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This is the page for drafting the essay's main body. The Drafting team should use the First Paragraph page to work on the essay's "They say/I say" statement. Drafting can go on in both page's simultaneously; you may need to change the first paragraph as the rest of the draft develops.

The Drafting team consists of

However, if you have a suggestion for how the draft might be improved, please record your suggestion on this page by using Add > Comment.

Drafting can begin at any time but must be completed by 12/5. Click Edit above to work on the draft of the essay right in this page. Be bold! Don't hesitate to change other people's work in order to improve it! You can always compare versions of the essay, and recover deleted material from it,  by going to Tools > Page history, and I can always revert the page to an earlier state if necessary. You can't screw the page up! In addition to making changes directly in the page (which, again, can always be reversed), you may sometimes wish to engage with your fellow drafters in discussion about what's here. To do that, use Add > Comment.

English 170-01

Professor Schacht

Practice of Criticism

14 December 2012

Analyzing Details and Synthesizing Concepts

            In "The Faceoff: Legitimacy of the English Major Questioned", Nick Yager makes the argument that the English major is less valuable than other majors because the major studies "merely the techniques and concepts of literature and to a lesser degree the ideas presented within literature" (Yager 1). When it comes to the content that English majors study, value is found in a unique combination of detailed literary analysis and the synthesis of the themes presented in literature that speaks to the significance of the human experience as seen through the lens of ordinary people.

            To state that the work of an English major entails "the [ability] to comprehend complex ideas from the works that they study and to infer meaning from the information they are given" is a gross oversimplification of the skills developed by English majors throughout the course of their study (Yager 1). The English major doesn't simply identify the important themes and ideas in works of literature but instead deconstructs works of literature to their most detailed form through a methodical investigation that begins by analyzing individual words on a page or phrase structures. For example, Helen Chasin writes in her poem The Word Plum, “pout and push, luxury of/ self-love and savoring murmur… question/ and reply, lip and tongue/ of pleasure” (Meyer 463). Chasin deliberately breaks up these phrases, making the reader pause continuously for the next word of what should be a continuous thought. However this is synonymous to her desire to savor the word plum, pausing frequently in awe of its deliciousness. So too does Chasin make her reader pause while reading as their eyes skip to the next line, savoring the words of her poem.

            The next step of this investigative process broadens to themes discussed throughout the work as a whole. Techniques such as symbolism, personification, and parallel language are used to connect ideas within the entire text. English majors, through the repetition required to refine any skill, learn to recognize and employ these techniques to best understand continuity in narrative. In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the use of geographical language (i.e. movement or changes in setting) to indicate changes in Scrooge’s emotional and mental state is a detailed but very important analysis. Dickens writes that Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past “…pass through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand. The city had entirely vanished… the darkness had vanished with it” (Dickens 51). Dickens is indicating that Scrooge is passing through an emotional wall as the Ghost takes him to the countryside, beginning his emotional journey. The methodical and detailed analysis of literature that is part of an English major’s course of study is what leads to such complex and valuable observations abut Dickens’s novel.

            Through the aforementioned in-depth analysis of literature the English major then can parallel the concepts and patterns of the works they study to the realm of the human experience and the models of life that literature creates. Dickens’s use of geographical language throughout A Christmas Carol shows how humans experience real life as journey where we are all constantly moving from place to place, physically as well as emotionally. Dickens is making a parallel between the way we understand spatial language and the way we understand our own emotional journey. For example, Dickens writes of Scrooge’s travel with the Ghost of Christmas Present “much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited” (Dickens 120). Dickens is indicating that, in order to become better people like Scrooge does in the end, we must see others’ ways. Dickens doesn’t mean that we should physically see the ways of others, like Scrooge physically sees, but instead uses geographical language to indicate that we must emotionally see and understand the ways of others. Without the methodical process that English majors practice, this valuable observation would have been passed over and Dickens use of geographical language would only have been noticed when it had added some whimsical element to the story (such as making Scrooge fly). Even then, this notice would have been fleeting and uninteresting at best without the orderly practice of the English major and the reader would walk away uninformed about the novels implications of humanity's view of life as a moving element, a journey.

