J314 Paper #1 on Natsume Sôseki's Kokoro,

Due Thursday February 18

6-8 pages

In can be argued that Sôseki's final novel is an exquisite exploration of the intricate psychological condition that comes with modernity. For Sôseki, while modern life brings the opportunity for greater freedom, the cost seems to be loneliness, psychological malaise, and a cloud of moral and ethical darkness. Without the rigid class structure associated with feudal times, how does society regulate itself? How do modern individuals conduct themselves morally and ethically in an industrializing, capitalist society? What values should they live by?

Confucius had his ideas about family relationships: father-son, soverign-subject, husband-wife, brother-brother, friend-friend. But is Sôseki suggesting that all of these relationships have become outmoded and troubled? Marriage, education, family life, work, life in the countryside versus urban life--have all of these things changed for the Japanese people by the early 1900s? If, as Auestad suggests, Sōseki's works can be compared to a "great laboratory experiment" which brings certain features of Japanese modernity into focus, features that are "concretized in certain objects and institutions," and that they combine to provide a picture of social-historical reality at the time, what moments in Kokoro would you focus on as examples of this?

Write a 6-8 page essay on Kokoro which analyzes the text from your perspective. What do you think are the most important characteristics or themes of this novel? You may want to focus on the text as an expression of Japan's encounter with modernity and discuss concerns about what "becoming modern" means for Japanese people. Or, you could think about how Sensei is not a "sensei" in the ordinary sense, but does he become one in the end? If so, what does he have to teach the narrator?


Things I will look for and assess in your papers, then are:

1. The introduction makes a clear "claim" or thesis and the body provides adequate supporting evidence.  

2. The essay is well organized, has a clear focus, advances a coherent argument, flows well and is generally clean, i.e., free of errors in grammar, usage, and spelling. 

3.  The essay demonstrates close engagement with the text and highlights specific passages for analysis or close reading/interpretation.

4. The conclusion echoes the claims or questions that you have raised in your introduction and points out how you have successfully addressed them as you indicated that you would.

5.  The sources for your information, ideas and quotations are correctly cited. Internal citation is preferred with a list of works cited at the end if you are using any sources other than the ones used in class or on Wise. So, for example, if you quote Auestad, just go (Auestad, 1 or 2) or if it's Marcus' bio of Sôseki, just go with (Marcus, 37).


Here are some points I developed on what makes a good paper when I was teaching the College Coloquium:


Here are some useful hints on how to write a good introduction that might be helpful:

You should pay special attention to the introduction of your paper because a good introduction will do a great deal to help your paper. If the reader understands where you plan to go at the outset, he/she will have a much easier time understanding the rest of your paper.... Therefore, you may find it useful to include in your Intro a statemlent like,

"This paper wil argue that..." or "This paper will demonstrate that....."

If you spend the beginning of the paper summarizing the literature and do not get to your "claim," or your argument until the end, you risk doing harm to your paper. The reader will arrive at the end of the paper feeling frustrated because they had to read through most of your paper without really knowing what it is supposed to be about. If you discover the argument as you write your paper--which most of us do; it is why we write our papers, to find out what we think about something--remember to re-write the introduction.

Therefore, the Introduction should:

• Be thematically explicit. It should contain a general overview of the whole paper. Introduce the themes that will run throughout the paper. Give the reader an idea of the big picture.

• Contain the problem you wish to discuss. This problem can be a gap in current knowledge, a puzzle, a contradiction, unaccountable or conflicting data, etc.

• Establish the cost to the reader of not solving this problem. In short, it should answer the question: So What? Typical costs could be misunderstanding, unpredictability,etc.

• The end of the introduction should preview or hint at your response or solution to this problem. This is called the "paper point." This is where you might place your "This paper will argue that..." type of statement.


II. Here is a rather simple version of an Introduction:

As scientists have explored environmental threats, many of their concerns
have proved exaggerated, such as the effect of acid rain and the imminence of the
Greenhouse Effect. [context]

But recently they have discovered a threat that is all too real: the ozone layer has been thinning, thereby allowing sunlight to reach the earth
unfiltered. [problem]

Unfiltered sunlight causes skin cancer, which will raise
mortality rates and medical costs. [cost to reader]

This paper will argue that we can avoid these consequences only if we ban chemicals that degrade ozone. [claim and solution]

adapted from:

 Here is an adaptation of actual Kokoro paper:

Kokoro: Ethical and Emotional Darkness of the Heart

Natsume Sôseki’s Kokoro, or “the heart of things,” explores the complexity of the human heart. This exploration centers upon the potential for the heart to be corrupted by modernity’s rising self-interest, which was of particular concern to Sôseki’s historical moment of fast-paced modernization and rising capitalism during the 1868 to 1912 Meiji era. Soseki especially explores the effects of rising competition and individualism through the motif of darkness and shadows throughout the novel. This paper will argue that Kokoro serves as a cautionary tale in which Sôseki/Sensei warns the reader/narrator of the effects of unchecked self-interest or ethical darkness that the individualism of modernity brings out of all human hearts which in turn leads to the emotional darkness of loneliness, distrust, and guilt.



III. If your CLAIM is interesting and you express it clearly to your readers in the first paragraph or so, then people will want to read on and find out what they are missing, find out what they need to know in order to make them more aware and deepen their understanding. If you do not make the PROBLEM sound interesting from the get go, however, they may just quit reading and do something else. So your paper has to have an interesting premise or HOOK that draws your reader in from the very beginning.

In addition to a CLAIM, the body of the paper should present some reasons and some arguments to support the claim, and a CONCLUSION to indicate to the reader that you accomplished what you said you would in your intro. Your ORGANIZATION, then, should be tight and effective.

Overall, to be strong and compelling, your paper should have COHERENCE, flow, focus, and CLARITY. Your CONCLUSION should parallel your Introduction where you make your claim. What else makes for a strong paper? COHERENT essays hang together well; their ORGANIZATION is strong and they have a clear FOCUS. This means that their are ideas are consistent and they stay on topic. As a result, the paper flows well. There will be some main ideas that hold the other ideas in place. Effective papers do not wander and they do not have parts that do not fit in well with other parts of the paper.