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Lecture Five - SFU.ca

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					  Week Five

 Dr. Stephen Ogden
LIBS 7001 Fall 2009



                      1
    Common Sense Approach to
     Definition & Classification
• There is, fortunately, a practical approach to
  the type of “problems” detailed in the articles
  for this week, for those of us who are not (or,
  not only) academics.
• A common-sense practice: assume a stable
  definition (e.g. “truck”), but see any
  uncertainty or issue as simply a matter of
  classification:
  – “does this vehicle belong in the category ‘truck’ ?
                                                          2
                        DESCRIPTION
•   creates sharply etched word pictures of objects, persons, scenes,
    events, situations
•   in work/personal/academic settings, can describe
      »   a patient’s condition for a chart
      »   a product in an advertisement
      »   site conditions in a report
•   can
      » create a mood
      » stimulate understanding
      » lead to action

                                                                    3
             Two Types of Description
Functional                                  Emotional
•   “just the facts”: denotative            •   impressionistic: connotative
•   purpose: to explain, clarify            •   purpose: to convey ideas, moods,
•   allegedly objective, observed from a        impressions
    distance                                •   impressionistic, subjective
•   common in lab reports, formal reports   •   common in everyday life, and in artistic
•   logical order of ideas                      writing
•   perspective: description of parts,      •   highly variable order of ideas
    materials, functions                    •   different perspectives possible




                                                                                       4
          Elements of Description

•   To help drive home your points vividly in an essay
    or speech, carefully use these five elements of
    description:
     1.   Sensory Impression
     2.   Dominant Impression
     3.   Vantage Point
     4.   Selection of Details
     5.   Arrangement of Details


                                                         5
      Sensory Impression, cont.
• appropriate words / comparisons , cont.
   – “… the kind of woman who plays with a full deck of
     credit cards…” (Ehrenreich, 10)
   – an egg that “starts to disgorge a cloud of white stuff
     like a medium at an old-fashioned séance” (Nabokov,
     38)
• blend several sense impressions
   – “Ah…fresh bread” (last frame of Pekar essay)
   – evokes sense of touch (shape, heat), sight, smell



                                                              6
          2. Dominant Impression
• an overall mood or feeling, such as joy, anger, terror, or
  distaste
• may be identified or left unnamed
• can be developed throughout the description
   – “Yet, the overriding sensation I had was of always being out of
     place.” (Said, 37)
   – “Not long ago a former friend and soon-to-be acquaintance
     called me up to tell me how busy she was.” (Ehrenreich, 9)
• may be influenced by vantage-point



                                                                       7
     3. Vantage Point - two types
• fixed: observer remains in one place
   – “Boil water in a saucepan (bubbles mean it is boiling!)”
     (Nabokov, 38)
• moving: observer views things from different
  positions
   – e.g., E. Said moving through time:
   – “In my early adolescence….Now I have divined that…”
     (Said, p. 39)




                                                                8
          4. Selection of Details
• A good writer selects details pointing toward the mood
  or feeling s/he is trying to create.
• Exclusion is as important as inclusion.
• How does a writer suggest stillness or nothingness?
• What are the implications of leaving out certain
  details? Are there limits to a writer’s creative license?
  What’s a writer’s ethical responsibility when using
  description & narration?




                                                              9
     5. Arrangement of Details

• to guide reader and fulfill purpose, use a clear
  pattern or organization - e.g.,
   – spatial
   – sequential
   – contrast
• can start with a striking central feature
   – Said’s discussion of the 2 halves of his name




                                                     10
                    NARRATION
• relates series of real or imagined events
• Narration, a story, can
   – tell what happened
   – delve into motives
   – offer lessons and insights (but doesn’t have to)
   – do all of the above.




