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Team Assignment Preparation & Follow-Up Analyses

The team readiness assessments (TRAs) are given every two weeks to assess your readiness for the more complex thinking required during team assignments. These assessments measure recognition & basic comprehension of (1) essential terms and (2) primary sources, including films excerpts viewed in class.

NOTE: each TRA takes place after a two-period guided reading session introducing the readings, but before the in-depth processing of readings done during team assignments. Most students thus need to allow more time than they are used to for reading and studying assigned materials on their own.

Types of Questions:

  1. Each TRA will begin with six (6) questions asking you to define, recognize examples of, and/or identify the significance of one or more of the terms & names listed below (on-line version) for each two-week period of the course. These terms are drawn from the introductory readings, mostly in SHM & EB, which are listed in the course syllabus next to the date of the relevant guided reading session.

  2. Each TRA will also contain four (4) questions asking you to (a) identify the title, composer, and historical period of the source for two unidentified excerpts drawn from the required primary sources assigned for each two-week period; as well as (b) what precedes and follows the excerpt. These excerpts will be chosen from a set of four unidentified excerpts listed for each TRA below (on-line version). Required primary sources are listed in course syllabus, next to the date of the relevant guided reading session..

    NOTE: On any given test, there may be one (1) question of these four that deals with the film excerpts viewed in class. Such a question will ask about the significance of one scene in the film in relation to overall the plot and/or characters,


Terms & Excerpts for TRAs:

for TRA #0 (Trial)
[based on SHM, 1-12, 31-32; EB listings and the four on-line readings linked to the schedule of readings; ]

Terms in "Myths,
Stories & Realitiy"
(on-line syllabus):

mythic thinking

Terms in SHM:


Terms in EB:

folk tale


"The original model used the metaphor of a 'garbage can' to describe the 'messy,' non-linear, non-rational context of decision-making in which streams of ideas, participants, solutions, problems, politics swirl. Unpredicatability, serendipity, and a measure of chaos characterize the environment....[this] model builds on the garbage can and helps us understand the dynamics of movement through those swirling streams - adding the role of policy entrepreneurs -- those who have the capital and are willing to risk it to advocate and move ideas - and policy windows - which describe opportunities to take action."

"The pond was about the size of a football field. I sat right next to the water. I started playing with some bugs on the ground, but was mostly looking at every detail around me. The sky was cloudy, so the sun would shine through every couple of minutes and then go behind a cloud. After I had looked at every detail of the hill and pond, I began to wonder about why people had to go through all these tough times. I mean, I began to think that there had to be something more to life then this destruction, “evil,” that people had to face all the time. Feeling confusion and pure desperation, I looked up at the Sky..."

"The branches surely are the faculty – without them the tree would have no form. Certainly the leaves are our students – multitudes of them in all different shapes, sizes and colors, dancing in the wind and changing with the seasons. They give evidence to the ever-altering nature of life. However, no tree can live long without a strong and healthy root system - this is the role of the staff. Through our work we bring the essential nutrients to every part of the tree. Underground, unseen, quietly and oftentimes without much tangible reward, we do our jobs proudly, with dignity and strength, for the good of the tree."

"No one else seemed to notice or care about this as they gathered before class and then hurried out at the end, some pulling out their cell phones to continue their last conversation as if they had paused it just five minutes earlier, others chatting with each other about their weekend plans. Ellen herself never thought that much about it until the day she stayed after class to tell Flowerette about her idea for the midterm paper assignment. Ellen told her she wanted to write about Lewis Caroll's life and where he got the idea for Alice, and the professor's eyes twinkled as she said, "Great choice! That classic work never seems any less relevant to me." Ellen had walked just fifty feet from the door after leaving the classroom when she remembered the water bottle she had placed under her desk, and went back to get it."


for TRA #1


Terms in SHM:

sky god
sacred animal(s)
original sin

Terms in EB:
descent line
Maori oral tradition
Pueblo tribes
Chichen Itza
Yucatan Maya


"Mayas had long pondered the obviously catastrophis fate of their ancient predecessors, those who built the great ruins that dot the land, who fought the Spaniards long ago, and who disappeared in defeat or digust. In some Maya legends that ancient race still lives in a distant land to the east, or hidden underground, or immobilized as enchanted beings of the sort whose carved images abound amongst ruined temples and pyramids. Wherever they are, Mayas have belived, those predecessors do live and await the moment of their return. Chichen Itza has seemed a likely abode for such mysterious beings, and Mayas have long spoken of a dormant king who resides there to this day, his still loyal subordinates dwelling in the subsurface water passages that honeycomb the peninsula."

