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When the Emperor Was Divine, part 1
Reading: When the Emperor Was Divine, pgs. 1-48 (“Evacuation Order No. 19” + “Train”)
Purpose: To
evaluate Julie Otsuka’s literary style against the political backdrop of the
internment of Japanese Americans during WWII
Skills/knowledge practiced: Textual
analysis; close reading; writing with citations; use of
textual evidence; developing argument; analysis of narrative techniques; genre
analysis; following proper MLA formatting guidelines; paraphrasing quotes
Submission instructions: Please submit your 250-350 word response as a Word
doc on Blackboard (no paper copies will be accepted). Every submission should
include at least one quote from the text.
Grades will be based on the completeness of your submission (including textual quotes
+ sufficient word count length) as well as proper grammar/spelling and the depth of your
critical analysis. Four points total: 1 pt. for proper citation use; 1 pt. for sufficient length;
1 pt. for sufficient depth of content/engagement; 1 pt. for proper assignment formatting.
Assignments should be formatted as follows: 12 pt. font, 1-inch margins, double-spaced
with header, page numbers, Times New Roman font, Word Count listed, Works Cited
page on separate page, submitted as Microsoft Word or PDF. This may seem like a lot
but it is the golden standard for document preparation, and if properly followed will make
your writing immediately more consistent and easier to read. See the following for an
example: MLA Citation Template and Example
Option 1: Choose a short passage from When the Emperor Was Divine in addition to a short passage
from Things Fall Apart. What similarities exist between Otsuka’s and Achebe’s respective literary styles, and
how does each authors’ unique style compare to the political and historical contexts in which they are
written? The Chicago Tribune praises the “stunning economy” of Otsuka’s writing—what effect does this
have on the narrative as a whole?
Option 2: Extending
our discussion of language and the politics of representation from
Tuesday’s class, to what extent does Otsuka’s use of English impact her ability to
represent the lives of Japanese Americans? What useful affordances does English offer
for Otsuka’s project, and how do these compare to the limitations of English in
representing others outside of English-speaking cultures?
Option 3: Reflect
on your own relationship to English—how does your use of it inform
your own worldview, and what kinds of tendencies do you find yourself ‘defaulting’ to in
your everyday life without really realizing it?

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