Repurposing for Who?

Overall, I haven’t had too many issues with repurposing the argument from my high school research paper. It’s actually been really interesting for me to take an argument from an old assignment and keep it relevant to a new project. Even though it was challenging, I enjoyed the brainstorming process for this project. It was really cool to see how seemingly tangential topics and arguments could be transformed into a completely different medium.

The one thing I have noticed myself (accidentally) deviating from is maintaining a stable connection with the new audience. For my original essay, I wrote for an academic audience who have knowledge of scholarly reflections on race relations and “The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man” by James Weldon Johnson. However, because my new piece is directed toward parents of mixed-race teens, I’m having trouble balancing the informative aspects with the instructive aspects. Similarly, I find myself struggling with pinning down one tone of voice.

Anyone else having similar issues?

Understanding Rhetorical Grammar

Although this article was pretty dry, I found that it brought up several interesting points. I’m a huge grammar dork, so I’m entirely in support of increased importance placed on teaching grammar in schools. However, Micciche looks at the importance of learning and understanding grammar in a way that vastly outdoes my “because you don’t want to sound stupid” logic. Here are a few key points:

1) Grammar says much more about us as writers than we think it does. Micciche writes, “The grammatical choices we make…represent relations between writers and the world they live in. Word choice and sentence structure are an expression of the way we attend to the words of others, the way we position ourselves in relation to others. In this sense, writing involves cognitive skills at the level of idea development and at the sentence level” (719). I thought this point was really thought-provoking, particularly because of how grammar feels like more of a burden than a mode of expression. I especially liked that Micciche references Didion’s “Why I Write” piece and how she compares grammar and its effects to changing the angle of a camera.

2) Analyzing other texts for grammatical manipulation can be sort of fun. Micciche describes in her second main section of the essay that she requires students to keep what she calls a “commonplace book” in one of her courses. In the commonplace book, students are required to record passages and critically analyze them for at least one grammatical device, so as to get to know the effects of grammar and recognize them more quickly. I know (from personal experience) that one of the last things I look at when analyzing someone else’s work is how their grammar functions to further their argument. Through repetition in a commonplace book, I’m sure it would be much easier to pick up on how grammar is at work within a piece and ultimately make rhetorical grammar a more commonly recognized feature in a text.

3) GRAMMAR IS EVERYTHING. As she’s wrapping up her argument and broadening things out to a “bigger picture” lens, Micciche says, “By looking at practices of representation in various discursive forms, cultural studies methodologies tell us something about the way desires are fabricated and reproduced in order to construct certain kinds of subjects. Rhetorical grammar analysis can work in concert with these goals by making available to students a vocabulary for thinking through the specificity of words and grammatical choices, the work they do in the production of an idea of culture and an idea of a people” (731). I really enjoyed how she connected the analysis of rhetorical grammar to cultural studies. It really drove home the importance that she places on everyone learning how to properly analyze and critique grammar.

I think that this article has been helpful in terms of me looking at my own writing because it will encourage me to contemplate my own grammatical choices rather than just overall argumentative construction. I know for a fact that I rarely consider the way things like sentence structure and word choice can help to manipulate my argument even further. In addition, I’ll be able to provide more constructive feedback for classmates by analyzing their work for deeper, rhetorically grammatical meanings.

 

The Young and the Braless

I don’t really follow blogs. I’ve taken my turn around the “What Should We Call Me” block (which, I think, qualifies as a Tumblr), but have never really been into “following” other people’s blogs. I think my rationale behind looking without investing interest comes from the fact that I’ve never really gotten into blogging myself. If I had a blog, I would probably be more active in the blogosphere.

The one blog that has been on my radar for several years is called The Young and the Braless. If you like fashion, thrift shops, hallucinogenic drugs, Doc Martens, and skulls, this blog may be for you. Started by two financially fortunate twins who went to my high school, the blog chronicles the loads upon loads of money that they spend on the weirdest clothes you could possibly imagine.