“'Somebody sent you,' she said, and he noticed she was holding a small willow staff, slightly curved at one end. A cool wind blew down from the northwest rim of the mountain plateau above them and rattled the apricot leaves. He got off the mare and loosened the cinch; the horse tried to shake off sweat and fatigue. The leather and steel fittings on the saddle and bridle clashed together violently. She stepped out from under the tree then. She was wearing a man's shirt tucked into a yellow skirt that hung below her knees. Pale buckskin moccasins reached the edge of her skirt. The silver buttons up the side of each moccasin had rainbirds carved on them....she wore her hair long, like the old women did, pinned back in a knot."

"The horse was dozing under the tree.  Her left hind foot was flexed and resting on the toe, the way horses did when they had to stand in one place for a long time.  He rode slowly through the groves of dry sunflower stalks left over from better years, and it was then he saw a bright green hummingbird shimmering above the dry sandy ground, flying higher and higher until it was only a bright speck.  Then it was gone.  But it left something with him; as long as the hummingbird had not abandoned the land, somewhere there were still flowers, and they could all go on."

"At daybreak exploding rockets proclaimed the ritual 'planting' of the 'silk-cotton tree," which had been felled and brought into the shrine village the day was, in fact, a more prosaic, though economically important, sapodilla, from which chicle is bled and whose sweet fruits attract such edible prey as the coatamundi.  Cowboys in procession carried the tree horizontally on their sholders, while the Second Swineherd roade on top and posed as a cornered coatamundi.  Two...priests followed them, each with a candle in one hand and a small bell in the other, which they rang while chanting prayers in harmony, the orchestra playing tunes to match.  A motley crowd of excited, shouting men and boys brought up the rear."

Film Scene:

"My name is Paikea Apirana...and I come from a long line of chiefs, stretching all the way back to Hawaiiki, where our ancient ones are--the ones that first heard the land crying and sent a man. His name was also Paikea, and I am his most recent descendent. But I was not the leader my grandfather was expecting, and by being born, I broke the line back to the ancient ones. It wasn't anybody's fault. It just happened....But we can learn. And if the knowledge is given to everyone, we can have lots of leaders, and soon everyone will be strong, not just the ones that've been chosen. Because sometimes, even if you're the leader and you need to be strong, you can get tired. Like our ancestor Paikea, when he was lost at sea, and he couldn't find the land, and he probably wanted to die. But he knew the ancient ones were there for him, so he called out to them to lift him up and give him strength."


for TRA #2


Terms in SHM:

mother goddess
[world] creation myth

Terms in EB:

Nommo/primordial twins
lwa (=loa)


"He refused to linger over the dimensions of the moon, nor did he ever say anything about them. The moon's function was not important, and he would speak of it later. He said however that, while Africans were creatures of light emanating from the fullness of the sun, Europeans were creatures of the moon-light: hence their immature appearance. He spat out his tobacco as he spoke. [He] had nothing against Europeans. He was not even sorry for them. He left them to their desitny in the lands of the north."

"...the wild animals were the first to realize the historical significance of the man's cry, the beast's bellow and the gunshot that had just shattered the morning peace. They showed it by behaving strangely. The birds: vultures, hawks, wavers, doves, uttering strange cries, took flight from the trees, but instread of soaring they swooped down upon the land animals and men. Sartled by this unusual attack, the wild beasts charged towards the village compounds, the crocodiles rushed from the water and fled into the forest, while men and dogs, amid infernal shouting and barking, scattered and fled into the bush. The forests multiplied the echoes of the cry..."

