Does every moment of “summary” help you advance your argument?

Explaining the universe is not exactly easy. There are inevitably contradictions that help
define categories of time and timelessness, the one and the many, sense versus essence,
action and inaction. In many ways, Krishna’s speech steers into, rather than away from,
these kinds of paradoxes. They help him make the overarching argument that defines the
Gita: that Arjuna’s “right action” is to fight in this war. But be that as it may, it is still
difficult to resolve these paradoxes into a logically coherent picture of where, how, when,
and in what form Krishna exists.
Prompt: In your Critical Analysis, identify one paradox that Krishna develops in the
Gita. Briefly define what makes the paradox paradoxical—what two elements are being
juxtaposed that logically contradict each other. Then, develop an argument that
addresses: a) what is this paradox’s significance, and b) how does it help Krishna
persuade Arjuna to fight in the war.
There are several conceptual categories (these are categories, not paradoxes!) to use as a
starting point. These are “ways in” to the text’s core themes, they are not boxes you
have to “check.
” A good paper will not try to tackle all of these.
• The individual and the universal
• Perception and reality
• Temporality and atemporality
• Fate and free will
• Good and evil
• Action and inaction
• Sources: You must quote from the Gita to be successful in this assignment. Only
use our textbook, my lectures, and the Bhagavad Gita reading. Of these, make sure
you are engaging most fully with the Gita.
• Citations:. The Gita’s translation is
taken from: Satyamurti, Carole, trans. Mahabharata: a Modern Retelling. New
York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016. Print.
• Argument: Some things to avoid: Are you just summarizing the Gita? Are you
just identifying a paradox without developing an argument about how it helps
Krishna persuade Arjuna to action?
o Are you making an argument that is, in fact, just the premise of the
assignment—that the Gita relies on paradoxes and is a persuasive text?
Summary: Does every moment of “summary” help you advance your argument?
Do you make absolutely clear why citations and quotations help your argument?
More often than not, there’s too much summary and not enough argument.
• Text, not Context: You can cite historical context to help you make an argument
about the text, but you shouldn’t cite text to help you make an argument about
historical context. Ask yourself: is my argument actually about the Gita?
• Editing, Honing: Is your first draft your final draft? It shouldn’t be! Have you
taken time to hone and narrow down your argument? Is your argument still too
broad?
Most importantly, make sure to use quotations and close reading to substantiate your
argument! That’s absolutely essential to be successful in the assignment. In addition,
make sure to develop a specific, concrete argument about your paradox. Identifying the
paradox is just the first step, not the end goal. Don’t just summarize and recapitulate the
text’s contents.

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