Further Reading

Further Reading Presentations

Our studies into the craft of nonfiction can be enhanced by doing some further reading into these writers and their craft beyond the assigned text.  You will present in class some basic research into the writer you have been assigned; you will also initiate discussion into some element of this writer’s biography and/or craft that is of interest and that might provide some context for the book we are reading. With the final project at the end of the semester, you will be selecting a mentor from one or more of these authors to guide you in your own crafting of an essay; at that point, you can return to these further reading posts to delve more into the author and the elements of craft.

Here are the guidelines for this assignment:

  • Research. Find and provide a brief summary of an additional text by the author or about the author: another essay, a chapter from another book, an interview with the author (such as Paris Review), a critical essay or review of the author.
  • Connections. Make note of any elements of style or craft or particular topics in this further reading that might compare/contrast with the text we are reading: further evidence of how the writer writes and thinks that we can apply to our reading.  Identify an element or passage in the class text that you want to highlight for comparison in class discussion. As a way to develop this focus on craft, identify for discussion one philosophical, rhetorical or poetic element of writing relevant to this writer: for example, a particular rhetorical figure used, an element of the writer’s style or grammar you notice and want to highlight, an idea or principle the writer focuses on. Consult course resources such as Silva Rhetoricae and the Guide to Grammar and Writing. Make a link to whatever web resources you find relevant or useful.
  • Question. Sketch out one or two questions or ideas to raise for further discussion in class the day you present. Help us forward your further reading into a better grasp of the writer, his/her text and craft.
  • Publish. Write this up into a 1 page overview and
  • post to this Further Reading page (copy into the “Leave a Reply” box); post before your class presentation. The presentation/discussion should be around 5 minutes. If you desire, you can combine your efforts with another person also scheduled to present on the same day, though will need to post your overview separately.

Schedule of Presentations:

  • W 3/1: Dillard
    • J Yon, Jessie W., Rachel
  • W 3/8: Douglass
    • Ian, Natalie, Helen
  • W 3/22: Kaysen
    • Alison, Robert, Meaghan
  • F 3/31: Chris Abani
    • Bridget, Andrew Jirsa, Jamison
  • F 4/14: new media essayists (any of your choice)
    • Laiken, Jessica G., Hailey
  • W 4/26: D’Agata
    • Andrew D.,  Kyle

14 thoughts on “Further Reading

  1. In Annie Dillard’s essay “Total Eclipse” from her collection Teaching a Stone to Talk, she recalls a memory of experiencing a total eclipse. She explains it as a terrifying and possibly even life changing. However, anyone could describe such an experience in a few simple sentences. Dillard takes up nearly 20 pages with highly descriptive sentences. Everything from the land, to the people, to a completely unrelated painting of a clown in her hotel room. In an NPR interview, Dillard touches on how she wrote this specific piece and how it relates to her memory.
    ANNIE DILLARD: It was about the eruption of the irrational into daily life because, boy, is the sight of a total eclipse irrational, and people were screaming. I mean, all sorts of science nuts were out there with their cameras screaming their heads off ’cause it seemed like the end of the world.
    BLOCK: Screaming in terror really then.
    DILLARD: Yes, oh, absolutely. I’d seen a great many partial eclipses, but a partial eclipse has the same relation to a total eclipse as flirting with a man does to marrying him. It’s completely different.
    BLOCK: How easy or hard is it for you to summon up what that experience was like, that of seeing and being part of that total eclipse 37 years ago?
    DILLARD: How hard is it to write? It’s a [expletive].
    BLOCK: (Laughter) No, to remember what that was like, to bring back that sensation 37 years later.
    DILLARD: Well, I’ve thought of it a lot. Old memories are very easy to get except that once you write about something you’ve destroyed it. You no longer have the memory. You only have the memory of what you’ve written.
    BLOCK: What’s on the page.
    DILLARD: Yes. It’s like people who take photographs during their whole vacation. They won’t remember their vacation. They’ll only remember what photographs they took.
    She states herself that since the event occurred so long ago, the memory is clouded by the writing. She has a basic memory of a feeling from that time but not nearly enough to write in such a descriptive manner that she does. This begs the question of why. Why is she so descriptive about things such as the clown painting and actually how accurate is the writing about her experience? It is extremely stylized and she creates a lot of imagery. Did Dillard add or change things to her memory to service some agenda? While it is hard to locate, she must have had some purpose behind writing this. Is she trying to comment on the frailty of everything? Regardless of what actually happened, her memory has been completely affected by her writing and she may truly believe that the piece is accurate. How is your writing and memories affected by an underlying agenda or purpose?