"The drum beat of the maman "breaks" and at that very moment, a man standing on the sidelines...keels over backwards, as if stunned by the blow....The fall has been broken by several persons standing beside the man, and they are supporting him, bracing the still dead weight of his body, so that he remains on his feet. Then his body jerks violently out of its stillness, and with a mighty wrench which knocks one of his supporters to the ground, he frees himself and hurtles forward into the dance area of the peristyle. Now the drum has caught him up, catapults him from side to side. A woman who has accidently been jarred...freezes on one leg--as if this contact had been a contagion--lurches forward, is also caught up in the drums."

"...Chekura was a truly frightening creature, hideous and savage. He had glaring eyes like a black savanna buffalo. His plaited hair, laden with amulets, was haunted by a cloud of flies. He wore copper earrings, and his neck was welded to his shoulders by iron collars studded with magic charms....His nose was broad and flat, with a deep eroded furrow between nostril and cheek, like those that form at the foot ofhills. He had broad shoulders like a chimpanzee, a hairy chest and limbs; a mouth always pursed in ill-temper, an abrupt way of speaking, a shambling gait and bow-legs. He was the son and gradson of a fetish-priest, born and bred amidst sacrifices and ritual; rainy season and dry, there hung over him the scent of slaughter and burnt offerings, silent mysteries and hidden suffering."

Film Scene:

"I was waiting for you. I know why you're here. You want to know why I keep Mabo here. Is that right?...Tell me your name first...It's a nice name. Do you know what it means?...That's a pity. You don't know. What can you teach to children without knowing your own origin?..If you wish, I can explain your origin....I'll listen to you. But before, it is you who will listen to me. There are 124,000 beings between the sky and the earth, who breathe like you and me. Of all these 124,000 beings, I am only ignorant of two things: sheep and sorghum. So don't tell Mabo anymore that his ancestor was a gorilla! He was a king, Maghan Kon Fatta Konate, king of Mande....My son, knowledge is heavy with sense. Knowledge is ungraspable, complex. It might be in the breath of ancestors, in millet, in sand. It passes from spirit to man, from the man to the spirit."


for TRA #3


Terms in SHM:

Axial Age
Di/ Tian
Dao (=Tao)
prophets of Israel

Terms in EB:

Yellow River
Boxer Rebellion
Dao (=Tao)
immortal (xian)
Three Religions


"Many years earlier, Bean Curd Jong married an evil young woman. From the beginning, the household was unhappy because the wicked daughter-in-law worried and scolded her mother-in-law night and day. Finally, the old lady could bear no more, and hanged herself dressed in a bridal costume. ...After her death--as the daughter-in-law learned when she consulted a spirit medium about an illness--the old lady complained to the King of Hell about her daughter-in-law's wickedness, and she and the King of Hell together plotted the untimely death of the whole family. First the ghost of the old lady stole the soul of her son, who had violated his filial obligations by supporting his wife against her. Bean Curd Jong died shortly after his mother. His daughter was the next to die, then the evil daughter-in-law, and finally the son."

"The three schools--Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism--are like the signboards hung outside three shops. In reality they are all sellers of mixed provisions; they all sell fuel, rice, oil, salt. But the shop belonging to the Confucian family is bigger; the Buddhist and Daoist shops are smaller. There is nothing they don't stock in all the shops.....All teachings have two layers: one can be called the surface teaching, one the inner teaching. The inner teachings are all the same: the surface teachings are all different. So Buddhist monks shave their heads; Taoist priests do their hair up in a coil; you can tell at a glance which is Buddhist and which is Taoist. If you ask the Buddhist monk to keep his hair and do it up in a coil and wear a feather-trimmed coat, and the Taoist preist to shave his hair and put on a gown of camlet, then people will call them by the opposite names."

