Pathos of Editing: stitching a more fluid essay

http://www.exophagy.com Frankenstein (1910 film)

Image via Wikipedia

In addition to being a poor reader and reviser, Victor Frankenstein, Shelley’s stand-in for the creative artist, the writer, the one who toils in the workshop of filthy creation, appears to be a bad editor. Think of it: if he had taken a bit more time to consider the presentation of his creation, the work that he had stitched together from parts (as any creative work is), might he have saved himself some heartache?

This editing workshop focuses on how we control and create the fluidity (often called ‘flow’ by you) of an essay that is not naturally or originally there. It is made, not born. And one key place we control and create this fluidity is through control of our sentences.

  • Sentence Variation:
    1. look at your sentence length: hit return at the end of each sentence in one or more paragraphs: turn your prose into poetry; the point is to bring out the buried voiced (the origins of poetry, of writing) of your sentences.
    2. we are after variation: not all long/complex; not all short and sharp–a fluid movement between the two.
      1. think both Hypotaxis and Parataxis.
      • Close-Up
        • Experiment with using the power of shifting to a short, sharply focused sentence as a way to highlight your thesis statement. It is like moving in for a dramatic close-up on your critical vision. It can tell your read: pay attention to these keywords and ideas throughout the essay–a way to provide the thread the reader takes with them.
      • Sentence Combining: fluidity and variety in sentence style derives from a more specific grasp of the kinds of sentences and sentence parts we have at hand. You can combine shorter, simpler sentences in several ways, including compounding and subordinating. For more practice, visit the Sentence-Combining page of Guide to Grammar and Writing.
  • Transitions
    • between sentences within a paragraph (the point from above), and between paragraphs. Look at the transition sentence (the first sentence of the next paragraph). Work on weaving the reader’s path (or the thread of your thesis) into the next paragraph.
      • use transition signals (think of the way we need to do this with a speech or public presentation): “Yet another example of this irony of dark creation is evident in the creation scene.” Or by contrast: “Unlike the darkness of creation we see with Victor, the creature presents a vision of light…”
  • Weave your quotationinto the paragraph: quotations need to be effective, not just accurate.
    • remember to provide context/introduce the quotation (don’t throw quotations at the reader)
    • leave the page number for the parenthetical citation; don’t introduce the quotation with the page number.
  • Meta-Commentary.
    • We will be returning to this in later workshops. For now, think about places where you can add in a sentence that will help clarify things for your reader by letting the reader know what you are thinking.
      • “in other words”; “By irony of dark creation I mean…”; “Let me reiterate the point made earlier:….”; “What do I mean by …?”
      • also think of transition words: however, although, despite, that or this [point, idea]
  • Specificity.
    • Edit out phrases that leave things the argument or idea or specific reference vague. Sometimes this is a matter of selecting stronger verbs and more complex nouns; sometimes, this is a matter of substituting for some of the pronouns we use too frequently (it, he, she) or too loosely (this, without a reference to what this is: this idea of creation…). It is also a matter of editing for more specific verbs. Consider, as one tool for getting a better grasp on the implications of words (as well as relations, synonyms), using Wordnik.
    • For a good poetic example of specificity that matters for an argument, read Robert Pinsky’s “Shirt.”
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Editing: An Introduction

Revision focuses on getting a handle on what your writing is about, where you want it to go. Generally speaking, revision is when you are still dealing with changes that could be as large as entire paragraphs, how your argument is organized, developed. It means asking questions such as: What else? What’s next? As we discussed with reference to Joseph Harris: you revise arguments, ideas, paragraphs, essays; you edit sentences. Revision is rethinking, rereading, expanding, developing; editing is tweaking. This is what we will be doing through Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

Revision and editing can sometimes blend. But for the sake of our efforts in this course, I suggest that editing is what you do toward the end of a project. Editing concerns how your essay communicates to a different set of eyes and ears than the ones which wrote it. How it reads to a reader who is not in your head. This is what you will be focusing on Friday.