Here are a few photo examples of what goes on on The Young and the Braless:

Random psychadelic picture
Random psychadelic picture
"gooey leggings," urban
“gooey leggings,” urban

 

Chiara in a lovely American flag/jungle ensemble
Chiara in a lovely American flag/jungle/airplane ensemble

While I’m both perplexed and put off by the goings on of this blog, I can’t stop looking at it. My obsession may derive mostly from the fact that the twins and I went to the same high school, but I think the fact that I get to see how they market themselves to people who haven’t known them for the entirety of their pubescence is pretty cool. There are just so many weird things that I can’t look away. One time, I was even inspired to buy a wolf t-shirt that looked like this:

Totally badass wolf shirt, courtesy of fab.com
Totally badass wolf shirt, courtesy of fab.com

So if you have an appreciation for eccentric fashion and a soft spot for everything weird, check out The Young and the Braless for some pretty rad clothes and pretty rad chicks.

 

My Paper Style

Up until this point, I can’t say I’ve ever had to take an introspective look at my writing style. From my own observations, I’ve noticed that I tend to gravitate toward a certain formulaic structure (depending on the style) when I write. In addition, I plan sentences out in my head before I write them down. I sort of “hear” them being read before I write them down. That being said, it’s a bit challenging for me to alter a sentence, phrase, or word once I hear it in my head. I notice myself utilizing the services of the wondrous thesaurus.com for when I accidentally re-use a word and it sounds weird to double it in a sentence (side note: I regularly read what I’m writing out loud to myself as I’m writing it, which can come off as a little neurotic). Overall, I have a very established way of writing in the sense that I’ve been writing the same way for a long time, with the exception of learning new writing do’s and don’ts.

My go-to sentence structure is generally something containing a lot of appositives and moveable parts. I like having the option of rearranging within my sentences, but rarely do it for fear of it sounding weirder than it did in my previously imagined model. I’ve noticed recently that I tend to use a lot of commas and parentheses so as to include more information within each sentence. I also type the way I talk: planting punctuation marks where I would pause to take a breath or change the inflection of my voice.

As far as diction goes, I’ve had the style “rules” that Rosenwasser and Steven unravel in their style chapters drilled into my all through high school. When I was a senior, we actually took a class period during the first week to establish a class list of writing rules, such as “never start a sentence with ‘And'” and “always follow ‘this’ with a noun.” Since then, I’ve been closely monitoring my writing (while in the process of writing, as mentioned before) to make sure I’m following all of the rules I’ve been taught were important for “good” writing. I avoid using absolutes, abhor the use of first person in a formal essay, and never disguise a thesis.

In terms of tone, I waver along the professional-conversational depending on the context of the piece I’m writing. For example, if I’m writing an academic paper I lean toward scholarly words and complex sentences; however, if I’m trying to appeal to someone’s experience or feelings, I lean toward more personable and relatable (such as in my application letter for this minor and the college essay that got me into the University of Michigan).

Because I keep track of my writing so closely while I’m writing something, it’s hard for me to necessarily pin down my “go-to’s.” I can, however, identify my own habits and track patterns of what I do while I’m writing.

“Why I Write”

I identify very closely with the Didion article. At the start, I was mostly just intrigued by her identification of the purpose of writing and how it’s a way for an author to shove their own views and observations into a reader’s face. I particularly identify with the passage where she discusses how she focuses on the periphery. Similarly to Didion, I couldn’t tell you most of the information I’ve learned in most of the classes I’ve taken throughout the course of my academic career. I remember the large concepts, but when it comes down to small details I’m a blank slate. However, when it comes to experiences and sensory, “peripheral” details, my mind soaks them up like a dry sponge. Although I won’t ever be able to explain to someone how stoichiometry works (even though we slaved over learning it in sophomore year chemistry), I’ll forever remember the smell of mildew coming off of soggy towels my brother and I decided to store in garbage bags for the duration of summer camp when I was 11. Although I need to be reminded of the plot line of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” I’ll never forget the path I had to take to avoid the squeaky patches in the floor of my childhood home.

Reading Didion’s article gave me somewhat of a comfort. It was very reassuring to learn that the way she discovered her passion and talent for writing was through identifying her weakness of learning but not remembering. Knowing that I share something in common with a scholar as revered as Joan Didion makes me feel just a bit better about not caring that all basic algebra facts have escaped me. The fact that I can use my talent for observation as a strength rather than a fault is quite comforting indeed.