"They followed this advice and taking telescopes and rugs went up the zigzag staircase at the back. When they entered the pavilion, they sat at a table by a window and looked out toward the east. All they could see were white waves like mountains stretching away without end. To the northeast were several flecks of blue mist....Around the pavilion the wind rushed and roared until the whole building seemed to be shaking. The clouds in the sky were piled up, one layer upon another. In the north was one big bank of cloud that floated to the middle of the sky and pressed down upon the clouds that were already there, and then began to crowd more and more upon a layer of cloud in the east until the pressure seemed insufferable. The whole spectacle was most ominous. A little later the sky became a shining strip of red."

"The men of the lineage...are descended in a direct line from a common ancestor, who founded the lineage over eight hundred years ago. Seen from the outside, the lineage appears to be a highly solidary, unified social group, which struggles for power, status, and wealth with other such social groups. In the ideal view of the villagers, too, the lineage is a unitary group of brothers and kinsmen who enjoy equal status and a common social identity. Seen from within, however, the lineage i s a patchwork of competing families and sublineages. The ideal of fraternal equality is undermined by a drive for achievement that pits brother against brother. After death men who fail to rise in village society join the ranks of malevolent ghosts who popoulate the dark supernatural world of the spirit medium."

Film Scene:

"If there's mud in your pants, people will say you shit in them....Can't dodge what fate's got in store....I don't blame you. It's fate. I accept it....I've played with these my whole life. They're useless now. Didn't bring them into the world; can't take them when I go. I've broken the tradition. Broken it. It'll truly be a lost art. Don't cry...In a former life, I must've wronged you badly, and now I'm repaying the debt. It was karma....take General with you. I've given you comfort, taught you some skills. Burn spirit money for me in the ghost festivals, and you'll have done the right thing by me."


for TRA #4


Terms in SHM:
scientific rationalism
Terms in EB:


"In the first half of the year they had evening rains, which poured down fussily for a couple of hours to the tune of tremendous thunder; later in the year they had a quieter sort of rain, steadily pattering down. But no rain affected the assembly. People came shielding themselves with huge bamboo mats or umbrellas or coconut thatch. The hall became more packed during the wet season, since the people could not overflow into the outer courtyard. But it made the gathering cozy, interesting, and cool; and the swish of rain and wind in the trees and the swelling river (which made them carry their children aloft on their shoulders and cross the river only at certain shallow points) lent a peculiar charm to the proceedings."

"One fine day, beyond the tamarind tree the station building was ready. The steel tracks gleamed in the sun; the signal posts stood with their red and green stripes and their colorful lamps; and our world was neatly divided into this side of the railway line and that side. Everything was ready. All our spare hours were spent in walking along the railway track up to the culvert half a mile away. We paced up and down our platform, passed through the corridor, peeping into the room meant for the stationmaster."

"There was...the daughter-in-law who worshiped the goddess of well-being despite the mocking of her husband's family; she eventually won a kingdom for her husband, and a son and sweet revenge for herself. There was the girl, tricked into marrying a sword, who found a God-given husband, became pregnant by him, and had to endure the abuse of her in-laws, who believed her an adulteress; in the end her mother-in-law touches her feet. And there was, of course, the Brahman daughter-in-lway who offered Ganeshji butter..."

"She flew straight at the sobbing [woman], crying, 'Are you now satisfied with your handiwork, you she-devil, you demon. Where have you dropped on us from? Everything was so good and quiet--until you came; you came in like a viper. Bah! I have never seen anyone work such havoc on a young fool! What a fine boy he used to be! The moment he set his eyes on you, he was gone. On the very day I heard him mention the 'serpent girl' my heart sank. I knew nothing good could come out of it.'"

Film Scene:

"'On the banks of the river where the kadamba flower grows...' The kadamba is a flower so fragrant that people swoon in its presence. It's from Kalidasa's poem, 'Meghdoot.'...Do you know what 'Meghdoot' is?...In Sanskrit, 'Megh' means a raincloud, and 'doot,' a messenger. The poem is about the pain of separation of two lovers....The lover tells the cloud it resembles Lord Vishnu in Krishna's guise, gleaming with peacock feathers....If we believe that a statue of God can hear us, why not a cloud?...When did you become a widow?...Was your husband good to you?"

