Literary Kinds 2012
Welcome to Literary Kinds, an English course offered in Spring 2012 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.
Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations. Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.
a digital humanities talk on Thursday!
"Geography and the Humanities: Applications of Digital Cartography to Digital Humanities"
Presented by Robert Cheetham & Deb Bover of Azavea
Location: Haverford College -Magill Library -Philips Wing
Date: January 26, 2012
Time: Tea-4:15pm | Talk- 4:30pm
Please see the poster attached for more info.
I felt that the idea of plagiarism is presented as a hipocrasy in "The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism" by Jonathon Lethem. Lethem expresses that it doesn't make sense that artists have come to resent those who plagiarize - those who love the author's work enough to adopt it, maybe change it and bring it into their own work. His reference to the Velveteen Rabbit makes a good analogy. The rabbit in the story is told that when a child REALLY loves him, he will become Real. A horse tells the rabbit, "Generally by the time you become Real, your hair has worn off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.” Then Lethem comments, "Seen from the perspective of the toymaker, the Velveteen Rabbit's loose joints and missing eyes represent vandalism, signs of misuse and rough treatment; for others, these are marks of its loving use" (Lethem 16). The rabbit is clearly the piece of writing and the toymaker is the author. The point is that it is the toymaker's job to build toys for enjoyment, right? What child sits a toy on his shelf to look at for pleasure? None. The child plays with the toy every day, takes the toy to sleepovers, restaurants, the movies, misplaces it and makes his father turn the house upside down looking for it, cries when his mom wants to wash it, and never wants to give the toy up even long after he has outgrown it. Isn't that what authors are supposed to want for their piece of writing?
In high school, I didn’t have to write that much or that well. I knew that the transition from high school to college-level writing would be hard and my fear about the switch pushed me toward the natural sciences. The first few science classes I took in college were happily writing free, but now that I’ve moved into higher level courses, I’ve had to learn the rules for writing in science.
So far I've taken classes in a few different subject areas and have experienced a wide variety to Academic writing. Although all types of academic writing strive to make an arguement or prove a point the styles of writing are different. College level writing involves a lot of thought. It's a careful process because you have to manage to tie in the ideas of different authors or researchers without stealing from them.
The hardest thing, for me, about Academic writing is making sure my ideas haven't been used by someone else. In all honesty I don't understand what the goal of academic writing is. There have been times in some classes that I've attempted to tie together sources to showcase an idea that I (thought) I created, only to have a professor write "site this!" I get nervous because I feel like everytime I write a paper I need to do incredible amounts of research to make sure nobody has said the exact same thing that I'm saying without me siting them. It really reminds me of the Harper's Magazine article in that way. I completely agree with the idea that every idea I have is technically plagiarized from someone else.
On a slightly different note I feel like this blurred line of what we can easily site and what is almost impossible to avoid "stealing" is a central problem with a lot of the internet banning bills. We want to avoid plagiarism yes, but where do we draw the line between "stealing" and "creating?"
At this point in time, I would consider scientific journal articles to be the main writing of my discipline. In class, I brought an article that I had written last semester in which I reported results of a five week long experiment. Whenever I write a scientific journal article, there is a very strict format that I am required to follow. The introduction provides the reader with the general background information about the experiment at hand. This includes, but it not limited to, the theory behind the science, the impact of the results of the experiment, previous experimental results, how the experiment described in the paper is new and innovative, and the history and uses of the materials in the experiment. The section that follows, the results and discussion, should flow like a story and does not have to be in chronological order. This section presents the results of the experiment so that the reader will understand how the experimenter arrived at a conclusion. Following the results is a very brief experimental section and an even shorter conclusion. The conclusion is meant to be one paragraph that restates the results of the experiment and the final conclusion about the experiment.