    • Further Reading: Annie Dillard
      Annie Dillard is an avid fan of metaphor, especially those of a peculiar nature. From my first exposure to Dillard with “The Death of a Moth” to Teaching a Stone to Talk, it is clear she values the subtle nuisances associated with metaphor – especially extended metaphors. In order to further expose myself to her philosophy on essay writing, I read the interview from Brainpickings.org entitled “Annie Dillard on the Art of the Essay and Narrative Non-fiction vs. Poetry and Short Stories”.
      In her interview, Dillard discusses how the non-fiction essay is a way to assess human potential through the aspiring writer’s words. Because essays are based on truth – plain facts and symbolic facts – it is not complicated to have something to expand upon, as the world always keeps moving and perspectives always keep changing. There is no drama in essay, just fact, just idealism, just metaphor. Dillard remarks, “The essay may deal in metaphor better than the poem can because prose may expand what the lyric poem must compress,” (Brainpickings.org). There is an extended amount of space to devote to developing a metaphor to relate the human world to something larger than itself. Shortly after that remark, Dillard discusses how essayists must master the art of uncertainty. In this discussion, she employs a metaphor saying, “We try to see in the dark; we toss up our questions and they catch in the trees,” (Brainpickings.org). It almost seems as if Dillard cannot write a thing without including a metaphor!
      In her collection of expeditions and encounters, Annie Dillard uses a collection of peculiar metaphors to discuss everything from organized religion to internal struggles to human motivation. One essay, “Teaching a Stone to Talk”, uses an extended metaphor of relating a man trying to instruct an oval beach cobble in the English language. She is discussing the hard-headed nature of humans, especially how our inability to appreciate silence affects the way in which we live our lives. Although the entire essay is a metaphor of sorts, one section stands out in particular when she writes, “my memories of them had altered, the way memories do, like particolored pebbles rolled back and forth over a grating, so that after time those hard bright ones, the ones you thought you would never lose, have vanished, passed through the grating, and only a few big, unexpected ones remain,” (Dillard, page 92). Her use of peculiar metaphors draw attention to the main points of her non-fiction essays, even when the main points carry over from essay to essay. For example, there are many a similarity between the metaphor of the dying moth and that of the dying deer in “The Deer at Providencia”. Which brings us to the question of what is the deer supposed to represent? The struggles a budding writer faces, like in “The Death of a Moth”, or something greater?

  2. Annie Dillard: Observational and Experimental Writings

    “Excepting only some titles and subtitles, I did not write a word of it,” Dillard states in her Author’s Note for Mornings Like This. Despite her admission that she did not write the majority of the found poems that comprise this work, Dillard does state that the poems are original in that she used pieces of “broken” text and invented the themes and orderings. Underneath the title of each poem, she cites the original work in which she found her poems. This particular collection is reminiscent of Emerson’s “Quotation and Originality” and the idea that everyone quotes.

    In Dillard’s work there are numerous nods to Thoreau and Dickinson, two authors to whom she is routinely compared. These found poems with their intrinsic nature themes are reminiscent of Thoreau, and the way the poems are arranged in broken stanzas employing the use of dashes is of Dickinson. Dillard’s writing is very organized although bordering on stream-of-conscious. In her essay “Living Like Weasels” (pg. 65), she ponders those wild creatures and their way of thinking. She makes observations first about the weasel and then moves onto experimenting with the weasel’s way of life as a comparison for how we, as humans, should live. The process of observation and experimentation is embodied in several of her essays and in her collection of found poems. In her poem appropriately titled “Observations and Experiments” (pg. 15), she describes the process of making observations and then conducting experiments. For this poem, Dillard’s observations and experiments are nature-themed, unsurprising since the text she found her poem in was Alan Dale’s Observations and Experiments in Natural History. While many view Dillard as naturalist who loved to make observations about the world around her and had a writing style that can only be described as experimental, she confessed in her personal note on this poem that she has “preferred to know less and less about more and more.”

