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English 370, Spring 2016

Final: Monday, May 14, 2016, from 8:30 am-10:30 am. Write your essay in any word processing program you'd like, and then Block, Copy and Paste your essay into a standard email, and send it to me AT or BEFORE 10:30 pm. Late papers will be penalized at the rate of 1 point per minute! (I repeat: DO NOT SEND YOUR PAPER AS AN ATTACHMENT! BLOCK, COPY, AND PASTE it into a standard email!)

Below are four passages from four different authors. Choose ONE of the four passages for your analysis, and then go to work.

In your answer I will be looking for pretty much exactly what we have been doing in class for the past 2 weeks:

  • a characterization as you see it of the speaking voice of the passage--e.g., is it formal, informal, chatty, serious, high, low, wise or any other set of adjectives that seem right to you.
  • an explanation developed as best you can from your understanding of the passage why you think the author makes the choices s/he does in the passage you analyze. e.g., What is the intention, as you see it, of this speaking voice? Why is s/he taking the tone he takes? What is s/he trying to accomplish in this section of the text? Do you think you have in fact responded to the text as you think the text seems to want its reader to respond? If not, why not?
  • a careful and full description of the stylistic features of the text that you see as having led to your conclusions about the style and purpose you are claiming the passage enacts. What stylistic language choices does the author make, and how do those choices work to create the tone of voice you have identified and enable her or him to pull off the effects you have described?

Word limit: 1000 words.

Passage 1: From Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, by Richard Rodriguez

I have taken Caliban's advice. I have stolen their books. I will have some run of this isle.

Once upon a time, I was a 'socially disadvantaged' child. An enchantedly happy child. Mine was a childhood of intense family closeness. And extreme public alienation.

Thirty years later I write this book as a middle-class American man. Assimilated.

Dark-skinned. To be seen at a Belgravia dinner party. Or in New York. Exotic in a tuxedo. My face is drawn to severe Indian features which would pass notice on the page of a National Geographic, but at a cocktail party in Bel Air somebody wonders: "Have you ever thought of doing any high-fashion modeling: Take this card." (In Beverly Hills will this monster make a man.)

["pass notice" here means "escape notice"]

[Note: Caliban is the half-monster/half-man inhabitant of the island of Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Son of the witch Sycorax, he is usually read as the dark opposite to the play's young hero (and suitor to Miranda) Ferdinand.]

Passage 2: From "To Build a Fire" by Jack London

As he turned to go on, he spat speculatively. There was a sharp, explosive crackle that startled him. He spat again. And again, in the air, before it could fall to the snow, the spittle crackled. He knew that at fifty below spittle crackled on the snow, but the spittle had cracked in the air. Undoubtedly it was colder than fifty below—how much colder he did not know. But the temperature did not matter. He was bound for the old claim on the left fork of Henderson creek, where the boys were already. They had come over across the divide from the Indian Creek country, while he had come the roundabout way to take a look at the possibilities of getting out logs in the spring from the islands in the Yukon. He would be in to camp by six o'clock; a bit after dark, it was true, but the boys would be there, a fire would be going, and a hot supper would be ready. As for lunch, he pressed his hand against the protruding bundle under his jacket. It was also under his shirt, wrapped up in a handkerchief and lying against the naked skin. It was the only way to keep the biscuits from freezing. He smiled agreeably to himself as he thought of those biscuits, each cut open and sopped in bacon grease, and each enclosing a generous slice of fried bacon.

Passage 3: From Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamont

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.  We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.  Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reasons they write so very little.  But we do.  We have so much we want to say and figure out.  Year after year my students are bursting with stories to tell, and they start writing projects with excitement and maybe even joy—finally their voices will be heard, and they are going to get to devote themselves to this one thing they’ve longed to do since childhood.  But after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.  Some lose faith.  Their sense of self and story shatters and crumbles to the ground.  Historically they show up for the first day of the workshop looking like bright goofy ducklings who will follow me anywhere, but by the time the second class rolls around, they look at me as if the engagement is definitely off. 

Passage 4: From Celtic Illustration: 600-1100

Unlike the cramped image of Man, the Lion of Saint Mark conveys an impression of freedom and power. Not walking calmly like the lion in the Book of Durrow, but rising up in a prancing leap, the beast is given a forward impetus by the inscription IMAGO LEONIS behind its neck.

This image, too, derives in posture from the Diatessaron model, as we see it nervelessly reflected in the Persian version. The splendid heraldic quality of the Lion, however, is new—linking it with representations of animals in Pictish art.

The beast is caught in a rectilinear labyrinthine framework, consisting of two diagonally corresponding partitions. They create a sounding board for the rampant Lion, whose curvilinear forms contrast sharply with the straight lines of the frame. Since the feet of the Lion cut into the borders, it is probable that they were intentionally left without a filling.

This is perhaps the greatest masterpiece of all designs in Hiberno-Saxon books.