                                                        11
             Narrative:
    Examples of Non-Literary Uses
• Used at work, at home, at          – Meeting minutes write-
  school: e.g.,                        up
   – details in a lab or          • Politics: ‘narrative’ is
     inspection report              now an essential tool
      • Any report is a form of
        narration                    – Create a partisan story
                                       about society, selves &
   – development of a
                                       opponents
     research project
   – history of an employee’s     • Journalism:
     work problems                   – news stories are forms of
      • Both by the employee           narrative
        and the employer

                                                                 12
           Elements of Narration
•   Six elements together produce strong narration:
     1.   purpose
     2.   action
     3.   conflict
     4.   point of view
     5.   key events
     6.   dialogue




                                                      13
                  1. Purpose
• can be stated or unstated but always shapes the writing
• may
   – tell what happened
   – establish a useful fact
   – delve into motives
   – offer lessons or insights
Not all “stories” have a moral or teach a lesson.




                                                            14
                    2. Action
• plays a central role in narrative by presenting, not just
  suggesting, something that happens
   – suggested (or reported):
       • “Time seemed forever against me.” (Said, 38)
   – represented directly:
       • “ They went to Michigan Militia meetings. They
         blew up ‘things’ in the backyard.” (Moore, 84)




                                                              15
                      Action, cont.
• Think visually (cinematically) when writing a
  narrative.
   – “…a passage on the piano might cause a sudden
     transformation of her face, a dramatic elevation in her tone, a
     breathtakingly wide opening of arms, as she took me in with
     ‘Bravo, Edward’…” (Said, 38)
   – “With a small spoon tap-tap in a circle and then pry open the
     lid of the shell.” (Nabokov, 38)
• Many experiences are “action:” e.g., thinking,
  feeling, deciding
   – “They also serve who only stand and wait.” (John Milton, “On
     His Blindness,” 1652)

                                                                       16
                      3. Conflict
•   Real, imagined, anticipated conflicts shape our lives; see
    Gk. agon - meaning “contest”
•   Some varieties of conflict:
    1. between an individual and outside circumstances:
       Nabokov’s eggs & egg-cooker
    2. between 2 group members: Said & mother
    3. between__________________________
    4. between__________________________
    5. within____________________________




                                                                 17
           4. Point of View - types
1.   First person: one of the participants tells what happened.
     – uses I, me, mine, we, ours
     – limited to what that person knows; narrator
       can be unreliable because of incomplete
       knowledge
2.   Second-person: less often used
     – you is used or understood
     – imperative & directive; or conversational
3.   Third-person: distanced “narrator” recalls.
     – uses he, she, it, they
     – narrator can be omniscient, intrusive, or                  18
                   5. Key Events
• Strong narratives are built around key events
  bearing directly on its purpose. E.g.
   – Pekar’s paralleling the progress of his thoughts and physical
     progress towards the bakery, where a resolution occurs on
     both levels (“quandry” resolved, AND loaf of bread obtained)
   – Said’s discussion of his mother’s death as a key event, which
     helps to remind him of both his childhood and his own
     mortality.
   – consider “narratives” of election candidates




                                                                     19
                       6. Dialogue
• Conversation animates narrative:
   – indirect/reported - narrator strongly controls presentation
     and mood; reader is distanced from the scene
       • “..called me up to tell me how busy she was.” (Ehre., 9)
   – direct - generally (but not always) more vivid; also leaves
     more scope for reader interpretation:
       • narrator in strong control: “… the days when ‘Let’s have lunch’
         meant something other than ‘I’ve got more important things to
         do than to talk to you now’…” (E,9)
       • integrated into narrative: “’Help me to sleep, Edward’…” (Said,
         39, in which he’s both character and narrator)




                                                                           20
     For the narration readings (Ignatieff, Fraser,
       Mukherjee), consider these questions:

1. What is the author's purpose?
2. Where & how does the author use specific descriptive and
   narrative techniques?
3. Narration often produces a personal, "gut" reader response.
   Critically analyze your own response to these essays:
   1. What exactly was your response?
   2. What factors (e.g.: your experiences, knowledge, the
      author's story, descriptive & narrative techniques)
      might have combined to produce your response?
   3. How did you transcend your "gut reaction" to gain a
      more objective reading of the text?                21

				
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