Assignment 0

for the Week of 8/27/08

Welcome to your first assignment page

This assignment page will go into more detail and be a much longer winded than usual about the mechanics of using the class materials and the web site.  Normally these pages won’t be quite so wordy.

How to Use the Assignment Page and How to Prepare and Submit Homework:


All assignments will be posted on pages like this one.


They will generally consist of a list of commands like Read, Write, Draw, Consider… etc.


Readings will either be from the books I asked you to buy or from web materials that will be located in the eLibrary or will have links to outside sources. Sometimes a PDF in the eLibrary will be rather large [e.g. 10 MB].  When this is the case I will generally post a smaller but fuzzier resolution version along with the large master copy so that anyone with a bad internet connection will have a fighting chance of downloading the reading.  Be aware that .htm files in the eLibrary often have accompanying “files/” with the same name. [E.g. Shakespeare-Hamlet.htm vs. Shakespeare-Hamlet_files/.]  Click on the .htm file, not the “files/” link.  The “files/” link is just a folder of the images for the .htm link.


Homeworks assignments are due the week on which they are assigned unless specified otherwise.  In general a written assignment will be due on a Thursday. I prefer physical paper for assignments so that I can more easily comment on your work, but you may occasionally submit your homework as an email attachment or a link if the electronic medium is more appropriate for your particular submission, i.e. you have done a short movie or a web site or a graphic intensive essay, or of your printer is acting up.  Homework submitted electronically tends to be graded slower than paper homework. 


Cite everything.  I’ll let you know if you are going to far with citations, but I can’t think of this ever having happened.  Cite me from a lecture, cite your roommate’s strange observation, cite the conversation you had with your pals at 3:00 am around the family hookah (or narghile or nargileh), cite your dream about early animal domestication or the video game that referred to some idea you had… make up the format if you are not sure… cite the newspaper article you read and mentioned, cite your mother.  Think of your life as one giant lab.  Record all data.

For Thursday:


1- Email me at from an email account that you check regularly so that the return address is functional. [I suggest you put this email address in your address book.] If you are not officially registered for this class, tell me your status in this email. If you have any special interests or things you’d like me to know about you, feel free to tell me about them, otherwise you can just say, “Hey.” This is extremely important and it will be graded.


2- Read this class policy document: Class Policies.  These are the nuts and bolts for the class.  A link to this is also on the   Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008].

Intermission - Tutorial- How to use the  eLibrary. The readings listed in bold on this page can be found in the  eLibrary. Some readings are PDF and others are .htm and still other materials might be .jpg or some other file type. The PDFs may take a few minutes to download, depending on your connection, so be patient.  My browser initially claims that PDFs viewed within the browser have “failed to open” even though if you wait everything seems to work just fine. You may prefer right-clicking on the PDF in the  eLibrary and downloading it to your hard drive for reading and safe keeping. You may print them if you want, but it is not necessary.  I usually read PDFs on screen and take notes in a Word.doc or on real paper. Either way, take notes, otherwise your time reading them will have been wasted, unless you have a really good memory.  I don’t, so I buy my memory by the gigabyte. Taking notes slows you down, but it means that you usually don’t have to read the material ever again.

3- Read: Read pp. 31-42, and 45-49 (On writing), in Chapter 3 of McClellan and Dorn (the textbook) on ancient river civilizations.


4- Read chapters 1-3 (often referred to as Books I-III) in Genesis from the Judeo/Christian Bible found here:  Genesis:1. If this link is too difficult to read, try this one: Genesis:I.  If this one is still too difficult try this one: Genesis:Vulg.  Perhaps this one?: Genesis-Ara.pdf. 


                      I am guessing that the above Genesis readings were too difficult.  Now, everybody read the one found in the eLibrary filed under Alter_Five_Books_of_Moses-Genesis1-3.pdf, [Definitely read this one. The others were just me being annoying.] Read pp. 9-12 and 17-28 in this translation.  Read all footnotes too!  Take notes and form some questions that you may have on this section.  Pay particular attention to light and time the elements and human creation issues.  [Feel free to read more from Genesis, for it is really fascinating, but not required for this assignment.]  Read this like a historian and a scientist, not like a devotee. Read this like you would a textbook, not a religious text. I suggest you outline or make a timeline covering the 7 days in your notes. What happened on which day?