            English students study everything from the words on the page to their worldwide implications; they do not simply ‘comprehend’ these complex ideas, as Yager so quaintly puts it, but instead pull together their detailed analysis of a work to better understand the world as portrayed through these model systems of literature. When Nick Yager of the Lamron presupposes “the content that an English major studies is merely the techniques and concepts of literature and to a lesser degree the ideas presented within literature,” he vastly underestimates the amount of intellectual exertion that this work entails (Yager 1). In fact, his use of the word “merely” in this statement serves to discredit the “techniques and concepts” used by English majors to study literature in a methodical and detailed way.

            Literature creates a model of life that engages with any abstract concept or concrete system in the world. English majors study how these models work or affect others and how readers should understand these models of real life using the process of orderly and methodical analysis. English majors form a practice – much like a medical or law practice – through the collective utilization of a constantly redefined vocabulary used to describe the orderly analysis of literary art. English majors systematically investigate the world as seen through the lens of ordinary people, first by looking at the details of the literary models provided and then by applying those details to the larger world. This unique combination of logical progression and holistic application is what makes the English major so valuable.

            In “The Educated Imagination”, an essay by Northrop Fyre, literature’s important role in the world is discussed. Frye writes “literature’s world is a concrete human world of immediate experience ” ( Frye 27-28).  In other words, the world of literature is a world where the reader can intimately interact with the author’s words, a world where the reader can explore a whole range of human emotions. Literature peers into the windows of ordinary human beings; it is the lattice through which we are able to see how and why the world operates on all kinds of different people.  Through the author’s words and characters, we find different interpretations of what it means to be human: how it feels to fall in love or lose a loved one, to meet our goals or come up short, what effects love, hate, joy, sorrow, jealousy, empathy, anger, fear and the myriad of other emotions can have on the fragile mind and body.  English majors primarily study literature, but every time we pick up a book, every time we peruse a poem, every time we read a play, we subsequently find ourselves gazing into the world of human experience.

            English majors study how to analyze and interpret reflections of the human mind as conveyed through works of literature.  The pen is the instrument of this mode of self-expression, and its creations often reflect the author’s own opinions, emotions, and ideas that he or she wishes to convey to the rest of the world.  The English major prepares its students to not only engage with these creations but to understand the authors’ implications behind the works as well.  Literature therefore serves as the lens that English majors use to gaze into the realm of human experience, and it is through this lens that the English major distinguishes itself from all other areas of study.

            A good example of this can be found in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, written by American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892. Gilman writes of her own experience as a woman in an oppressive and patriarchal society that limits her, mentally and socially. Through Gilman’s writing, English majors are able to understand an ordinary woman’s experience in 1892 – not simply through her character but also through the techniques she employs and the broad themes that connect her work. Gilman writes of the husband’s attitude on his wife’s imagination and metaphysical thoughts, “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage” (Gilman 1). In this one sentence, it is simple to see how Gilman feels oppressed and degraded by the men around her.

            Gilman’s experience of oppression in real life can also be understood through the narrator’s view of the wallpaper throughout the piece. The narrator, when first stuck in the room she must stay in until she gets well, says of the wallpaper “It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions. The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow...” (Gilman _). The narrator’s view of the wallpaper continuously gets more horrifying until, at the end of the story, the narrator writes “All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!” (Gilman _). Here Gilman is saying that the oppression of women, making them fade into the background, is completely revolting at first glance and becomes more and more unbearable as time goes on. The character says to her husband at the end of the story, “…said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back’” (Gilman _)! Through the character’s view of the wallpaper, English majors are able to understand Gilman’s experience as an American woman and writer in 1892.

