The Essay - Written Text

- a tangent about purpose - how to choose a question - „treating‟ the question - developing an argument / presenting a thesis - writing introductions - working a paragraph - proving yourself - sustaining a vision - a conclusion that does something

24/02/2012

A tangent about purpose
Ford has said: "It is not that we are connoisseurs of chaos, but that we are surrounded by it, and equipped for coexistence with it only by our fictive powers." This is a useful quote to write down.

The Question
Succeeding in question choice is important. Figuring out what suits the text and what doesn‟t can make or break your essay. Consider: “Techniques used by short story writers allow them to say more with less.” To what extent do you agree with this view?

What can you do with this question?
Is it limiting in any way?

What about this one...?
“Short story writers shy away from presenting works that are difficult and dark.” To what extent do you agree with this view? Again, what can you do with this question? Is it limiting in any way?

Which of the two topics do you see as lending itself better to „Rock Springs‟?

Treating the topic
At level three, you must be making a conscious, explicit effort to develop a definition for the topic. This tends to mean that introductions are longer and far more important this year than ever before. You will need to develop your skill in pinpointing the key words that a question revolves around. It‟s not always the stuff that is in bold - keep that in mind. “Techniques used by short story writers allow them to say more with less.” To what extent do you agree with this view?

Treating the topic
“Short story writers shy away from presenting works that are difficult and dark.” To what extent do you agree with this view? Always consider that you are free to interpret the words as you want to argue them. This means that you should be angling your definition of terms towards the argument you want to make. e.g. „Difficult‟ could mean: hard to read, hard to understand, confusing, etc. Or it could mean difficult to accept, painful, complex in meaning.

Developing an argument
Once you‟ve dealt with the topic and figured out how you‟re defining the key terms, then you can construct an argument.
This means being able to say “I am going to argue that (something that connects to the topic)...because (something that connects to a key argument)...”

e.g. “I am going to argue that Ford‟s literature is never shy, instead it confronts the difficult complexity of existence, while exposing it‟s dark, bleak nature, because he wants to create work that represents the truth of the modern human condition.”

This is now the core of the essay...
Prove through narrative point of view
Prove through symbolism

e.g. “I am going to argue that Ford‟s literature is never shy, instead it confronts the difficult complexity of existence, while exposing it‟s dark, bleak nature, because he wants to create work that represents the truth of the modern human condition.”
Prove through simile/metaphor

Prove through character

That is what a thesis is
You must construct this before attempting an essay. e.g. “I am going to argue that Ford‟s literature is never shy, instead it confronts the difficult complexity of existence, while exposing it‟s dark, bleak nature, because he wants to create work that represents the truth of the modern human condition.” It has complexity, it has its roots in wider thought (not just in the text), and it demands an examination of the text if the argument is to be proved.

The introduction
The introduction presents all of the work that has been done so far and then goes on to suggest the methods you‟ll use to prove your point. This means an introduction must: - outline the treatment of the topic - Are you agreeing/disagreeing with it? How are you defining the key terms? - present the thesis - present the system of argument you have decided on order of paragraphs and what to focus on in each paragraph - a final connection to the thesis.

Example
“Short story writers shy away from presenting works that are difficult and dark.” To what extent do you agree with this view? The short story is a potent form that tends to express striking images of human truth. I see human nature as dark and so I strongly disagree with what is being suggested in this statement. Difficulty in text suggests complexity of meaning or texts that deal with the most difficult aspects of existence, which tend to be dark. Darkness is something we shy away from because it tends to connect to the bleaker truths about our lives and our existences. I would argue that Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Ford never shies away from either of these representations of difficulty and darkness in his short fiction. Instead it confronts the difficult complexity of existence, while exposing it‟s dark, bleak nature, because he

The Paragraph
This is no longer the key to success as it has been in past year. Previously, three/four good paragraphs would make up for lack lustre introductions and conclusions. At Level Three, they need to feed on what you offer in the introduction. To continue the metaphor, they need to give meat to the thesis that you offer in the beginning.

This means that technique is no longer central, however, every paragraph must still have a technique focus.

The Paragraph
Think of the shape as an hour glass: - Wide at the opening the wider thesis - Narrowing to specifics from the text - technique - Widen back out to making judgements based on the evidence, drawing back to the topic and the thesis.

Thesis

Analysis - unpacking technique

Judgements/conclusions thesis

Structure
Start wide Connect back into the thesis statement and offer the direction you‟re heading. This ensures that you‟re argument remains consistent and keeps your essay cohesive, while giving direction to the paragraph.

Very broad contextual statement

Reference to technique

“Modern philosophy tends to offer the human condition as bleak, suggesting we are isolated and alienated beings. In line with this, Ford offers up to the reader the character of Earl. His place in the story seems to be to represent all of that alienation, allowing Ford to confront the reader with the stark bleakness of modern existence.”

Connection to the thesis

What the technique does

Begin narrowing & working with quotation
This is where you get down into the text and unpack the technique and at least two examples. Again, this must connect back through into the thesis and work towards your argument. Earl a classic Dirty Realist character. He is a criminal, who drifts from place to place with his daughter, running from the law in the hope of finding something better. Ford constructs Earl‟s life as devoid of significant direction, starkly outlined in his Earl‟s description of his relationship with his girlfriend: “I don‟t know what was between Edna and me , just beached by the same tides when you get down to it.” The metaphor illustrates Earl‟s fundamental loss of control over his existence as it suggests that he is at the mercy of tides, perhaps the mercy of the universe. The image is distinctly bleak and almost suggests that Earl has given up on finding purpose and or bringing meaning to his life. This nicely reflects modern thinking around existence, such as Absurdist thought which sees a lack of meaning at the core of modern existence. This loss of purpose of reinforced later in the text when Earl starts self-reflecting, helping us to understand the truth of his position:

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