Questions about x7
e2: An Experiment in Style
Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”
Orwell (1946). Politics and the English language.
Fastwrite: As the Word Cloud above shows, Orwell works hard in his essay to establish a connection between “words” and “language” and the “political.” See if you can restate his argument in your own language. Why and how does Orwell feel that style in writing is a political issue?
Fastwrite 2: In what ways does Orwell’s view of writing and style line up with that of Strunk & White? In what ways does it differ?
- Thurs, 3/15, 9:00 am: Post x7 to Dropbox.
- Mon, 3/19, class: Read Fish, How to Write a Sentence, chapters 1–4 (pp 1–44).
- Wed, 3/21, class: Read Fish, chapters 5–6 (pp 45–88).
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.