            Yager seems to feel that mathematical and scientific majors are more valuable in society today than English majors. However, English majors, with their learned capacity to think both critically and creatively through the content covered as part of their course of study, are able to connect scientific, methodical analysis with creative, abstract synthesis. This pairing of skills is learned through analyzing the details in a piece of literature through the use of literary devices and by studying how narratives interact with the real world and each other. According to Yager, there seems to be a great divide between the sciences and the humanities, the content they study, and the skills they develop. The English major, though, provides a valuable link between the methodical analysis of the sciences and the creative, abstract thinking of the humanities. The truth of the matter is that there needs to be more overlap between the analysis and synthesis studied almost exclusively by the sciences and humanities respectively, because the ability to think both critically and creatively is incredibly important to understanding the complex and interconnected fields that are becoming commonplace in our new working environments. The English major, through an orderly analysis of details in literature and an abstract synthesis of the real world and literary models, prepares its students for this environment through the content studied in the courses.

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26 Comments

  1. Unknown User (mrb21)

    Note on Conclusion:

    I'd like to wrap up with some quotes from Daniel Pink's book 'A Whole New Mind' which is hopefully sitting back in my dorm room. The book's focus is on how we are changing from a left-brained dominant society to a right-brained dominant society (i.e. from analytic, logical, mathematical to creative, artistic, out-of-the-box thinkers). English, thus, is becoming ever MORE important as a major. I think this would be a good place to leave off - I'll attach those quotes and make the paragraph as soon as I can. 

    Meanwhile, any comments on the introduction (it's quite rough but at least in the right format!) and how it brings together all our brainstorming ideas - let me know! Thanks!

    1. Unknown User (lmg19)

      I personally think quotes from that book would be very interesting and leave the reader with a firm argument in what English majors study, while subtly saying that it will indeed be useful in society. I feel like some of our classmates may disagree because we are wandering into Psych major territory. But, i think this is not the same as when we said English majors study the human experience when we assessed that Psych majors really do because, instead, we are just utilizing the Psych major's field of study to back up our own.

  2. Unknown User (ser13)

    I haven't read Pink's work, so I guess I'm just a bit confused. Is he arguing that society needs creative or imaginative people because that's the trend current business practices are following? Does he speak about how Right Brain thinkers are in demand in other fields or just specifically business?

    1. Unknown User (mrb21)

      His argument is that the world (generally business-specific but his argument is also that EVERYTHING is a business - schools, hospitals, etc) is demanding R-Directed thinkers because computers give us much of the L-Directed thinking we need.

      Before computers, L-Directed thinkers like accountants, people who were really fast at math, etc were in high demand because they were human computers. Now that we have computers that do those jobs better and faster we're seeking people who do what computers can't - and that's see the big picture, synthesize the details and the big picture to make one complete idea, all-encompassing.

      I can see how what I put down as the conclusion could be confusing to a person who hasn't read the book. I will revise it accordingly. I was simply hoping to put down a rough framework for the conclusion so that I didn't lose those thoughts while working on the main body of the essay. 

      Thank you so much for commenting (we need all the help we can get to make this draft a successful integration of the class' ideas).

      1. Unknown User (mka4)

        I think that this is a great idea for the conclusion, and I especially like how you point out that the study of English involves analysis of both details and the big picture.  I think that it is important that that is the overall idea that we take from your source, and that we don't allow the idea that right-brained thinkers are going to take over the professional world to stand in front of this, as it seems like we focused some of our brainstorming on the fact that an English major must master both left- and right- brain skills.

        I realize that what you've jotted down for a conclusion is simply a rough idea of what you wanted to include from your source, I just wanted to make a quick comment on the direction that it will eventually take!

      2. Unknown User (ser13)

        Sorry I am so late in replying. That clarifies what you wrote. I really like your idea to use this! Great work! Thanks!

  3. Unknown User (msa11)

    I just added to Meghan's first paragraph what I think we do as English majors and what skills set us apart from other disciplines. Feel free to edit whatever I've written, I just wanted to get some of my ideas out there.

     

     

  4. Unknown User (lmg19)

    I think Meghan is off to a great start on the draft, and Michael's addition to the end of body paragraph 1 is well written and he has a great ending thought. I think you guys have touched on some great ideas. My favorites so far are:

    "narrow and gross oversimplification of the skills developed by English majors "

    "the heightened abilities to use the written word"

    and the last sentence that Michael added.

