Anthony Hawboldt: Argument Reflection

Confession: I’m not an English Major. I’m an Anthropologist and Archaeologist by training. When it comes to creating an argument for a paper, I tend to use these disciplines to help me stay organized. Within the Anthropology and Archaeology department, An(th)arky has become our created word for any thing that blends the two, so that will be the title of my style. Here’s a breakdown of my process:

STEP ONE: HYPOTHESIS

Most assignments are easy in that they give you the thesis that they expect you to write about. When the assignment is more open-ended, I tend to choose a topic that I think would be interesting. The hardest papers to write are ones that are boring, so I try to avoid those topics.

STEP TWO: OBSERVE
In Archaeology we look at a list of various traits on all artifacts. Books or films are really no different then any other artifact. The diagnostic traits that I tend to focus on are things like repetition, symbolism, text structure. I’ll write these down in the left hand side of my notebook.

STEP THREE: ANALYZE

Now that I have the primary data that I think is necessary, I’ll look at it and see if there are any trends that appear. Also, I’ll look to see if any of the features that I was looking for seems to be connected to another feature. Anything that I think is important will be written down in the middle of my notebook.

STEP FOUR: THEORIZE

Now that I’ve refined the data into something that I can use to make my arguements, I’ll start looking for any theories that I feel I could use, and write them down on the right hand side of the notebook. This enables me to quickly organize a theoretical perspective, evidence and specific examples for my arguements, as well as the way in which they are all related.

STEP FIVE: WRITE

Now that I have everything that I need, i’ll just sit down until I’ve got everything that I want to say down on the page.

STEP SIX: EDIT

I’ll often print out a copy of my arguement and read it out loud. I feel that this is a more effective way to notice any mistakes or sentances that seem oddly written. I alway do a primary edit, and I’ll do another round of editing if I have enough time before it’s due.

Let’s see all of this in action:

From Throne of Blood, Washizu is terrified of the incoming arrows

From Throne of Blood, Washizu is terrified of the incoming arrows

Let’s assume that we’re being asked to create an argument that Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jō) relies on Japanese cultural motifs more than Shakespeare.

For the Left Column: Removal of major characters from text. Old Hag is taken from other Noh plays. Washizu’s face and dynamic motion taken from Kabuki. Symbolism of the forest and the animals on Washizu and Miki’s flags. Kabuk/Noh instruments instead of cinematic score

For the Middle Column: Emotional moments are created with sound, not by incorporating characters from Macbeth. Old Hag (Onibaba) and the flags taken from Buddhist theology. Spider’s Web Forest creates a dichotomy with the castle (Man-Nature)

For the Right Column: I’d probably incorporate theories about concepts like the Sacred-Profane dichotomy, Liminality, Environmenal Determinism.

After, I’d combine it all together into a thesis statement. This would be organized along the lines of “How Throne of Blood relies on Japanese theatrical traditions to help explain a man vs. nature story, and the role of destiny (pre-determination) instead of attempting to be a cultural translation of the Macbeth story”.
There may be a more effective way to write for English, but I’ve never been taught how. This Anthro/Arky style of argument writing is the way that I feel most confident writing in, and that’s why I keep using it, even if it’s more work.

Anthony Hawboldt: Argument Reflection

Confession: I’m not an English Major. I’m an Anthropologist and Archaeologist by training. When it comes to creating an argument for a paper, I tend to use these disciplines to help me stay organized. Within the Anthropology and Archaeology department, An(th)arky has become our created word for any thing that blends the two, so that will be the title of my style. Here’s a breakdown of my process:

STEP ONE: HYPOTHESIS

Most assignments are easy in that they give you the thesis that they expect you to write about. When the assignment is more open-ended, I tend to choose a topic that I think would be interesting. The hardest papers to write are ones that are boring, so I try to avoid those topics.

STEP TWO: OBSERVE

In Archaeology we look at a list of various traits on all artifacts. Books or films are really no different then any other artifact. The diagnostic traits that I tend to focus on are things like repetition, symbolism, text structure. I’ll write these down in the left hand side of my notebook.