Therefore, a good strategy for editing is to become more self-conscious about the sound and shape of your writing–something we take for granted. In order not to take it for granted (since you have been working on this essay and it probably makes sense to you), we need to defamiliarize it.

  • Read it aloud–hear the writing. Have a peer read it aloud or read it aloud yourself. Read it backwards, paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence: listening for places where the expression/communication (the how of the writing, the mechanics, the style) is not matching up with the idea. Usage errors would be one way expression and ideas get crossed.
    • Workshop: in your writing group, select a paragraph you want to focus on for editing–want to improve. Have someone else read your paragraph aloud. Then discuss for a few minutes what you hear and see–suggestions for what you might need to do or want to do with the paragraph.
  • More active than passive. Richard Lanham’s Paramedic Method (from Revising Prose, 5th edition, Pearson 2007): one strategy to pay better attention to the way your “voice” is informed by the machinery of sentence length, verb (active vs passive), prepositions. These are not ‘errors’ but choices you make in presentation. We will be returning to this in later editing workshops. For today, let’s focus on the issue of crafting and clarifying the action of our sentences.

1]Circle the prepositions

2]Circle the “is” forms.

3]Find the action

4]Put this action in a simple (not compound) active verb.

5]Start fast–no slow windups. [the passive construction is often connected with too-conversational kinds of beginnings:

“One of the things that I think about reading is that reading is engaging for the mind.” vs.

 “Reading engages the mind.”

Or a sentence where the actor is buried or hidden, and therefore the action that is the focus of the sentence is also unclear.

“It was the main point by the author that I didn’t really agree written throughout the book that a reader reads alone in a room.”

vs.

“In The Gutenberg Elegies, Birkerts argues emphatically for reading as an act of solitude and privacy. I disagree for these reasons…” 

focus today on 1-5: the issue of using active verbs and active voice [also discussed effectively in Harvey, chapter 2, and in this section of The Style Academy on Active v. Passive voice ]

  • Some formal/presentational features to consider and not neglect at the end:
    • Title? I will be crushed to see an essay titled ‘paper #1’
    • introduction/conclusion: how do you bring the reader into your story? where do you leave the reader? A strategy to consider: start in with the narrative, or in the middle of an experience, before pulling back to more general set-up. And conclude by circling back to your beginning. [these are tricky–will continue to work on this in later workshops]
    • Transitions: are there effective signals through the essay, toward the beginning of each paragraph (usually first sentence), to lead the reader and identify the focus at each point?
    • Go back through the draft to recall/find sections you might have left unfinished, intending to get back to. [for example: a section that has something like “add quotation here”]
    • Have in mind a few of the mechanical/surface errors you tend to make and will need to clean up–punctuation, spelling, wrong words.
      • You can use this list of the 20 most common formal errors that can be edited–list provided by the Writing Center.
      • Become active in getting a better handle on the grammar/mechanics/sentence-level issues you need to work on. I will focus on a few in workshops; but the point is for you to get used to using a resource like the Guide to Grammar and Writing to practice and correct on your own.
    • Proper citation format for any works you cite (which means directly quote or paraphrase). Consult Purdue OWL as a useful resource for citation basics.
    • Final Abstract: You will be turning in with your final version the final version of your abstract–the one with the latest, most refined statement of your argument. Here is an example of what an abstract looks like (the ways it identifies given/problem/response, identifies keywords, and provides a basic map for the evidence):
      • Although Frankenstein is typically viewed as a classic horror novel, primarily designed to frighten us, I argue that it can be read instead as a love story. Shelley emphasizes the romantic elements of the novel by way of the intertextual relation with Coleridge’s poem “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” where the focus is on communicating and connecting with others. Rather than scaring readers, Shelley’s forwarding of Coleridge’s poem works to connect her readers to the heart of her story.