     

    Meghan- The idea for the conclusion is great! But I have already told you this in the Brainstorming section. (smile)

    Michael- I think what you have added could be expanded on in reference to the last sentence that I like so much. Maybe narrow down the topic and support it with some good evidence. The main problem I have with your addition is that Frye's quote in particular seems to say that the English major is superior to all other majors which we most certainly want to steer clear of and not do the same thing that the Lamron does, which is degrade someone's choice of study.

     

    I hope I am not stepping on anyone's toes since I am not actually in the Drafting group!

  5. Unknown User (lo3)

    I think the first paragraph is a great start and the outline of the conclusion is awesome; Daniel Pink's book sounds really interesting and I love how it ties business to English. There are some great insights already and I can see where the rest of the paper is going after reading the intro. Good idea bringing Frye into it early on; I think his ideas will be invaluable to us for this paper. My only suggestion is maybe put the 2-3 sentences about skills/skill sets closer together in the paragraph. Just a thought! Keep doing what you're doing! (smile)

  6. Unknown User (ser13)

    I really like how things are going so far. My only comment would be on this sentence: "English majors study how these models work or affect others and how readers should understand these models of real life using scientific analysis." It was just unclear to me who is using scientific analysis. Are the English majors going to use scientific analysis to look at models or do English majors provide ideas how other disciplines can use scientific analysis of the models?

    Sorry if this is confusing and out of my place. Just a thought. Great work!

  7. Unknown User (bbc5)

    I just wrote a paragraph critiquing the Lamron's critique of the English major (if that makes since).  I intend to follow it up with a few paragraphs discussing what it is that an English major studies and what is unique about what we study.  More to come.

    1. Unknown User (lmg19)

      Brendan-

      I think the paragraph you added had a great topic! Analyzing Yager's use of "merely" definitely brings the paper right to the point of our essay: to explain what we study. I think placing it early or even as the first paragraph, would be a good place for it.

  8. Unknown User (bbc5)

    I'm glad you like it Leandra.  Of course, it's open for changes and revision, but we may want to wait until the rest of the draft is complete to do so.  I have another paragraph here that describes the human experience, but I plan to supplement it with another to differentiate the human experience from what psych majors study and to describe how literature is a way for people (authors) to express themselves.  Still more to come.

  9. Unknown User (bbc5)

    Ok so here's another paragraph that I think supplements by earlier paragraph nicely.  It elaborates on the term "human experience" and explains how an English major is still unique from a Psychology major.  Of course, feel free to move around sentences/omit others, whatever seems necessary to improve the overall flow of the essay.  Also, I'd like to point out that I tried to incorporate some direct comments made my some of our classmates on the brainstorming page as they were really insightful and well articulated.  I adjusted some of the phrasing to better fit the context, but I'm certainly grateful for all the contributions people have been making.  Wouldn't have been able to produce these paragraphs without them.

    Transform and roll out.

  10. Unknown User (ser13)

    Brendan this looks fantastic! I love how you write just like you're actually having a conversation with somebody. And I think this is exactly what Dr. Schacht meant today in class when the paper needs to be a bit less academic. I'm not sure if this is the continuity team's job or not, but I think that the paragraphs you wrote and the paragraphs others (Meghan, I think) wrote are in different styles. It's important for the styles to merge and to flow as one voice, instead of two distinct ones. I don't know which one is better, and I think the continuity team has to choose. But overall the ideas and paragraphs are fantastic!

     

  11. Unknown User (bbc5)

    Why thank you.  I have the utmost confidence that our class can pull of this essay - I think it will only get stronger once the continuity and polishing crews buff out our edges.

  12. Unknown User (mrb21)

    Hi guys!

    So two things:

    One, I was reading over the paragraphs and I think we've gotten a little off topic AND we're going over our page limit already without really making a SOLID and DISCERNIBLE point. Six pages is a lot shorter than I thought.

    So I'd like to refocus our thesis to what I was discussing with Dr. Schacht the other day - how English majors methodically analyze works of literature to their minutest details and then synthesize a big picture to describe or explain the world.

    I don't want to delete anyone's work so I'm going to post my new stuff ABOVE all the stuff we've already got so that we can talk about it more tomorrow.