    Does Dillard’s unique process of observational and experimental writing impact the way that we are supposed to read her work? Do we take Dillard at her word for her observations and not conduct our own experiments? Did Dillard know that she would become such a well respected and profound voice for the naturalists that she purposely tried to observe all aspects of nature (land, sea, and sky)?

    Her way of writing encourages us to make our own observations (about her work and the world around us) and then experiment with the truth we have found in her style. There are those who say that Annie Dillard’s work contained deep philosophical meaning, but Grace Suh from the Yale Herald spoke with Dillard in 1996 and stated that in the case of “Living Like Weasels” that sometimes “even for Dillard, a weasel is just a weasel.”

    Works Cited

    Dillard, Annie. Mornings Like This: Found Poems. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 1996. Print.

    Dillard, Annie. Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters. New York: Harper Perennial, 2013. Print.

    Neill, Peter. “Annie Dillard, American Naturalist.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 11 May 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

    Suh, Grace. “Ideas are Tough; Irony is Easy.” @Herald: A talk with Annie Dillard. The Yale Herald, Inc., 4 Oct. 1996. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

  3. Frederick Douglass- Further Reading

    After having read “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” for the second time I decided to look into what Frederick Douglass did after is successful escape from slavery. I also wanted to incorporate some outside perspective, having learned about this essay in a different context. It is surprisingly different learning about this slave narrative in a non-fiction class than in an African American Literature class.
    A major difference between these different classes is how we approached the slave narrative as a genre. In our Introduction to African American class we learned right off the bat the difference between a slave narrative and an autobiography. The reason why I make this point right away is because of the importance a slave narrative has for other people. It is what speaks for a whole race of people who were enslaved at this time. There is also a list of elements that are usually included in slave narratives and if you read Douglass’s slave narrative you can find most of these elements included.
    I believe Douglass’s slave narrative truly is a tragedy when you look at how he and so many other individuals who were enslaved were stripped from any bit of their identity that they had and any bit of pride that they had. We see this in the beginning when Douglass writes, “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it.” Knowing your age and birthdate is one of the key pieces to our identities and the slave owners destroyed any pieces of evidence. This is why slave narratives are so important, because it shares the reality with the world of how the slaves were being treated and it gives today’s readers insight into the harsh treatment that slaves were receiving.
    As much as the slave narrative is a tragedy we can also look at it as a triumphant turn around. Slaves were not given any tools to learn to read or right so Douglass had to turn to mentors that were able to teach him some basics, which was rare for slaves and also extremely dangerous and risky. As he learned and taught himself to read more and more he also was forced to face a harsh reality for himself. “The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could see them in no other light than a band of successful robbers… I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy.” This quote really stood out to me because we have grown up hearing how much of a gift it is to be given an education. Yet to this man and many other slaves the gift of an education was also the insight to their wretched past.
    I think it is important to look at what Douglass did past is escape because it shows he did not just stop at “freedom.” Douglass went on to work tirelessly with abolitionist groups and leaders and he continued to educate himself more and more. He made a speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s Annual Convention where a correspondent said of him, “Flinty hearts were pierced, and cold ones melted by his eloquence.” Frederick Douglass was an extremely important figure during this time to help bring attention to the realities of slavery and help slaves have hope.

