thing: Brahman. We saw pictures of Shiva, the destroyer, Kali, the demon-slayer, with her necklace of skulls; and the blue-skinned Krishna, making love with Radha. Christians hope to be resurrected after death and live forever in Heaven; Hindus hope to cease being reborn and merge with all other living things, blending their atman in the Brahman. Christians can get to Heaven through faith (as described in the selection on salvation by faith by Paul) though some teachings also seem to stress good deeds as well. Christians believe you have only one chance and that only a minority of people go to Heaven, as it says in the reader. Hindus believe that all people will eventually enter Brahman, but only after many rebirths. Christianity preaches forgiveness ("love your enemy," and compassion for the poor). Hinduism also preaches generosity to the poor, as reflected in the poetry we read; but there are many different sorts of ethics depending on how old you are, what your caste is, and whether you are a man or a woman. There's not one set ethical standard for everybody. Christian rituals discussed in the reader include baptism (description of John baptising Jesus) and communion (the Last Supper). Hindus can follow many different forms of puja, such as sacrifices to gods, bathing in sacred rivers, and meditation; but few are universal. In Christianity it is vital to believe in Jesus Christ, or be damned to Hell for all eternity; but Hindus think you can follow many different paths to moksha, and that eventually everyone will achieve liberation.

Question #3:
Discuss the impact of Confucianism on Chinese civilization. When did it originate? What are its main concepts? What were its effects on government, education, religion? Discuss at least three relevant examples from Reading About the World.

Most people remembered that Confucius lived during the fifth century BCE. The best answers explained some of the terms like jen and hsiao from the list presented in class. Those who mentioned only dao often did not bother to distinguish Confucianism from Daoism. The themes of humanity, virtue, good government, and traditionalism were important. Confucianism is a major factor in contributing to Chinese conservativism, which in turn helped keep the civilization stable. The fact that its preferred form of education involved the rote memorization of classical texts meant that it acted as a unifying, stabilizing force. It was crucial to mention that the system of civil service examinations that eventually emerged was based on the study of these traditional Confucian texts, so that those in political power were always indoctrinated with Confucian ideals. Many people mentioned the passage from the Analects about not treating others as you would not like to be treated (though some misquoted it). Quite a few talked about how Confucius placed little emphasis on religious belief though he supported the performance of rituals for tradition's sake. Generally the selections chosen from the reader were appropriate.

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