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English 370, Winter 2018

Instructions for submitting your final:

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 5:20 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 addressed to!)

Below are three passages from three different sources. Choose ONE for your analysis, and then go to work. (I told you that ONE of the five passages I handed out in class will be on the final, and you will find that passage here as the four Passage below. I have added three other passages just in case you would like to write on something different.

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

  • Appropriate adjectives that characterize the speaking voice of the passage, e.g., is it formal, informal, chatty, serious, high, low, wise, or is it some other set of adjectives?
  • A full description of the specific 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 choices do you see the author to have made? 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?
  • An explanation developed as best you can of how the features of the text you have noticed contribute to the speaking voice the author chooses to create in the passage you analyze. (In the Hemingway passage from "Big Two Hearted River," for example, Hemingway creates a very factual, almost emotionless style that records what Nick does step by step, what each thing he sees is, but without telling you a thing directly about what he is thinking or fearing or wanting. He also uses almost entirely Anglo-Saxon derived vocabulary. These choices create a simple, even "elemental," voice, one that seems to be interested only in recording what Nick does and thinks.)

Word limit: 600 words.

Passage 1:

Excerpted from Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird

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 2:

Excerpted from John Holt, How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading

When I was teaching English at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, I used to ask my students the kinds of questions that English teachers usually ask about reading assignments—questions designed to bring out the points that I had decided they should know. They, on their part, would try to get me to give them hints and clues as to what I wanted. It was a game of wits. I never gave my students an opportunity to say what they really thought about a book.

I gave vocabulary drills and quizzes too. I told my students that every time they came upon a word in their book they did not understand, they were to look it up in the dictionary. I even devised special kinds of vocabulary tests, allowing them to use their books to see how the words were used. But looking back, I realize that these tests, along with many of my methods, were foolish. 

Passage 3:

Excerpted from Margaret Atwood, Surfacing

I can’t believe I’m on this road again, twisting along past the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south, and I notice they now have seaplanes for hire. But this is still near the city limits; we didn’t go through, it’s swelled enough to have a bypass, that’s success.

I never thought of it as a city but as the last or first outpost depending on which way we were going, an accumulation of sheds and boxes and one main street with a movie theater, the itz, the oyal, red R burned out, and two restaurants which served identical gray hamburger steaks plastered with mud gravy and canned peas, watery and pallid as fisheyes, and French fries bleary with lard. Order a poached egg, my mother said, you can tell if it’s fresh by the edges.

Passage 4:

Excerpted from Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory:

The Education of 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 "not be noticed"]

[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 favored suitor to Miranda) Ferdinand.]