    Two, I'm also hoping to pull some SPECIFIC examples from A Christmas Carol because I feel like we need an example of what we do in order to make our point more clear.

    Thank you all so much for all your hard work already - and drafters, I'll see you in class! 

    1. Unknown User (mrb21)

      I'll be posting new pieces slowly throughout the night - I just need some time to pull parts from everyone's paragraphs and A Christmas Carol.

    2. Unknown User (lmg19)

      Meghan- First off, way to pull in the reigns! I think the essay is starting to flow now and I agree we might be getting carried away with our excitement. Second of all, I was wondering if you think my appearance at Friday's "class" would help at all. I think maybe I could help with finding a certain quote or citing some of the ones that you guys choose that might have not been cited on the Quotations page. I also could begin work on the actual citation page for when we hand in our paper! You guys just tell me the quote and I can do the rest! Or I could just be a happy supporter, cheering you guys on. (smile) Or do you honestly think I couldn't help, because I'm sure too many outsiders may just get in the way...

      1. Unknown User (mrb21)

        Leandra - I can't speak for anyone else but I think you could make several valuable contributions.

        If you'd like to be there, by all means I'd be glad to have you. (smile)

  13. Unknown User (mrb21)

    Alright. That's all I've got in me for tonight. I hope no one feels I cut out parts of their work that were really really important. The essay is now only a little over 4 and a half pages (the parts in black) so we have room to grow and expand out a little and maybe add a few more examples - maybe one that relates two works of literature to each other or some such fantastical thing.

    See you all tomorrow!

  14. Unknown User (lmg19)

    Atheequa and I made the citations so far for the entire paper!! Thanks Brendan for finding the book for The Word Plum!

     References:

    Dickens, Charles. The Annotated Christmas Carol : A Christmas Carol In Prose. Ed. Hearn, Michael Patrick. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004. Print.

    Frye, Northrop. The Educated Imagination. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964. Print.

    Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Magazine, 1892. Project Gutenberg. 25 November 2008. netLibrary. 10 December 2012. < http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=2877687 >.

    Meyer, Michael. Literature to Go. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. Print.

    Yager, Nick. “The Faceoff: Legitimacy of the English major questioned”. The Lamron. 27 October 2011. Web. 27 November 2012. < http://www.thelamron.com/opinion/the-faceoff-legitimacy-of-the-english-major-questioned-1.2670163#.TqqwTXGYnAU >.

     

  15. Unknown User (ser13)

    Here are just some thoughts in response to the comment at the end of the draft about including something about the interconnectedness of majors. Hope nobody minds me adding them here!


    "Unique in its ability to study a variety of topics, the English major links all other majors together. When English majors go through the process of analyzing and relating the results to life, they encounter works from different fields. Works from contemporary culture, different historical eras, scientific inquiries, and the like appear on a given syllabus for an English class. When pursuing every other major, study is limited to that specific topic.

    Studying English, even when concentrating in different areas, proves beneficial. Without the study of English, language, the basic foundation of society, would crumble. On a more sophisticated level, the complex interactions that govern the world would not flow as smoothly. Regardless of where a person may end up, the ability to critically examine and eloquently express himself remains vital. Though other fields do encourage such skills, the English major is the only that does so to such an extent."


    And sorry this is in red; I have no idea how to fix it!

  16. Unknown User (mrb21)

    Hi! So... I'm done for now. Our paper is 6 pages pretty much exactly, good work drafters! Continuity people and grammar/polishers, edit away. Continuity people might want to work on strengthening the last sentence of the conclusion - I feel it pretty weak. 

    I think the essay itself flows pretty nicely, don't you?

    1. Unknown User (lmg19)

      Meghan-

      I added the citation for The Yellow Wallpaper. It's in my previous post qith all of the citations, and I reposted it in the Polishing post for good measure. You said you needed page numbers as well, but I've checked all of them and they coincide with the numbers you posted so I think we are all set. I cited it from the ebook we read from so I think we are good!

  17. Unknown User (ser13)

    I know a lot of the continuity people collaborated on the actual drafting process, so this this the continuity team's final result, too? Can the polishers copy and paste this draft into the polishing section and go to work?