Writing Workshop: transitions

Students often say they need to work on their organization. It is, however, not always clear to them what organization means–or more to the point, how it is stitched and structured into an essay. I emphasize organization as a matter of revision and, in many cases, of some simple stylistic choices that “thread” an argument: keywords (beginning with a title), basic transition words that signal continuation while also emphasizing–this idea, this passage, but, however. A critical essay, we know, needs a thesis; an effectively organized essay often just needs more conscious attention to its transitions and key words–to the ways the writer can move the reader through the essay. For an example, consider this review in NYTimes Book Review of Edward Hirsch poetry by Peter Campion. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Between Ordinary and Ecstatic

Contemporary American poetry is sometimes panned for being mundane. With all the splendor and terror in the world, why should we care about some guy’s memories of high school, or the quality time he spends with his cat? Glancing over it, you might suspect that Edward Hirsch’s poetry would lend evidence to this view. Hirsch will begin a poem with a line like “Today I am pulling on a green wool sweater” or “Traffic was heavy coming off the bridge.” Neither opening seems to burn with that hard, gemlike flame.

But in Hirsch’s work, things are not always what they seem. Certainly, his poems work to dignify the everyday. But they do more than that. What makes Hirsch so singular in American poetry is the balance he strikes between the quotidian and something completely other — an irrational counterforce, the “living fire” that gives its name to his new selected poems.

That phrase appears in “Wild Gratitude,” the title poem of Hirsch’s 1986 volume. On its surface, the poem seems to be about, well, a guy spending time with his cat. But as he listens to her “solemn little squeals of delight,” he begins to remember the 18th-century English visionary and madman Christopher Smart, who in his most famous poem, “Jubilate Agno,” venerated his own cat, Jeoffry. The memory leads to a chain of associations, and the poem ends in a nearly epiphanic moment:

And only then did I understand
It is Jeoffry — and every creature like him —
Who can teach us how to praise — purring
In their own language,
Wreathing themselves in the living fire.

This passage could stand as an emblem for all of Hirsch’s poetry. Literary and allusive, but also domestic and intimate, as it rises toward praise, Hirsch’s voice resounds with both force and subtlety.

One of the pleasures of reading the new selected poems is the chance to see that voice develop and then range freely and surprisingly. Most poets are hot one minute and cold the next, depending almost on the day of the week. But Hirsch is worth reading chronologically. He not only gets better with each new book; he also provides a kind of model for the growth of poetic intelligence…[goes on in the next paragraphs to review briefly those books included in the selected poems.]


Writing Workshop: Less Hideous Introductions

An infamous introduction:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)


There is more than one way to do an effective introduction to an essay, just as there is more than one way to do a poor one. That’s lesson number one. Lesson number 2 is the focus for the workshop in class. A good way to improve upon the kinds of introductions (and related to these, the conclusions) you write is to think about writing more than one. Experiment with a different way of getting the reader into your essay, your argument, your narrative. Think of film as a relevant analogy: all films need to introduce and set up and even establish, so to speak, a thesis; but there are different ways to do it. And I would suggest, as with film, the way to find out how best to do the introduction is to have more than one to select from. Explore alternatives.

One basic way to introduce: begin generally and move toward your more specific focus and thesis statement. This establishes the context for the reader. The trick here is that you need to be careful not to be too general, too broad in your beginning. Context helps; generality hurts, distracts. For example, starting with sentences like this:

There are many films. Some are made from novels while others are not. Blade Runner is an example of a film. It is not made from a novel, but it can be viewed in relation to one….

A related danger is that in this introduction, you wander so far into generality, even when you think you are stating a thesis, it comes off as not specific. Something like: Blade Runner has lots of ideas that are also in Frankenstein (which, based on the last project, doesn’t directly answer the question given).