  4. After reading the narrative of “the Life of Frederick Douglass”, I did some further research on Douglass and his experience going through and overcoming slavery. Not only is Douglass a writer, but he also gave many speeches throughout his life that educated people and spread awareness about his struggles. As a child, he only met his mother a few times before she passed away. Douglass was eventually enslaved in the country and was treated horribly. He notes that he was “broken in body, soul, and spirit”. Eventually, he was able to escape and began a new life in Massachusetts. He began to make speeches and fight for the rights of other people of color, as well as the rights of women in later years. This research allowed me to see that Douglass is not only a writer, but also went on to educate himself and advocate for people in similar situations to the one that he was once in. Though he went through a great deal of struggles himself and easily could have given up at many times, he never seemed to think that he was out of chances to advance himself. At one point in time, he attempted to escape from slavery and failed, but he still found a way to escape later on. Still, even after escaping, he began to make a difference in the world by writing and giving speeches.
    Douglass has a way of writing that allows readers to truly feel where he is coming from. He is a wonderful storyteller and takes the time to thoroughly explain his story so that as readers we can understand. One quote that stands out to me in “Narrative of the Life” is, “Under its influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamblike disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness.” (page 37). This quote is in reference to the affects the slavery has on its victims. Additionally, on page 68, Douglass recalls a time when he had to go visit his master. He says, “I then presented an appearance enough to affect any but a heart of iron. From the crown of my head to my feet, I was covered with blood. My hair was all clotted with dust and blood; my shirt was stiff with blood. My legs and feet were torn in sundry places with briers and thorns, and were also covered with blood. I suppose I looked like a man who had escaped a den of wild beasts, and barely escaped them. In this state I appeared before my master, humbly entreating him to interpose his authority for my protection.” This quote particularly resonates with readers because it is specific and brutal. You can fully understand how Douglass must have felt in that situation, even though he does not simply say it. It is through his use of rhetoric that we can feel his pain and cringe at his appearance.


  5. Further Reading: Susanna Kaysen
    I chose to explore a novel that Kaysen wrote as a kind of prequel to Girl, Interrupted, though she wrote it after Girl, Interrupted was published. The novel, Cambridge, delves into Kaysen’s troubled childhood: her poor relationship with her family (especially her mother), her awareness of the fact that she was considered “weird” and “different” from every other nine-year-old, her awkward appearance and her self-pity all combining to create the perfect storm of psychological insecurities and problem patterns.
    The story Kaysen recounts spans five years and takes her far from the comforts and familiarity of Cambridge, placing her in places like dreary England and sun-soaked Greece. Although when Kaysen thinks back to her time in Greece, she describes it as “a long lesson in her insignificance.” Even in her youth, Kaysen was prone to disturbances in her normal functioning and thought (which would later be diagnosed as a mental disorder). Looking back she claims, “I don’t think I grew up very effectively.” And though Kaysen describes her only thrills to be from causing worry and havoc for her parents, her constant disappointments to her mother and the stresses of living in such an academically-inclined household, the overall tone of her writing is one of a sort of happy nostalgia. If not happiness for the youth she did have, the yearning for the childhood that she always wanted.
    All of this recollecting and analysis leads us to the point that we met “Susanna,” the day she was admitted to McLean Hospital. Girl, Interrupted is an autobiography because it is based strictly on the clear memories and facts that Kaysen has from her time spent in McLean. It stays true to life and documents a particular experience in her life. While Cambridge is almost entirely based off of fact, Kaysen calls it a novel so as not to be so stressed trying to remember exactly how events took place because they happened so long ago and across a large span of her youth. She felt freer having the liberty to call it a novel and expand on events and characters. In both of these works made very effective use of ethos. In Girl, Interrupted, Kaysen includes actual documents from her stay at McLean which establishes her credibility. There is also ethos in the fact that these are based off of real experiences.
    Questions/Ideas: Do you think to get a better idea of where Susanna stood during Girl, Interrupted you needed the background information provided in Cambridge? Do you feel enough information was provided with the Susanna we met in Girl, Interrupted? Do you think it matters that the prequel Cambridge was written as an afterthought?

