Tag Archives: research

Crime and Puzzlement: “The Awesome Treasure”

Alright, here is a lesson plan on the Crime and Puzzlement case “The Awesome Treasure.” I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the idiom “Any Port in a Storm.” This scan of the illustration and questions drives the case; this typescript of the answer key helps you solve it.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Osamu Dazai

Osamu Dazai: (1909-1948) Japanese author. Although chiefly known for his fiction, Dazai also wrote personal essays and memoirs, children’s stories, and historical narratives. His work has attracted a large and dedicated readership, for whom the author’s deeply troubled life, and its brilliant retelling, have struck a responsive chord. In masterpieces such as Shayo (1947; tr The Setting Sun, 1956), and Ningen shikkaku (1948; tr No Longer Human, 1957), Dazai captured the postwar crisis of Japanese cultural identity and the travail of a lost generation of youth. The characteristic Dazai protagonist, in his addictive, womanizing, self-indulgent excess, artfully mirrors the life of the author, who, following numerous failed suicide attempts, eventually succeeded. This final act of self-dramatization is reminiscent of Akutagawa and Mishima.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.


“Mahabhrata: One of the two great epic poems of ancient India (the other being the Ramayana), about eight times as long as the Iliad and the Odyssey together. It is a great compendium, added to as late as AD 600, although it had very nearly acquired its present form by the 4th century. Covering an enormous range of topics, the Mahabharata, with its famous interpolation, the Bhagavadgita, has as its central theme the great war between the sons of two royal brothers, in a struggle for succession. The brothers are Dhritarashtra and Pandu, their families being referred to respectively as the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The Pandavas ultimately prevail, the eldest of them, Yudhishtira, gains the throne, and Arjuna, one of his younger brothers and in many ways the hero of the entire epic (especially through the Bhagavadgita), gains the hand of the lovely Draupadi and brings her home as the wife of all five brothers, The epic also contains the Shantiparvan, an important discourse on statecraft, and the famous Savitri episode, the tale of Nala Damayantt. In its totality, it is an encyclopedia of Hindu life, legend, and thought: ‘What is not in the Mahabharata,’ says the Mahabharata, ‘is not to be found anywhere else in the world.'”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Italianate Style

“Italianate Style: An American residential architectural style seen ca. 1840-1865. Fancifully adapted from Italian Renaissance palaces, the American version is typically of two or three stories with a low-pitched hip roof, formal balance of design, wide and bracketed eves, and much interest in such façade details as window caps. Most examples have a cupola or belvedere. The innovation of cast-iron construction in the mid-19th century provided affordable, mass-produced Italianate facades such as those still found on the SoHo district of New York City.”

 Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Term of Art: Taboo

“Taboo: The term taboo derives from the Tongan ‘tabu,’ meaning ‘sacred” or ‘inviolable.’ However, its contemporary use is broader, most generally meaning a social and often sacred prohibition put upon certain things, people, or acts, which render them untouchable or unmentionable. The most famous taboo is the near-universal incest taboo, prohibiting sexual or marriage relations between particular categories of kin. According  to both Sigmund Freud (Totem and Taboo, 1938) and Claude Levi-Strauss (The Elementary Structures of Kinship, 1969), society itself originated with the incest taboo. Other authors have stressed the function performed by taboos in society. Raymond Firth (in Symbols Public and Private, 1973) interpreted taboo as a mechanism of social control. In Purity and Danger (1966), Mary Douglas drew attention to the way in which taboo serves as a social marker, creating and maintaining social classifications.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Book of Answers: The Koran

“When was the Koran written? It existed first in oral form as series of revelations recited by the prophet Muhammad (570-632), founder of Islam. His followers wrote down or committed to memory the individual surahs, or chapters, but these were not collected in authoritative form until about 650.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Rotten Reviews: The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey 

The author of this book should be neutered and locked away forever.”

San Juan County Record

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.