An antidote to being too general and vague is to start from the reverse position: challenge your reader directly with a close-up, something so specific it is not clear (yet) where the essay is going. Then back out to a middle-distance, where you state your focus and your thesis. In the case of an essay on Blade Runner, this would be to start in directly with an image or scene, then offer what the Graffs call ‘meta-commentary’: “What does this eyeball have to do with my focus?As I will argue in this essay, the eye…” I think of this as the ‘in media res’ approach: starting in the middle of the story, as it were, and using the specificity to focus your reader’s attention. This is also a way to borrow some rich, vivid imagery and language from your text and put it to work in your introduction, engage your reader with it.

Another option would be to do some combination of the two, the close-up and the distant/general view–to stay with film terminology, this is a tracking shot: where you follow a character into or out of a situation. This strategy provides context for the overall focus of your writing, but does so by also moving directly toward some specific points and questions. It locates your reader in the context of your argument before you get them to your specific statement of the argument. I found an example of this in a recent book review by Elizabeth Kolbert in ‘The New Yorker’ (a review of Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer).

Americans love animals. Forty-six million families in the United States own at least one dog, and thirty-eight million keep cats. Thirteen million maintain freshwater aquariums in which swim a total of more than a hundred and seventy million fish…[continues with several more sentences about pet-related expenses]

Americans also love to eat animals. This year, they will cook roughly twenty-seven billion pounds of beef, sliced from some thirty-five million cows. Additionally, they will consume roughly twenty-three billion pounds of pork… [more statistics]

How is it that Americans, so solicitious of the animals they keep as pets, are so indifferent toward the ones they cook for dinner? The answer cannot lie in the beasts themselves. Pigs, after all, are quite companionable, and dogs are said to be delicious. This inconsistency is the subject of Johanthan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.”

In addition to the structure of your introduction, you can and should also consider other poetic and rhetorical  issues–that is, your use of language to create and convey. Thus, consider being specific with your language; consider also using variation of your sentences, shifting from long to short deliberately. On that score, consider this example, the opening of a recent essay about Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch. Notice how the shift from longer to shorter sentences conveys the argument–that Rwanda has shifted, has changed. This rhetorical strategy (a matter of his style) thus also helps introduce his essay effectively. In this sense, he can show us what he is writing about.

When I began visiting Rwanda, in 1995, a year after the genocide, the country was still pretty well annihilated: blood-sodden and pillaged, with bands of orphans roaming the hills and women who’d been raped squatting in the ruins, its humanity betrayed, its infrastructure trashed, its economy gutted, its government improvised, a garrison state with soldiers everywhere, its court system vitiated, its prison crammed with murderers, with more murderers still at liberty–hunting survivors and being hunted in turn by revenge killers–and with the routed army and militias of the genocide and a million and a half of their followers camped on the borders, succored by the United Nations refugee agency, and vowing to return and finish the job. In the course of a hundred days, beginning on April 6, 1994, nearly a million people from the Tutsi minority had been massacred in the name of an ideology known as Hutu Power, and, between the memory of the slaughter and the fear that it would resume, Rwanda often felt like an impossible country. Nowadays, when Rwandans look back on the early years of aftermath, they say, “In the beginning.”

On the fifteenth anniversary of the genocide, Rwanda is one of the safest and the most orderly countries in Africa. Since 1994, per-capita gross domestic product has nearly tripled, even as the population has increased by nearly twenty-five per cent, to more than ten million. There is national health insurance, and a steadily improving education system. Tourism is a boom industry and a strong draw for foreign capital investment. In Kigali, the capital, whisk-broom-wielding women in frocks and gloves sweep the streets at dawn. Plastic bags are outlawed, to keep litter under control and to protect the environment. Broadband Internet service is widespread in the cities, and networks are being extended into the countryside. Cell phones work nearly everywhere. Traffic police enforce speed limits and the mandatory use of seat belts and motorbike helmets. Government officials are required to be at their desks by seven in the morning. It is the only government on earth in which the majority of parliamentarians are women. Soldiers are almost nowhere to be seen…. And Rwanda is the only nation where hundreds of thousands of people who took part in mass murder live intermingled at every level of society with the families of their victims.

For some additional suggestions and strategies on introductions (and conclusions), check out this previous post.