Team Assignment Preparation

To prepare for each team assignment, in addition to reviewing the primary source reading in depth, you must bring a page of notes to class which addresses the focus of the relevant team assignment, as specified below. Your page of notes should have the focus statement copied at the top, followed by 3-5 points or passages from the source, each marked with a page number. Students with no notes will receive only half credit for a given team assignment.

Trial TA:

"The assigned, on-line readings present examples of the three types of stories identified in my introductory essay--daily life, fantasy & mythic--all told on and about this campus. Decide which stories fit which type(s); then look for specific scenes (characters, events & words occuring together in specific settings) that highlight the very different characteristics of the three types, focusing especially on stories that seem to have some mythic content."

Unit 1 TAs

Team Assignment 1a:

"On p. 83-84 of "Royal Treatment," Sullivanís describes the mythic outlook of the institution that funded Sylvanus Morley's work; on p.76-77, 84-85 and p.104middle, he briefly refers to Christian concepts and Mayan apocalyptic stories told, remembered and sometimes enacted by the Mayans of Xcacal Guardia; and the remainder of his narrative shows those stories influence the Mayans' dealings with Sylvanus Morley. Identify specific events (people, actions & dialogue/words occurring together in specific settings) from chapter that seem inspired or influenced by the stories mentioned on the above-mentioned pages. (For easy reference, these are also listed under Unit 1 Mythic Stories on the last page of the course pack.)

Team Assignment 1b:

"The southwest native mythic stories told and remembered by characters in Ceremony, listed under Unit 1 Mythic Stories on the last page of the course pack, suggest connections between (a) the observable details of those characters' daily lives and (b) the purported power of ceremony to neutralize ‘witchery.' Identify the main characters, events & dialogue/words of those stories; then describe &/or draw the way those stories act as maps to guide the actions of the characters who reflect on them."

Team Assignment 1c:

"The film, book chapter and novel assigned for Unit 1 all illustrate ways that animals purportedly reveal the spiritual dimension(s) of daily life.  Identify specific scenes (characters, events & dialogue/words occurring together in specific settings) that reveal similarities in the way the sources show animals doing this; consider BOTH mythic stories themselves (see Unit 1 Mythic Stories) AND narratives that show those stories influencing people's thoughts & actions."

Unit 2 TAs

Team Assignment 2a:

"Griaulle’s Conversations with Ogotemmeli (CP, 19-34) describes the creation of the world (see Unit 2 Mythic Stories) according to one Dogon elder, with attention to the exact setting in which the story was told. Identify specific moments in the story (characters, events & dialogue/words occurring together in specific settings) that seem to invite listeners to wonder about processes in nature--including within the human body and mind--that most people don’t perceive.”

Team Assignment 2b:

"The characters in Suns of Independence tell and remember mythic stories (see Unit 2 Mythic Stories) to establish connections between (a) the observable details of their daily lives and (b) the presence of ancestor spirits guiding their descendents. Identify specific scenes (characters, events & dialogue/words occurring together in specific settings) that clearly show mythic stories in the novel making such connections."

Team Assignment 2c:

"The film, two book chapters and novel assigned for Unit 2 all illustrate ways that unseen powers manifest through natural processes.  Identify specific scenes (characters, events & dialogue/words occurring together in specific settings) that reveal similarities in the way the sources show the unseen manifesting in nature; consider BOTH mythic stories themselves (see Unit 2 Mythic Stories) AND narratives that show those stories influencing people's thoughts & actions."

Unit 3 TAs

Team Assignment 3a:

"Potter's "Cantonese Shamanism" (CP, 69-82) depicts shamans telling as well as enacting (via possession) stories of shen, ancestors and ghosts (see Unit 3 Mythic Stories). Identify specific scenes in the description (people, events & dialogue/words occurring together in specific settings) that show such stories influencing the actions of shamans and the villagers they serve."

Team Assignment 3b:

"The characters in Travels of Lao-Tsan tell and remember mythic stories (see Unit 3 Mythic Stories) to establish connections between (a) the Confucian ideal of right action & (b) unseen spirits, mysterious language & secret symbols associated with Daoist & Buddhist traditions. Identify specific scenes (characters, events & dialogue/words occuring together in specific settings) that clearly show mythic stories in the novel making such connections."

