I’d like to end the semester with a celebration of the work all of you have done. To do so, I’d like you to locate two passages of writing that you admire from the work of your classmates. Pick your two “moments in style” from two different writers, and keep your selections concise (no more than 100 words).
Reproduce each passage and briefly describe what you admire about them. (Be sure to note the author and assignment.) In commenting on these moments in style, you may want to make a connection to some of the writers on writing that we’ve discussed together, or you may want to point to a feature that seems distinctive to this particular author. The goal is to draw attention to something that a writer has achieved in terms of voice or style.
Do your best to fit your two examples on one side of a page. Make 13 copies of that page and bring them with you to class. We’ll read and discuss them. But please also post a copy of your x12 to your Dropbox folder by 9:00 am on Wed, 4/25.
I look forward to seeing the work you bring forward!
The assignment for x11 is the same as x6. After the workshop on Mon, 4/16, I’d like you to formulate a plan of revision. The basic question you need to answer is: What work do you want to do over the next two weeks to turn your current draft into a a piece you will submit for a letter grade?
What’s key here is that you think of the work before you as centering on developing your draft. This is an opportunity, that is, for you not simply to edit your prose, but to add to, change, and refine what you have to say and how you’re saying it.
As before, your revision plan should have three parts:
- Summarize the advice you received from your readers. What do they feel is working well? What do they suggest you work more on?
- List at least two or three things you plan to do at this point to develop your essay. Be as specific as you can.
- Tell me what questions you have for me at this point.
I will reply to your revision plan, not to your draft. So you will want to make this plan as full, precise, and clear as you can.
Please email your plan to me by 1:00 pm, on Tues, 4/17. This will allow us to talk briefly about it in class the next day.
We’ll then meet together in conference on either Mon, 4/23, or Tues, 4/24, to go over the work you’re doing in revision and any questions you might have. Bring an annotated version of your piece as it then stands—showing changes you’ve made and changes you’re considering—with you to that conference. Your e2.d2 will then be due at 9:00 am on Tues, 5/01.
Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has often been read as a call for a new sort of women’s writing, a new feminist mode of argument. And yet there seem some problems with looking at A Room this way. First, Woolf insists throughout her essay that she has no real “conclusion” to offer about women and writing, that at best she can offer an “opinion about one minor point”—and that point seems to have as much to do with money as gender (4). Second, when she does finally turn directly to the question of how the gender of a writer might affect her work, Woolf seems to advocate something she calls an “androgynous” or “man-womanly” style (98-104). And, third, even if she does at points hint at an interest in “the development by the average woman of a prose style completely expressive of her mind” (95), Woolf offers no rules or advice for how to achieve such a style.
At the same time I find it hard to escape the sense that this is a book that talks about writing in ways that feel different from Strunk and White, or Orwell, or Fish. I’d thus like you to write a brief essay in which you try to pin down this difference in tone, in emphasis. I’d also like you to come to some (perhaps tentative) conclusion about whether this difference has anything to do with gender. In doing so, I encourage you to consider not only what Woolf has to say, but how she structures her sentences and chapters. Might it be argued that in A Room Woolf enacts a different sort of writing?
Or perhaps not. You might feel that Woolf doesn’t offer a view of style that differs much from those of the men we’ve read so far. If so, draw the connections between them. Whatever stance you take, your task will be to add to what we have had to say about prose style so far by noting what changes when the person whose views on the subject we are discussing is, for the first time this semester, a woman.
Please post your essay to Dropbox by 9:00 am on Fri, 4/06.
For this exercise, I’d like you to play with what Stanley Fish calls the subordinating and additive styles. I’d like you to do three things in your piece:
- Find strong examples of sentences written in both styles. Both sentences must be at least 30 words long, and each must be drawn from a work on nonfiction prose.
- Analyze the structure of each sentence. With reference to Fish, show what features make the one subordinating and the other additive.
- Imitate those structures as exactly as you can in two sentences of your own composition. Explain how your sentences follow the lead of your examples.
You don’t have to do these things—find, analyze, imitate—in any particular order. You just have to accomplish all three, for both examples, by the end of your piece.
Think about how you want to format your document to support your analysis. You may want, for instance, to set your examples in a different font, or to block them off with a different line-spacing or margins than the rest of your text. And please make it clear, through citations and/or links, where your examples come from.
Please post your x8 to Dropbox by 9:00 am on Tues, 3/27. I look forward to seeing how you extend Fish’s work!
As we begin our work on competing views of style, I’d like you to find two contrasting paragraphs—one that illustrates some of the qualities of good writing that Strunk, White, and Orwell describe, and another that enacts a different sort of style. I’d then like you to use those two passages as the basis of a brief essay in which you reflect on the values (about art, people, politics, work, etc.) that underlie the advice given in the “little book.”
Please look for passages that speak to the sort of writing that we are all now involved in doing. That is, try to find examples of current academic or intellectual prose— writing about books and ideas. You might look for passages from the writing of scholars, textbook authors, reviewers, or university students. (Do not take your examples from novels, poems, plays, or memoirs.) Keep your sample passages brief—no more than 100 words or so —since you will want to work with them closely. And look for recent work—pieces that have been written in the last few years.
Your task here is not only to define not only what Strunk, White, and Orwell seem to most value in writing, but also to offer an example of writing that is good without being Strunkian. Much of what you will be able to say, then, will hinge on the interest of your counterexample. If you work with a passage that shows someone who simply lacks skill as a writer, then you will probably have little to say about their work other than a series of negatives: This fails to omit needless words, this tacks phrases together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse , etc. But if you can locate a positive opposing example—that is, a passage by someone who is trying to do something as a writer that differs from (rather than simply fails to measure up to) what Strunk et al. urge, then you will have a chance to consider the strengths and limits of two competing styles, two views of what makes writing good.
Please post your essay to Dropbox by Thurs, 3/14, at 9:00 am.