                      Now go to this web site: Linked-Word-Project from Bob Jones University. Each word or phrase from this different English translation is linked to a Hebrew dictionary. Poke around and look up a few words (by clicking them) here and there and see what sorts of alternate meanings you find. Note the similarities and differences. 


5- Read this short little thing on how old texts are pieced together and proofed against one another: textual criticism. 


6- Omni-Homework- Write (This writing assignment is Omni-Homework and is to be done by everyone.  It does not count as one of your 5 homework assignments as described in the Class Policies page.). It is to be turned in on Thursday, 8/28, select a section of about 2 or more lines and retranslate it using the dictionary feature in this site [Linked-Word-Project] and totally screw around with the meaning of the passage. 

Format for this task:

a) Write out the standard English passage that you have chosen to “translate” as given in this web site  [Linked-Word-Project]. 

b) Then write out the same passage from the eLibrary translation that I had you read: Alter_Five_Books_of_Moses-Genesis1-3.pdf.  Note any differences and how they change the meaning of the passage.

c) Then give your version. See what you can make it say. For example, click on the work “heaven” and you get several meanings: heavens, sky, abode of the stars, visible universe, atmosphere, etc.  Comment liberally on what you have done and discuss tricky decisions you had to make in order to make your version make sense or make nonsense. Granted, this is a silly exercise, but it gives you a taste (though overly simplistic) of the translator’s dilemma and may demonstrate that translation is trickier that it seems, especially when translating literature from a society with a very different view of how the world works.  [It would be better if this site gave the Hebrew first and were a bit more rigorous, but you get the point.]  For any of you who might read Hebrew, Greek, or Latin, you could similarly translate a section from the sites I linked to above using your own dictionary. See what you come up with.  Have fun with this.  There are no wrong translations.  Don’t be boring!

                      My observation: Languages with small vocabularies tend to give multiple meanings to the same word.  This makes for good poetry and lots of fun making puns, but it can be a bit tricky for technical or scientific writing.  Also, a metaphor in one time or society may not be a metaphor in another.  E.g. “The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.”  We now imagine a heliocentric solar system, whereas most people before the 15th century imagined a geocentric terra system.  The statement isn’t wrong in either context, but the type of statement changes.

Here are the citations for the above works:


The Bible: The Unbound Bible. Produced by Boila University., accessed 2007.


McClellan, James E., and Harold Dorn. Science and Technology in World History : An Introduction. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.


Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004.

Back to Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]


Have a question or need to report a bad link?  Email me:


Those who report problems with this site will get a star next to their names.  I need to know if everything works.


Images for Your Perusal


Here are a few images from Genesis as interpreted by a few European artists from the past.  How well do they represent the story as you read it?  Are they chronologically accurate?  What things are invented?  Why are they invented?  Although I am not asking that you do anything with these images officially for this week, these could have been good essay material.  Why are these images so weird?  The answer has as much to do with Aristotle and Greek philosophy as it has to do with the Bible.  We will be discussing some of this in later classes. 


Pay attention to the worlds shown in these images.

There is/are physics and chemistry and medicine and astronomy and botany and zoology and in these pictures.

Here are two images from the mystic Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179).

She was an artist, a composer, a theologian, a mystic, and an all around interesting woman.

Here is a link for more information on her: Hildegard-Grove_Article




Interesting Science News

(I will often put links to interesting science and technology news items. Sometimes they are relevant to what we are studying, and sometimes they are not.  These are not required reading.  I found them interesting and thought you might too.  If you run across an interesting story, let me know.)


New Sphere in Exploring the Abyss by William Broad of the NY Times

(Deep sea explorers are getting a new Alvin submersible capable of diving 4+ miles deep.)


Nijhuis - Friend or Foe? Crows Never Forget a Face, It Seems

Crows know who you are and where you live.  Watch out!



Back to Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]


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Review materials: Posted 10/5/08