Editing 101

Revision focuses on getting a handle on what your writing is about, where you want it to go. Generally speaking, revision is when you are still dealing with changes that could be as large as entire paragraphs, how your argument is organized, developed. It might also mean changing your entire focus, starting over.

Revision and editing can sometime blend. But for the sake of our efforts in this course, I will suggest that editing is what you do toward the end of a project. Editing concerns how your essay communicates to a different set of eyes and ears than the ones which wrote it. How it reads to a reader who is not in your head.

Therefore, a good strategy for editing is to become more self-conscious about the sound and shape of your writing–something we take for granted. In order not to take it for granted (since you have been working on this essay and it probably makes sense to you), we need to defamiliarize it.

  • Read it aloud–hear the writing. Have a peer read it aloud or read it aloud yourself. Read it backwards, paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence: listening for places where the expression/communication (the how of the writing, the mechanics, the style) is not matching up with the idea. Usage errors would be one way expression and ideas get crossed.
    • Workshop: in your writing group, select a paragraph you want to focus on for editing–want to improve. Have someone else read your paragraph aloud. Then discuss for a few minutes what you hear and see–suggestions for what you might need to do or want to do with the paragraph.
  • More active than passive. Richard Lanham’s Paramedic Method (from Revising Prose, 5th edition, Pearson 2007): one strategy to pay better attention to the way your “voice” is informed by the machinery of sentence length, verb (active vs passive), prepositions. These are not ‘errors’ but choices you make in presentation. We will be returning to this in later editing workshops. For today, let’s focus on the issue of crafting and clarifying the action of our sentences.

1]Circle the prepositions

2]Circle the “is” forms.

3]Find the action

4]Put this action in a simple (not compound) active verb.

5]Start fast–no slow windups. [the passive construction is often connected with too-conversational kinds of beginnings: ‘One of the things that I think about reading is that reading is engaging for the mind.’  in contrast: “Reading engages the mind.”

focus today on 1-5: the issue of using active verbs and active voice [also discussed effectively in Hacker, p. 140]

  • Some formal/presentational features to consider and not neglect at the end:
    • Title? I will be crushed to see an essay titled ‘paper #1’
    • introduction/conclusion: how do you bring the reader into your story? where do you leave the reader? A strategy to consider: start in with the narrative, or in the middle of an experience, before pulling back to more general set-up. And conclude by circling back to your beginning. [these are tricky–will continue to work on this in later workshops]
    • Have in mind a few of the mechanical/surface errors you tend to make and will need to clean up.

Editing: introduction

Revision focuses on getting a handle on what your writing is about, where you want it to go. Generally speaking, revision is when you are still dealing with changes that could be as large as entire paragraphs, possibly your overall focus.

Revision and editing can sometime blend. But for the sake of our efforts in this course, I will suggest that editing is what you do toward the end of a project. Editing concerns how your essay communicates to a different set of eyes and ears than the ones which wrote it.

A good practice for editing: be more self-conscious about the sound and shape of your writing–something we take for granted. In order not to take it for granted (since you have been working on this essay and it probably makes sense to you), we need to defamiliarize it.

  • Read it aloud–hear the writing. Have a peer read it aloud or read it aloud yourself. Read it backwards, paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence: listening for places where the expression/communication (the how of the writing, the mechanics, the style) is not matching up with the idea. Usage errors would be one way expression and ideas get crossed.

in writing pair: select a paragraph you want to focus on for editing–want to improve/revise. Have partner read your paragraph aloud. Then discuss for 1-2 minutes what you hear and see–suggestions for what you might need to do or want to do with the paragraph.

  • More active than passive. Richard Lanham’s Paramedic Method (from Revising Prose, 5th edition, Pearson 2007)): one strategy to pay better attention to the way your “voice” is informed by the machinery of sentence length, verb (active vs passive), prepositions. These are not ‘errors’ but choices you make in presentation. We will be returning to this in later editing workshops. For today, let’s focus on the issue of crafting and clarifying the action of our sentences.