STEP THREE: ANALYZE

Now that I have the primary data that I think is necessary, I’ll look at it and see if there are any trends that appear. Also, I’ll look to see if any of the features that I was looking for seems to be connected to another feature. Anything that I think is important will be written down in the middle of my notebook.

STEP FOUR: THEORIZE

Now that I’ve refined the data into something that I can use to make my arguements, I’ll start looking for any theories that I feel I could use, and write them down on the right hand side of the notebook. This enables me to quickly organize a theoretical perspective, evidence and specific examples for my arguements, as well as the way in which they are all related.

STEP FIVE: WRITE

Now that I have everything that I need, i’ll just sit down until I’ve got everything that I want to say down on the page.

STEP SIX: EDIT

I’ll often print out a copy of my arguement and read it out loud. I feel that this is a more effective way to notice any mistakes or sentances that seem oddly written. I alway do a primary edit, and I’ll do another round of editing if I have enough time before it’s due.

Let’s see all of this in action:

From Throne of Blood, Washizu is terrified by the incoming arrows

From Throne of Blood, Washizu is terrified by the incoming arrows

Let’s assume that we’re being asked to create an argument that Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jō) relies on Japanese cultural motifs more than Shakespeare.

For the Left Column: Removal of major characters from text. Old Hag is taken from other Noh plays. Washizu’s face and dynamic motion taken from Kabuki. Symbolism of the forest and the animals on Washizu and Miki’s flags. Kabuk/Noh instruments instead of cinematic score

For the Middle Column: Emotional moments are created with sound, not by incorporating characters from Macbeth. Old Hag (Onibaba) and the flags taken from Buddhist theology. Spider’s Web Forest creates a dichotomy with the castle (Man-Nature)

For the Right Column: I’d probably incorporate theories about concepts like the Sacred-Profane dichotomy, Liminality, Environmenal Determinism.

After, I’d combine it all together into a thesis statement. This would be organized along the lines of “How Throne of Blood relies on Japanese theatrical traditions to help explain a man vs. nature story, and the role of destiny (pre-determination) instead of attempting to be a cultural translation of the Macbeth story”.

There may be a more effective way to write for English, but I’ve never been taught how. This Anthro/Arky style of argument writing is the way that I feel most confident writing in, and that’s why I keep using it, even if it’s more work.

Carly Splett: Argument Reflection

I begin by carefully examining the essay’s criteria, in order to determine exactly what will be required. This examination is then broken down into an outline, which will be referenced repeatedly throughout the composition of my essay. After determining the precise subject matter for my assignment, I begin my research with general sources, and/or the source directly pertaining to the assignment, to thoroughly engage with the material. From this research, I determine my stance on the argument, and compose my thesis.

After determining my argument, I compile an outline document which comprises of each section necessary in the essay. If additional research is required for the assignment, I will engage in a thorough research for multiple viable sources. Depending on the nature of the assignment, I will either begin with internet or print sources. My general rule is to attempt to engage at least twenty sources for a research-source-based assignment. If the assignment is not research-source-based, I will pour my energies into an aggressive analysis of the primary material pertaining to the assignment. Any passages which prove beneficial to my essay are copied under the relevant outline section.

Once all of my necessary information has been compiled, I begin to compose my essay in a new document. Using the outline as a basis, I work on each section separately. I do not necessarily work on each section chronologically, but will engage each section in the order of strongest to weakest argument. As I engage the material, it can become apparent that my current stance differs subtly from my thesis. Working on each section out of order enables me to examine my analysis of the information without bias, and therefore reconstruct my thesis if it is necessary.

The first draft of my essay will then undergo editing, through both a micro and macro analysis. Any statements or information which prove to be inaccurate or ineffective are removed or altered, and any gaps in the argument or material are supported with additional quotes or statements. As a general rule, I prefer to leave a day or two in between edits, so that I can analyze the strength of my argument from a fresh perspective. After three to four edits, I feel satisfied with the strength of my argument.