  6. Susanna Kaysen
    -She was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts
    -Carl Kaysen (father) economist
    -Annette Neutra Kaysen (mother) pianist
    -She attended high school in Boston before she was sent to the psych ward
    -Entering McLean, she was undergoing treatment for depression
    -Kaysen was then diagnosed with borderline personality disorder- when one struggles with their moods, relationships, and behavior.
    By doing some further reading on Kaysen, I have made the conclusion that she is constantly writing her novels on herself and what she has experienced. She tends to focus on the more of the struggles of her experiences though. In her novel, Cambridge, she talks about her childhood and how she had troublesome relationships with parents. Throughout the book, she includes that there were many struggles along the way because she felt as though “she was a child in an adults’ world”. Her family moved from place to place as a child, but always would come back home to Cambridge. Throughout the book, she tends to feel lost and excluded as she travels from place to place for her father’s job.
    I can make an assumption that her troublesome childhood led her in the direction of her personality disorder. She constantly traveled around, and this inhibited her to make relationships. She felt that she was in a world that she didn’t belong in, therefore, she had to be someone she wasn’t. This altered the way she grew up. She even says in her interview with goodreads, “I don’t think I grew up very effectively”. Borderline personality disorder is hard enough when trying to balance your relationships. Kaysen didn’t need the added stress.
    Kaysen was interviewed by goodreads, and they talked about her book, Cambridge.
    Goodreads: How closely is it based on your own experiences?

    Kaysen: Almost completely. The reason I decided it should be called a novel is that I don’t trust my memory, and I didn’t want to be going crazy because I couldn’t remember things accurately. Also, since I have this notion that I’m going to write more of it, I wanted the freedom to fuss around with reality in order to make the story more interesting.
    Kaysen talks about how being in the “nut house” really changed her life
    Although she may talk horribly of the place, during the interview with goodreads she actually gave it credit for her work. “it gave her tolerance for being weird”
    “Even if it was a rather luxurious, high-class nut house, it was a nut house: There were bars on the windows, and I couldn’t go out. And so I think it was a very important formative experience, and I think it made me able to be a writer. Or perhaps I could have become a writer without it, but I think it was helpful. I was able to use it to help myself.”
    Two of the reviews that I read, both included that Cambridge, and Girl Interrupted should be called a novel vs a memoir. The interview with goodreads Kaysen says, “The reason I decided to call it a novel is that I don’t trust my memory, and I didn’t want to be going crazy because I couldn’t remember things accurately.”


  7. In his adolescence, Abani wrote his first book titled Masters of the Board; as a result of its publishing, he was imprisoned. The book was thought to be related to a coup intended to overthrow the current Nigerian government. As well as memoirs and novels, Abani has written many poems, almost all of which allude to some nonfictional event that transpired during his lifetime. His poetry and books are all based in fact. His poem Blue depicts a group of African slaves on a boat traveling the ocean to sell them to new owners. In the first stanza, the image of the slaves huddled together on the boat in order to make room for hope implies that they are still, to an extent, optimistic: “Africans in the hold fold themselves/ to make room for hope.”
    The first line of the second stanza refers to the Igbos as “cargo,” which shows the way the African people were viewed by the majority; objects, not people. The newly loaded cargo “[computes] the swim back to land.” The poem goes on to describe the experience of a female slave who was sold six separate times, “once for a gun, then cloth, then iron/ manilas, her pride was masticated like husks/ of chewing sticks, spat from morning-rank mouths.” This woman attempts to escape, breaking free from the metal handcuffs; “the musket shot dropping her/ over the side.”
    Abani, much like his book The Face: Cartography of the Void, uses heavy imagery that, believe it or not, come from real life experiences. The horrors of the mistreatment of and prejudice towards the African people are often talking points in his poems and books. Rhetorically, Abani sticks to metonymy rather than metaphor, since the use of metaphorical devices would be too overstated; his style will usually prefer understatement to overstatement. It is this understatement that makes his work so emotional and intense; rather than describing every emotion felt during the experience, he leaves it to the audience to feel that emotion.
    Abani was, and still is, a very influential contemporary writer. Through intense imagery yet subtle metonymy, he is able to create vivid vignettes of experiences that he has experienced throughout his life.