As an English major, the college essays that I have thus-far written for my field have all been based on other people's work. The topic may be as specific as a single poem, or cover several different works of literature, but the point is to make an argument about a specific idea or theme found in the work(s) being written about. The style is very detached; while I am putting forth my own opinion, I still need to write in an unemotional way, basing my statements on quotations and facts. The paper is my own interpretation of the work(s) involved, and it is written to be -- if not outright persuasive -- at least a sound argument. Still, everything is far more clinical than, for example, the Jonathan Lethem essay that we read in class, "The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism." Like an academic essay on English literature, Lethem made an argument and supported it with literary examples, but his tone was far warmer and more informal that both anything I have found myself called upon to write and the vast majority of academic essays that I have read -- though it was similar to non-fiction books, which generally have more of their authors' personalities than do essays.
I was thinking about our readings and discussion this week and was reminded of the laws of thermodynamics (i.e. the energy of the universe is constant and the entropy of the universe is increasing). It seems like these principles also apply to the creation of new genres and academic writing too.
In terms of the infinite regress of source materials, perhaps they are the conserved “energy” and all of our different interpretations and changes that we apply to these conserved sources serve to combine but, in doing so, spread out the sources into something “new”… a unique combination. I think the idea of wanting to produce something that’s different, in any form that it may take (write, draw, describe) are all ways of taking a finite source and expanding out to something infinite.
With the ability to reference so many sources on the internet, our ability to combine, but expand, has increased profoundly. The internet opens our window to new languages, stories, tones of voice, categories of knowledge, graphic representations, interactions, as well as things we’re not even seeking to find (i.e. the surprises that may come up when you Google). Since you can make many more variants from 100 sources than 5, for example, all of these aspects can make for even greater diversity and boundless creativity. As the universe is increasing, so are our literary kinds.
Although writing in a natural or physical science discipline can be easily distinguished from a literary text by the subject topic, different genres of writing branch out of science as well. As a physics major and a student in other science courses, I have had a range of experience in different types of science writing. Presenting my laboratory work for an experimental physics course, an individual research project on the chaos in heart rate for classical mechanics, or a popular science report on human evolution for biology, I must say that each writing experience was unique regardless of the topic in question. The writing assignments are framed in a specific context, either by the professor or the course itself, that allow for a genre of writing. As mentioned by Debbie in class on Thursday, the different genres of writing appear as a result of the context of each sample. A sample from a magazine such as Harper’s or an academic literary essay from the PMLA fall under different genres as each addresses a different audience with different backgrounds on the topic. Other writing samples cannot be understood out of a historical or political context at which they were originally written. Whether a science paper is to be published in Scientific American or the Physical Review Letters does create separate genres in scientific writing as a result of the expected audience and their varying technical and science background.
For as far as I can remember, academic writing has been driven by extensive research (from the writer and sometimes the readers after reading the essay) and supported evidence. Academic writing may allow writers to present their opinions as long as they do not overshadow the facts. Although academic writing requires additional research, I strongly believe that some disciplines (Science vs. Humanities) are more open to having a writer’s opinion complement research.
I took to heart one specific line in the Stallybrass piece, "The cure for the disease called thinking is work." I'm a creative writing junkie, and I took Short Fiction II last semester with Karen Russell who said, that the worst piece of writing advice she ever received was to, "write what you know." Writing only about your experiences is a hindrance. After all, even if you've never worked on a farm, can't you imagine what it would be like? Limiting yourself in this way is a "disease", one that can be cured, as Stallybrass suggests, by work. Thinking, and over thinking, and then rethinking your over thinking just to make sure your work is based justly, isn't beneficial to anyone. Just write. Just work. Let horrible prose or hypotheses or whatever be written. It's better to write junk than nothing.
Yeah, since I like to "bend" the rules, I'm posting about something different from academic writing within a particular discipline. :)
As I've mulled over our class discussion and the reading for the week, I've started to notice a trend. There seems to be a binary between that which is citable (so the source material) and the paper, or equivalent, that we are creating that takes from the source material. However, I don't think that this is the case. Rather, I don't think that what we consider to be the source material is completely original. I think that the "source" is not limited to just the one piece of material. Instead, it is infinite and can't trace where the source actually begins. I'm using an image of reflective mirrors (as is seen above) to demonstrate my point.