Autobiographical Freedom: follow up

Douglass the intensive writer (as painted by Jacob Lawrence)

I saw in the first writing project a good grasp of the reading and many examples in which the two autobiographical texts were brought together insightfully. As this is a Writing Intensive course, I once again want to focus our attention on some elements of the writing you are doing: the ways that readers craft good ideas from reading into effective critical thinking and writing. If you think about it, this is experience of intensive writing thus has something to do with “autobiographical freedom”: you were also focusing on your craft, showing the “theme” of your reading does not exist by itself, but is necessarily created in the writing of the essay. You are not that far from Wolff or Douglass or Cary. And with that in mind, one of the elements to focus on for the second project, to build upon this first project, is your analysis of craft. Given our focus in the course, strong critical reading/writing emerges from giving attention to the writing, to how the writer writes.

Here are some links to examples to browse. Recall that one reason I ask you to publish your writing on your blog is so that you can read and learn from the range of how other writers in the class are writing. These are examples to consider–not the only ones, not the only way to write–but worth exploring, along with others, as you add some tools to your rhetorical tool belt.

A strong example of a clear thesis and the ways a thesis is maintained throughout the essay: Jesse.

A strong example of development of an argument within the essay, taking time in key paragraphs, going further with quotations: Lindsay.

Two strong examples of presentation (language, style, usage): including a way to do something a little different with an introduction [Daniel] and a way to do something different with a conclusion–namely, raise some larger implications beyond the texts discussed [Angela].

Workshop: Getting Started (lessons from Franklin)

  1. Listing your life. Benjamin Franklin, you will see, was into lists and schedules. But lists that were highly autobiographical: that he used to reflect on and improve his life, his learning. So one way to think about autobiography is to start simple: list out in 5-10 minutes, as best as you can remember, the key points of your life to this point. Perhaps sketch out a timeline. This is listing–but even in this you are starting to select and craft, since you can’t list out every hour of every day. For future workshops, you can get back to this list and focus in on a particular point.
    1. this will be a key focus for us when thinking about our own autobiographical writing: how do we move the writing away from a listing of events or a resume to a narrative that conveys complexity, emotion, excitement–the kind of things readers will want and our lives deserve.
  2. Imitation of Life: One of the main ways we will talk about doing this in this course is to think more about the how rather than the what: move beyond what happened to how–and use this focus on how to extend to your writing. Think how to write about how the experience/event happens. And in starting to address the ‘how,’ you will begin to think more about imagery and ideas that will have more texture and complexity, even symbolic resonance. Let’s borrow an example from Franklin: writing about how he learns to write and teaches himself style by imitating the essays he finds in the Spectator (it is the New Yorker of his day). [page 83]
    1. Use this as a prompt: Franklin’s passage focuses on key ideas in his autobiography–self-education, learning by imitation, the importance of ‘style’, self-improvement. Explore/compost (5-10 minutes) various memories you have of imitation, self-education, being a writer or learning to write, wanting to improve yourself or a skill–or most broadly, important memories you have from your education.
    2. A key to Franklin’s how, going beyond the what of the memory: notice how he focuses on the image of writing–and focuses in here on the metonymic imagery of writing (copying, imitating; life and learning as revision, editing, fixing errors like a printer corrects proofs): that is, images or symbols that represent something about his life and derive or relate to¬† that life, are somehow connected to it.
      1. What is a metonymic image that might factor into your autobiography? [think how Agassi uses imagery of tennis]
      2. In contrast, what might be a metaphorical image/symbol you might use? [using imagery of tennis to talk about your life as a marine biologist]