An example of this process, is the recent close-reading analysis paper for this course. I began by carefully examining the requirements of the assignment, and creating an outline of criteria gleaned from D2L and the blog site. I then photocopied the chosen passage from the primary source material pertaining to the assignment, to allow for detailed analysis. With the outline as a guide, I engaged a careful step-by-step analysis of the Shakespearean passage, based on the assignment suggestions. At the suggestion of the guidelines, I engaged in several analysis sessions on separate days. This information was compiled in notation on the photocopy, as well as more detailed note-taking in a notebook.

Immersing myself in the analysis allowed me to conclude that the passage was meant to simulate fearful anticipation in the audience, by using poetic techniques. Alliterative sounds were jarring and percussive to the ear, which would invoke the fearful sounds one would hear before the battle. The stakes of the coming battle would have caused fearful fantasizing in the English, so a mythical element was created with supernatural metaphor, personification, and simile. After several rounds of analysis and editing, I was confident that I had explored the facets of proof which were fundamental to my argument.

Analysis of my technique for shifting from evidence to argument, has led to the conclusion that my method is both pragmatic and thorough.

Katarina Nedeljakova: Argument Reflection

Until I started taking university level English classes, I never truly appreciated the art of annotating text and more broadly, note taking as a whole. As a child, I have always been told that books were to be read and not written in. However, as I started reading more texts, mostly those considered “difficult” (such as Shakespeare), it became increasingly harder to keep my thoughts in my head. Slowly, my thought process spilled from the comfort of my own brain to notebooks and finally the text itself. Looking back, it seems impossible that my essays on literature were of even a satisfactory quality without the intricate analyzing methods I use now.

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The approach which I take when reading/annotating literature usually begins with reading the text as a whole or quickly skimming the passage I am analyzing. At this time I make sure to scribble down anything that jumps out at me, then re-read the passage of interest again, slowly and deliberately. If I am preparing to write on a specific topic, I jot down the question or statement I am arguing somewhere on the page, so it is always in the back of my head when reading that passage. An example of my annotating skills was this past close reading of Henry V. I began by quickly reading the passage, paying more attention to the tone of the text than the words themselves. I drew sloppy lines across the page when I felt changes in mood. I made sure to reread the text frequently, when I had a couple minutes before classes or before bed and every time I did, something subtle jumped out at me. By this time, when I sat down to write the paper a few days later, I had a general idea of how I felt about this text and the points I wanted to analyze.

I reread the passage, this time slowly and deliberately. I usually analyze the text in the sections that I previously marked as having a shift in tone. At this point I pay special attention to the literary devices used, the rhythm of the text, and any references (cultural or other) that have been made. Now my annotating moves from the margins to the printing instead, and involves lots of circling and underlining as well as reading out loud. It is also of great help, mostly when analyzing plays, to listen to someone else reading the passage of interest out loud. This helps me catch any structural patterns I might have missed, and more often than not clarifies why a certain choice of words was used in the text. At this point, I also make sure to look any words I might not understand or any references that jumped out at me (this often leads to hours spent on Wikipedia reading up on history). I know I successfully annotated a text when I can easily write about it. If I sit down to write an essay and I have no clue what I am doing, I know I need to go back and analyze the text more. On the other hand, when I sit down and can easily write a decent paper, I know it is due to the meticulous process of reading, jotting down notes, and re-reading.

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By annotating the text, I feel like my writing has become a lot more concise and focused. I no longer feel the need to ramble on for pages. This is now done on my text and the paper is much neater and legible, with the book holding all the “behind the scenes” writing.