Team Assignment 3c:

"The film, book chapter and novel assigned for Unit 3 all illustrate ways that unseen forces influence the events in the lives of both individuals and communities.  Identify specific scenes (characters, events & dialogue/words occuring together in specific settings) that reveal similarities in the way the sources show this visible influence of unseen forces; consider BOTH mythic stories themselves (see Unit 3 Mythic Stories) AND narratives that show those stories influencing people's thoughts & actions."

Unit 4 TAs

Team Assignment 4a:

"Gold describes the stages and events of Shobhag Kanvarís life on p.170-76, 178middle-80 (starting on CP, 87), set apart from the summaries of those events and analyses of their significance found on other pages. Identify events (people, actions & dialogue/words occurring together in specific settings) from the pages specified that seem inspired or influenced by the stories that Kanvar tells, as described in the remainder of the chapter (see Unit 4 Mythic Stories)."

Team Assignment 4b:

"The characters in The Guide tell and remember mythic stories (see Unit 4 Mythic Stories) to establish connections between (a) engagement in various types of sensory enjoyment & (b) the ideal of ascetic holiness associated with both Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Identify specific scenes (characters, events & dialogue/words occuring together in specific settings) that clearly show mythic stories in the novel making such connections."

Team Assignment 4c:

"The film, book chapter and novel assigned for Unit 4 all illustrate both therapeutic and dysfunctional uses of mythic stories .  Identify specific scenes (characters, events & dialogue/words occuring together in specific settings) that reveal similarities in their therapeutic use; consider both mythic stories themselves (see Unit 4 Mythic Stories) and narratives that show those stories influencing people's thoughts & actions."

Final TA

"Throughout the semester, many of your have been telling a mythic story from contemporary American culture, and you may have heard other students' stories; you may also have begun to detect the way that some of the stories told in mainstream American culture display some type of mythic thinking. For this last assignment,

(a) identify stories told in contemporary America that display mythic thinking, and that people look to for guidance on how to act. (You may find it helpful to review "Mythic Stories, Past & Present," the first section of "Myths, Stories & Reality," for some possible examples.) For each story, briefly list major characters, events, and settings; and then describe the people influenced by it, in what setting, and what actions seem most directly inspired or influenced by the story.

**CAUTION: make sure to choose myths, legends, and miracles stories, NOT fairy tales and other fantasy stories that assume a magically transformed world.**

(b) In addition, list mythic stories & people they influence studied in this class that bear some similarity to the contemporary American stories you identify as part of (a).

Source Analyses & Extra Credit

At the end of each unit, you must submit an analysis of one of the additional readings or films listed on schedule of readings, below the last class for that unit--NOT those examined in class. These additional readings will be found either on-line, linked to the syllabus, or at the Reserve Book Room; the films are available either at the Library Media Center or local video stores, as indicated on the schedule.

IMPORTANT: to receive full credit, your film analysis must have a library or store receipt attached to it documenting your procurement of the film, and all film details included in the analysis must indicate the corresponding minutes on the film counter (e.g., "10 min 30 secs").


To complete the analysis, choose a reading or film and highlight important excerpts that seem most clearly related to its overall point. Then download and type responses directly onto the form provided (MS Word/PDF), which asks you to (1) select excerpts (passages or film dialogue with visual description) from three parts of the source, (2) provide a synopsis of the whole that relates to those excerpts, and (3) compare and contrast the reading or film to one of the assigned readings or film (i.e., those used for team assignments) for the same unit. Make sure to:

Extra Credit:

Students may also raise their TRA scores for a given unit by completing one or two additional analyses, which should be clearly marked "EXTRA CREDIT" at the top. Extra credit analyses may be written on both

Each analysis may add up to ten (10) points to your RAT score, for a maximum of twenty (20) points for two analyses per unit. Any points earned from such analyses are added directly to the the immediately preceding TRA.

Team Assignment Preparation & Follow-Up (TOP)

Frequently Asked Questions