1]Circle the prepositions

2]Circle the “is” forms.

3]Find the action

4]Put this action in a simple (not compound) active verb.

5]Start fast–no slow windups. [the passive construction is often connected with too-conversational kinds of beginnings: ‘One of the things that I think about reading is that reading is engaging for the mind.’  in contrast: “Reading engages the mind.”

focus today on 1-5: the issue of using active verbs and active voice [also discussed effectively in Hacker, p. 140]

  • Some formal/presentational features to consider and not neglect:

–title? I will be crushed to see an essay titled ‘paper #1’

–introduction/conclusion: how do you bring the reader into your story? where do you leave the reader? A strategy to consider: start in with the narrative, or in the middle of an experience, before pulling back to more general set-up. And conclude by circling back to your beginning. [these are tricky–will continue to work on this in later workshops]

  • Have in mind a few of the mechanical/surface errors you tend to make and will need to clean up.

You can use this list of the 20 most common formal errors that can be edited–list provided by the Writing Center.


Editing: introduction and conclusion

Some strategies and variations on dealing with introductions and conclusions–ways of making them seem less hideous and monstrous.

  1. Introduction: in media res (in the middle). Can be effective, particularly to establish a story or narrative for your essay. Since you are dealing with film, think about starting with a close-up, in one moment from one scene, then pulling back to get the larger view of the essay, ask questions, indicate where you are going.
  2. Conclusion: circle back to beginning. Can tie in with the strategy above. End by circling back to a moment from your text that you opened with, but now go back to that with greater insight. Films do this when we begin at an end, and the film is showing us how we got there.
  3. Keywords: set-up some keywords that your reader will look for throughout the essay (think of them as the hyperlinks that your reader will be following); then reiterate those keywords in the conclusion. This can help you avoid merely re-stating or repeating in your conclusion. See Jen’s example.
  4. Start with a vivid image or line from the text: both catches attention, but also a key image/idea that you will go on to reflect upon in the essay, get back to, look at from different angles. See Erin’s example.
  5. Conclusion: raise some larger implications. Can be tricky, since a conclusion can’t start a brand new argument or offer a new thesis. But a good essay will leave your reader thinking and (we hope) will have them begin to think about other places where they could take your thesis and make further applications. One way to do this with a text (print or film): suggest a passage at the end that you didn’t deal with, but that would be interesting to view from the perspective of your thesis. How your critical vision might help readers re-think or re-vise our understanding of other aspects of this author’s work, related questions and topics. Leave your reader not just with a good understanding of what you focused on, but what the larger stake or implication of that focus is.
  6. Introduction: two-step thesis set up. Something we have seen Hayles and others do: an initial set up of the focus in one paragraph, perhaps raising a key question; then a refined, and more complicated statement of your thesis, or how you plan to answer that question in a second paragraph. 
  7. Meta-commentary: don’t be afraid to speak directly to your reader at key points in your introduction and conclusion, to signal a point of emphasis. “In other words”; “What I mean by this”; “As I have said, my thesis is”; “Let me clarify this point”; “This is an important point, worth emphasizing”. These are effective signals; they can enable you to repeat without being too repetitive.

Examples to consider from our Writing Center consultants:

Jen Malat: excerpt from a thesis chapter (introduction and conclusion) about film versions of Pride and Prejudice.

Strategy: Don't try to cram every important idea into one thesis
statement. Use a few sentences that set up the work and broad ideas of the
paper, then use your actual thesis statement to present the most specific
and interesting point made by your paper.

Here, I started with a broad statement that sets up the modern context I
want the paper to address because the paper is examining a contemporary
film and the aspects of our culture that it reflects. By spreading a
thesis statement into several sentences, the layers of the argument
(culture, film, and text) can be clearly established.
The conclusion also acknowledges the multiple media of the paper and
extends that cultural context to a statement about how the themes of the
film relate to each other.