  8. Chris Abani TED Talk

    In a TED talk given in 2008, Chris Abani discusses the idea of humanity and how it is portrayed in society. He talks about the stories he writes, which are about people and transformation. Along with that, he remarks that people are “never more beautiful than when [they’re] most ugly”, being it the time that shows oneself what they are capable of doing. He writes his stories with that in mind. A story would be much more powerful about a broken man than one with his life together. The pathos is stronger in the former. He speaks of humanity as a mirror. It is impossible to be human without other people. Humanity is something that is intertwined. He mentions Ubuntu, a Southern African philosophy that translates to “humanity toward others”. It is the belief of the universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. The nature of humanity is central to Abani’s later essay The Face: Cartography of the Void, as identity is a main theme. Our identity stems from our humanity, and the most basic form of identity that we possess is the identity of being human. We all share humanity so we all share this identity or part of our face. He shares stories of his mother, obviously an important figure in shaping Abani as he grew up. Most notably, he shares the story of how his English mother would venture into rural Nigeria to work with underprivileged women and teach them about birth control. Abani must accompany as he speaks the language of the women and acts as the translator. Later on, in a London airport, a woman gives nearly all of her possessions to his mother because it is clear she is struggling. He remarks that a simple act of kindness from a stranger will unstitch you. It is these acts that define humanity. He talks of his time in prison on death row along with his cellmate, a fourteen year old boy, who teaches the other inmates how to read. Despite this, he is killed in an extremely horrific way. Abani closes his speech by relating to a tradition in Nigeria where people will build up statues to gods, but when their time has come, they knock the statues down and forget about the god. He explains that we are building gods in our own lives but not knocking them down. To knock them down is to reclaim humanity. Abani’s speech contains many points that would become apparent is his later essays, especially his points about humanity.

  9. Further Reading
    Michael Moore
    Michael Moore is interviewed by Canadian news journal, The Guardian, about his documentary “Bowling for Columbine.” Michael Moore is asked about the overwhelming “success” the film produced and his expectations of the film. Moore discusses the development process of the film, the hours he put in, the way he filmed and chose footage. Moore also answers questions on his self-esteem and how often he appears in his own films, addressing critics’ questions of self-confidence and being an “ego maniac”. Moore also discusses with the interviewer his view of American’s feelings on America, stating that the majority of Americans are displeased or don’t like America. He gives himself a sort of “savior” title and answers questions as if he is doing the American people a favor by bashing America and America’s culture and ways. Moore discusses a previous book he published bashing the American white male and George Bush and his refusal to change his book title or its contents after the attack on 9/11. The book is racistly titled “Stupid White Men starring George W Bush”. Moore also randomly throws out statistics and to what he believes are facts; which I have researched and disproved or discredited most of them. Moore discusses his plan to dismantle the NRA and his opinions on guns and gun laws. The interviewer ends the interview with some challenges to Moore questioning that documentaries can be as manipulative as fiction, can’t it? If you want to make it that way, you can make the facts fit.” Moore defends himself with a metaphor of his ability to twist the story and give new, concerning facts. Moore ends the interview stating future plans to continue documentary filmmaking and plans to not return to TV producing. Interviewer is Andrew Collins.
    Moore discusses how he created his documentary and how he believes he made his documentary so convincing and interesting and successful. Moore creates his documentaries not for political purposes although the majority of his films concern politics or government issues. Moore wants to create a film that can give the audience both tears but laughter, which Andrew Collins points out in his interview of Moore. Moore’s goal is to give a lot of emotion to his films with striking visuals and shocking or tragic events that he believes need attention. After watching Bowling for Columbine a few characteristics of his film stood out. There was no clear point to the film in the beginning and pieces together random facts or footage about a particular subject. I personally don’t like this style of his, I previously had no knowledge of the shooting at Columbine and no idea why it was titled that or the point of the documentary until it was almost over. If I had been personally watching this film, I would’ve turned it off after 10-15 minutes. I also believe his statement of facts was wrong, there was no mention of outside facts or reasoning to all the “tragedies” that he lists during the “What a Wonderful World” montage. He paints America as a violent, horrible place to live with no mention of the soldiers that risk and lose their lives to save his racist, liberal, ungrateful (excuse my language, I’m passionate about this issue) ass.
    Is presenting biased facts without outside knowledge wrong? Doesn’t that contradict the point of a journalist or documentary film maker, who’s job is to present facts on an issue or topic?

