Monthly Archives: April 2015

Arcs of Coherence

How do I build coherence and connections beyond the length of a sentence? What is the difference (is there a difference?) between revising and editing?

Here is a final paragraph (319 Words). Let’s call this version 1

Connecting to the natural world from a young age has proven through strong correlation to have positive impacts on an individuals self understanding, commitment to social justice, self reliance, environmental concern, moral development, a greater sense of community, agreeableness and openness, and one’s sense of compassion and altruism. The connection to nature helps you develop into an active member of society. Being an active member of society does not only give you the ability to benefit yourself and ones around you, but globally can make the world a better place. The connection to nature on a larger scale can help the world become a better place in many ways, if more people developed this connection you would see more environmental care, which on a small scale could just be less litter, but this also means more environmental activists, and a greater ability to conserve land. With more people connecting to nature you would have a more accepting society, with better morals and activism in their area. This will result in a lowered division of classes, and more acceptance and help to the needy. This would happen through the virtue of compassion and self understanding instilled on a larger scale through the connection to nature. What the connection to nature essentially does is summed up well by Henry Thoreau when he states “to affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts”(Thoreau). The connection to nature gives you a more developed ability to make a difference in the world around us, which is, the highest of arts. Making a difference is something everyone can take upon themselves no matter how small, which will gradually lead to a global change. The ability to take this upon oneself is a virtue that everyone has the ability to develop, and the connection to nature is the tool that can bring it out upon anyone willing, up to the global scale.

Here is a revised version of the final paragraph. This version is broken out into four segments (160 Words). This is version 2.

Connecting to the natural world from a young age has a positive correlation with self understanding, self reliance, moral development, and environmental concern.

Spending time in nature also contributes to the social good: such as becoming an active member of society; committing to social justice; building greater sense of community, sustaining agreeableness, openness, compassion, and altruism.

These positive correlations, on a larger scale, can help the world become a better place. When more people have access to positive experiences in nature there is a greater probability of a more accepting society.

As Henry David Thoreau suggested as early as the nineteenth century, nature can motivate us to improve not only ourselves but also the world around us. For Thoreau, “to affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts” (). He understood that making a difference is one of the greatest arts we can contribute to the world, a virtue that everyone has the capacity to develop.

Here is an edited version of the final paragraph (167 words). This is version 3.

Connecting to the natural world from a young age has a positive correlation with self-understanding, self-reliance, moral development, and environmental concern. Spending time in nature also contributes to the social good: such as becoming an active member of society; committing to social justice; building greater sense of community; and sustaining agreeableness, openness, compassion, and altruism. These positive correlations, on a larger scale, can help the world become a better place. When more people have access to positive experiences in nature there is a greater probability of building and sustaining a more accepting society. As the nineteenth-century writer Henry David Thoreau suggests, nature can motivate us to improve not only ourselves but also the world around us. Thoreau says in Walden, “to affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts” (90). He understood what every generation needs to learn: that making a difference is one of the greatest arts we can contribute to the world, a virtue that everyone has the capacity to develop.

*Below is the source of the quotation: Henry David Thoreau. “How I lived, What I lived For.” Walden. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971.

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done” (90).

How do I end my paper?

1. Consider a conclusion that

  • leaves the reader with a memorable restatement or an explanation of why the argument matters
  • places the claim or purpose in a larger context

2.  Here are a few ways to conclude:

  • Summary (but more than restatement): take on the “so what?” question
  • Revisit claim (that is, do more than restate, as your reader is now more informed about the paper’s subject)
  • Relate to your reader (“Now it is up to you,” With this information, consider. . .”)
  • Use one of your sources, whether primary or secondary, or even turn to a new source, to capture the main point or nail down its significance
  • Say something new: point to broader implications, further lines of research or inquiry, unanswered questions, actions to take based on information provided in the essay

3. Some Examples

The purpose of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writing is not to convince a reader of anything. If there is one lesson to be learned from studying Emerson it is to never be definite about anything. Complacency in thought leads to limitations. Conformity attempts to suppress the individual. Emerson himself is never settled in his reasoning:

The deeper he went and the more he tried to grapple with fundamental conceptions, the vaguer and more elusive they became in his hands. Did he know what he meant by Spirit or “Over-Soul”? Could he say what he understood by the terms, so constantly on his lips, Nature, Law, God, Benefit, or Beauty? He could not, and the consciousness of the incapacity was so lively within him that he never attempted to give articulation to his own philosophy. His finer instinct kept him from doing that violence to his inspiration. (633)

With respect to social reform, Emerson knows that his greatest contribution is never to be settled in his own beliefs, and never to aspire to be settled. He will not tell his audience what to think. Telling people what they want to hear is never his purpose. The true action of Emerson’s life lies in his ability to provoke individual thought and action in others. One can only act off of one’s own convictions, and Emerson’s convictions are found in his beliefs that language grabs hold of interest, and inspires a person to think.