When it comes to taking notes on something that is not on paper, I usually have a much harder time. When viewing films, I try to watch the movie as a whole, once again making note of anything that jumps out at me, and then re-watching it. The second time around, I pause at certain scenes and replay clips that I find to be of interest. This is a rather time consuming process, and is usually more practical being done in one sitting. However, I have very little experience annotating film outside English 311 and have not yet mastered a system for doing this efficiently. As of now it consists of jumping back and forth trying to take note of anything I find particularly important, ranging anywhere from the visual choices the director makes to the way the script was written and acted out.

 

 

 

Natasha King: Argument Reflection

When I’m planning my paper I like to treat it similar to how I put together a puzzle. Just like how I establish the frame of the puzzle first, I create an outline for my paper to work within. Once I’ve built my frame I then organize the remaining pieces together based on thematic commonalities (in the puzzles case, by color) and then start putting them together. Once I’ve got the large sections built I then start to fill in all the empty spaces until finally everything has come together.

I find that by putting together the major points in the paper first and then worrying about transitions later on I am able to write clearly and consistently without having to stop and brainstorm things such as how to keep the flow as natural as possible.

Once I have the actual outline figured out I try to break down my sources as much as possible by close reading the supplies I’ve been given to gather my evidence.

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Initially when I’m laying out my plan I work on the points I want my paper to focus on and work on them individually before putting everything together later. To make sure I don’t accidentally leave anything out I like to make checklists to ensure that I cover everything necessary for a successful paper. First I create my thesis statement, written on a sticky note that I will keep posted to my computer screen so that I’m able to constantly refer back to it in my writing process. After I establish my argument and brief explanation as to how I came up with it, I look through my sources and research to find as many pieces of evidence I can find to back up my argument.

Once I’ve found substantial evidence I like to categorize everything based on commonality. With each “category” created I then focus on making my arguments while inputting the evidence I’ve found. After each point is made I go re-read my thesis statement and then go back to the point to ensure I haven’t veered off topic or started rambling.

After finalizing my body paragraphs (however many there are- I try to avoid the high school standard of three) I then look at my conclusion. I often find that having a checklist helps with my conclusion, so that I’m able to ensure that I’ve successfully reiterated the points made in the paper, reminded the reader of what they have read and hopefully clarify why they should care.

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It’s not until after I’ve written the first draft of my thesis statement, argument and conclusion that I then start writing my introduction. I do this because I find it very hard to write an introduction to something when I’m not entirely sure what that something is just yet. Although I have a general idea of what my paper is going to cover and what I’m going to use for my arguments I often find that once the paper has actually been written it can be quite different than it was in the planning stages. Hence, I avoid establishing the “formula” for my paper until it’s actually complete.

Once I have completed my paper with a thesis statement, beginning, middle, end and transitions I then begin editing for grammar and spelling. I prefer to have a peer read my work, since they are more likely to notice mistakes with a fresh mind and no preconceived ideas of the paper, however, reading in reverse is a close second. A trick I learned in high school in terms of catching spelling errors that Word may have missed is to read my entire paper backwards. I’ve realized that after writing a paper (especially multiple drafts) your brain almost has everything memorized, making you more likely to miss something like the repeated word or lack of capitalization.

Finally, once I’ve finished editing everything in its entirety I will print out my paper and go through it with a highlighter and go over every piece of evidence I provided to ensure that it coincides with my thesis statement. Once I’m satisfied with the spacing, frequency and efficiency of my paper I print the final copy or submit it for grading.

What to notice in Film and Text and how to convert that into knowledge

What to notice in Film and Text and how to convert that into knowledge Film and text are very different mediums and what these mediums will bring out or emphasize in a literary work will vary. Film has the strength of being highly descriptive due to its ability to use video and sound to convey its message. However, film tends to be static and one-dimensional, it doesn’t have the fluidity to capture contradiction or change radically as the story goes along. Text on the other hand can be endlessly rich, full of multiple meanings and our interpretation of the text can change as we change. Therefore, annotation of film and text differs, in film one should notice what has been done and what meaning the directors and actors have extracted from the text.The limitations of film are also important, noticing what has been left out also deepens our understanding of the message. Reading on the other hand is a creative exercise, we build the story according to ourselves and our experiences, and we are can annotate what appears important to us individually. Film as a genre allows the text-based work it was based on(as most films are) to become