The countless self-help guides lining bookstore shelves highlight the modern confusion over how romance is structured and how to navigate through turbulent emotional waters. This confusion is especially true during early romances while one is growing up, a theme that is explored in countless novels, songs, and movie. It follows, then, that recent adaptations of Pride and Prejudice would be eager to explore these modern themes with beloved characters and a well-known title. The most recent big-screen adaptation of Austen’s novel, director Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfayden as Fitzwilliam Darcy, consistently highlights physicality, nature, and romance. By constructing the adaptation as romance rather than social commentary, the filmmakers track the maturation of Elizabeth. The very setting and visual aesthetic of the film highlight Elizabeth’s uncertainties about her body and reflects her emotional vacillations regarding the movement into adulthood, as the film depicts romance as the catalyst for her coming of age.

 

….

  The filmmakers have capitalized on the power of the visual imagery of film to achieve their ends and reinvent the period piece for the modern audience, as “youth-oriented filmmaking techniques balances with the visual pleasures of the heritage film” (Dole). The difficulties of navigating the body highlight emotional uncertainty and the always-relevant theme of coming of age. The changes, both textual and visual, drastically manipulate the social focus of Austen’s satiric writing into a more intimate story. Though many of the alterations in the film can be attributed to time constraints or a conscious appeal to female and teen demographics, there still remains the profound cultural desire for a strong female lead who manages to gain self-empowerment while achieving a fairy-tale ending as a material reward. Marriage is portrayed as the end point for socially approved sexual desire, which leads to greater self-knowledge and helps a modern woman fulfill her demands for adulthood. 

 

Erin O’Hare: from her thesis work on Shakespeare.

Strategy:            Use a vivid image (quote from the text or a supporting source, specific visual image from a scene, etc.) to immediately capture your reader’s interest.  If one has stuck out to you in your reading, it might be an interesting starting point for your essay. 

Here, instead of using a typical “In this play…” introduction, I use a quote that mirrors the issues I highlight throughout the essay (and this is a long essay).  The idea of “cause” present in the chosen quote and the other issues addressed in the described scene introduce and support the complex argument formed within the paper.

            I use this technique again in the conclusion, much to the same effect—I have chosen to end the essay just as it began, with a vivid image enhanced by quote (and a quote from that very same scene, nonetheless) that the reader will see over and over each time he or she thinks about the essay.

 

Introduction:

“It is the cause,” the deteriorated Othello moans in the final scene of Shakespeare’s Othello:  The Moor of Venice.  “…[It] is the cause, my soul;/ Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars,/ It is the cause” (5.2.1-3).  “It” is the image of his wife Desdemona, her white skin “smooth as monumental alabaster,” an image the Moor cannot bring himself to deface despite the fact that it has already destructed his own sense of self.  It is the last scene in a tragedy that, through iconography (the creation of images), idolatry (a worship of image), and iconoclasm (destruction of image), explores “the disruptions, conflicts, and radical changes wrought by the Protestant Reformation.”           

 

 

Conclusion:

 

Shakespeare’s movement through acts of iconography, idolatry, and iconoclasm in rehearsal of the audience’s own fears, instructs his audience on the proper way of looking at images.  He places a play within a play for eyes to gaze upon without becoming enthralled by the immediate spectacle before them, using the tragic genre to evoke the most human of emotions rooted firstly in fear, as they become aware of rather than part of Iago’s revenge tragedy.  Though he employs Protestant rhetoric and works to attack a certain form in order to build another, Shakespeare cannot completely destruct the dramatic form, much as Othello cannot bring himself to “shed [Desdemona’s] blood,/ Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow” (5.2.3-4).  And yet it is the cause, and theater, at least in its idolatrous Catholic form, “must die, else she’ll betray more men” (5.2.6).

 


Huston Diehl, Staging Reform, Reforming the Stage: Protestantism and Popular Theater in Early Modern England  (Ithaca:  Cornell University Press, 1997): 2.