*

Longfellow’s attention to the aspects of fatherhood, and the roles that the father plays in society and in the home, are important in the changing culture of the family in nineteenth-century America. Longfellow was not afraid to show the development of the paternal figure during his time—even including in his poems flawed fathers and fathers managing households. In the nineteenth century, writers gave little attention to fathers or fatherhood, and there was a relative decline in the significance of fatherhood as well (Griswold 13). Longfellow’s contribution was to break out of these barriers and offer his readers poems that speak to fathers and the paternal roles that were being disregarded by so many.

*

From the beginning of his career to this most recent work, John McPhee defines nature as a place where people are. His portraits and place-based profiles of people consistently challenge the reader to think in regional terms; and his regional perspective offers readers an indispensable repository of human attitudes toward the natural world. In his more recent books about geology, he invites readers to think about the natural world in unfamiliar ways. For Bailey, McPhee’s later work is most importantly “about nature seen as completely as we can see it.” The consequences of McPhee’s project as a nature writer, from this point of view, are significant. For McPhee’s essential lesson as a nature writer is that our understanding of the natural world is something we must continue to shape as we broaden and deepen our inherently limited human perspectives.

*

A.R. Ammons insisted that the earth is not damaged and does not need to be saved. “If we would get off, it would recover itself beautifully in 25,000 years,” he explained in his interview with Schneider. He concluded that there is therefore really no reason to be concerned about the planet, “It can recover, but what we’ve done to it may cause us to eliminate ourselves.” His point is not that we should abandon responsible conduct as members of an ecological community. Rather he underscores that we know very little about the climate and the possibilities of the earth as a total complex. “It would be foolish of us to say definitively. We might even be doing some good and not know it. We may be stalling off the next ice age by raising the temperature a half a degree. Who knows? We don’t know.” For Ammons it is impossible to think nostalgically about the natural world. “I don’t think you can go back at all. I think that the only way to go is forward.”

When Ammons died from complications of cancer on February 25, 2001, he left behind a body of work that speaks to the distinctive role of poetry in a culture of entertainment, and information. Ammons believed that poetic discourse was a source for clarifying the possibilities of human life. As he explained to William Walsh, the poem “is a verbal construct that we encounter, learn from, make value judgments with, and go to sort out possibilities in relation to our own lives in order to try to learn how to live.” Ammons’s poetics accepts our desire for a more intimate and responsive relationship with the world in a more encompassing, if less certain, definition of what it might mean to live in the world on which our own existence depends.

Moving from One Place to Another

Every piece of writing has a beginning, middle and end. But how does your writing move from one place to another? Following the steps below will help you 1) “see” the structure of your essay, 2) determine whether or not your thinking is actually going somewhere (“developing”) and 3) build in steps that move your argument (and your reader) to a different place from where you started. If step three proves difficult, then you may want to return to the all-important questions: Where am I going? Where do I want to take the reader?

Write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph in your essay.

Example:

  1. Introduction to concept of deviance and the use of deviance to understand acts of nonconformity.
  1. Discussion of the idea that deviance is part of human development and achievement
  1. The importance of looking at deviance from a neutral rather than a biased point of view.

Break your one-sentence summary outline into parts or sections.

Example:

  1. Introduction to subject of paper and inquiry, outline of key questions and debates, importance and consequences of observing deviance differently (paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  1. Examples of scholarly thinking that links deviance and creativity, examples of creative persons who have also spent time “behind bars” (paragraphs on Socrates, Galileo, Thoreau, King, Mandela)
  1. Deviance and the scapegoat figure, Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold and the music of Marilyn Manson.
  1. Write a transition from each part of the paper to the next.

Examples:

“So while we see that Manson belongs to the Church of Satan, we must also note his Episcopalian membership as well, which is something very few of us take the time to discover” (Lowry 54).

“After laying the foundation of seemingly negative deviant contexts, we can turn the tables in hopes to better understand the other half, the positive effects of deviation.”

Examples taken from sample essay “Positive Deviance: Unmasking a Common Phenomenon,” Think, Write, Learn: A User’s Guide to Sustained Writing Projects, Phyllis Benay, Kirsti Sandy and Collie Fulford, eds., Littleton, MA: Tapestry, 2008. 92-100.