  10. According to their website, TED is a nonprofit that works to spread ideas in the form of short, powerful talks. I think the key word there is powerful. My question is how do these speakers go about creating such influential speeches on modern issues? I think Ken Robinson does an excellent job delivering this kind of speech in his talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? He seems to be concerned about a central topic throughout many of his speeches and interviews. Robinson questions the education system as a whole and gets the audience to think about education from a new perspective.
    The way in which Robinson speaks really interests me because it’s very similar to an essay. He starts off a talk with, “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” The language here is compelling and formal, it feels like something we might find in an essay. Another element of rhetoric that I was particularly interested in with Robinson is the use of humor. Throughout the speech he gets the audience laughing, which is I think a lot different than we’ve seen in a lot of essays. He illustrates some stories that cause the audience to laugh, for example,
    “She went over to her, and she said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will, in a minute.” (Robinson, 2006)
    Moreover, then these excerpts, the infliction of sarcasm in tone is a huge part of what makes the audience respond. It’s more of a conversation than we really see in essays. It’s a successful rhetoric because Robinson is able to control the attitude and argument, the audience does not have to reach their own conclusions like they would in an essay. The tone of the speaker is what tells us how to think about his work. This relates with another new media essay we listened to, specifically a radio essay, Santa Land by David Sedaris. These pieces differ in that Robinson gives a visual speech to a live audience and Sedaris exclusively uses his voice. This was my favorites piece because it called for obvious entertainment with the exaggerated humor in his tone. He mocked other people when they said to him, “I’m gonna have you fired!” That was really gripping because it was making fun of something and the audience automatically takes his silly tone lightly. However, in both Robinson and Sedaris’s approach they approach arguments that are quite serious and call the audience to think and question the known. Robinson confronts, “And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.” He certainly makes the audience laugh and enjoy themselves, but his story questions education as we know it. In Sedaris’s essay, at the end he says in a more subdued tone, “It’s not about the child or Santa or Christmas or anything, but the parents’ idea of a world they cannot make work for them.” Making us reconsider not only the holidays, but expectation, parenting and even tradition as we know them.
    My consideration in these new media essays, is what do they do for an argument that an essay cannot? And is there something that limits them? To summarize, in my opinion the most prominent aspect of new media essays that we don’t see in written essays, is the ability to manipulate the audience’s attitude and perception.

  11. This essay was about a fight between two malicious opponents due to inquiries about facts, beliefs, history, and whether the facts were accurate or not. From the beginning of the essay, D’Agatha suggested that there was trouble. He wrote an essay about a young man who had committed suicide. At the time, Jim Fingal was an intern at where D’Agatha worked and he was assigned to check the facts about this piece of writing. Fingal discovered that D’Agatha had made up a few details that were not necessarily true. The main assumption that D’Agatha made was each year, a certain number of teenagers in Nevada kill themselves. He also makes false accusations about the Stratosphere Casino. D’Agatha defends himself by saying “…This is an essay, so journalistic rules don’t belong here.” I agree with Fingal because when writing a book, the author should keep his facts straight and not make false claims. The author should not write about something he assumes because this becomes a controversial issue. Fingal states “…I applaud anyone’s search for The Truth, The Artistic Truth, or any other kind of Truth that you can finagle this argument to be about, but when you change the factual qualities of a thing to suit your own artistic interests, you’re creating something that never existed.” Just like Fingal says; the author should not put false information in his argument when he is not 100 percent sure. One could counter that not every book has to have precise facts in it. D’Agatha was trying to say that it was the quality of his argument that mattered over the facts and truths.
    This book was interesting to me. It was a gradual change from a typical book to a heated argument about certain facts. In the end of the book, the reader gets a sense of the relationship between truth and accuracy.

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