Film as a genre allows the text-based work it was based on(as most films are) to become more alive and highly explanatory through non-verbal indicators. Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet was rife with the use of symbolism to explain Hamlet’s predicament. The castle at Elsinore was a castle with mirrors covered all four corners of the interior. The mirrors were used in scenes like “To Be or Not to Be” where Hamlet reckoned with his reflection. A house of mirrors is a place of confusion, of entrapment and one gets a sense of endless complexity when stuck in one;most of us visited one at amusement parks when we were children. Elsinore plays on this familiar oddity, it too is a place of complex relationships, of many dimensions of confusion, and a place from where the Wittenberg bound Hamlet cannot find a way to truly leave from. It is also a play on Hamlets mind, which itself resembles a house of mirrors, illusion reflecting other illusions, where the correct path forward is hardly found. This kind of allegory was only implied in the text but Branagh’s use of props and the set to build on this theme added depth and power to Hamlet’s reality. Understanding themes through the construction of the environment is rich ground for good note taking. In addition to this, an effective note taker will take into account music, light and shadow, tone of voice, as well as the perspective of the camera as tools that may enhance meaning.

Film also has the limitations of being one interpretation of a text, and one that cannot change and grow. Kenneth Branagh’s Henry provides an image of King Henry as a good and popular English king. In his “Saint Crispin’s Day” speech, Henry has a gentle and understanding voice, pleading with his soldiers. Even when talking about deserters, he waves his hand magnanimously and turns around to say “That he which hath no stomach to this fight,let him depart; his passport shall be made”(see youtube clip 1:15). However was it not the same Henry that earlier threatened rape? “What is’t to me,when you yourselves are cause,If your maidens fall into the hand Of hot and forcing violation?(3.319-3.321). It would also seem strange for the same king who invaded a foreign land due to a technicality in ‘salic law’ or one who asked his soldiers to “dishonour not your mothers”(3.122) so they would fight bravely. This Henry would not easily send his soldiers home on the eve of the most important battle. However, Branagh de-emphasized this Henry and focused on Henry the national hero. As our understanding of the text grows, our notions of who the characters are also changes, but films do not change as our concepts change. Therefore we have to appreciate a film like literary criticism, it is one directors take on a story at one point in time. However, We can annotate the strengths and causes of this interpretation to deepen our understanding of the text , and argue for and against the take of the film.

 

 

Ernest Hemingway one wrote to a young writer “It is your object to convey everything to the reader, so that he remembers it not as a story but something that happened to himself” (Maria Popova “Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, ambition and the Art of Revision, and his reading list for aspiring writers”). Rich text is usually pumped full of multiple meanings and implicit notions. A close reading of “Once More Unto the Breach” in King Henry V will generate ideas and opinions depending on the person reading it. One can detect subtle manipulations, from throwing down challenges “Now attest that those whom you call fathers did beget you”(3.123), to elevating their pride “For there is none of you so mean and base, That hath not noble lustre in your eyes”(3.1.30) to subtle betrayals of a peaceful nature: “In peace, there is nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility”(3.14). Weather we pick up on Henry the machiavellian manipulator of crowds, or a gentle king urging reluctant peasants to fight, or a war hero rallying before a sure-defeat of the French will depend upon us.As Hemingway says, a true story is one that happened to ourselves. Conversely, we can only detect within books what we ourselves are able to relate to or have the consciousness to understand. While watching film is mostly the subtle art of detection, reading is a highly personal experience. We summon our own wisdom and experiences and use them to generate a feeling for what the text is trying to portray. Annotation is a creative exercise, we jot down what comes to mind and what intuitively feels significant. While the success of annotating film depends on our ability to spot subtle messages and detect symbolism, our success in annotating literature often comes down to our own sensibilities-how meaning in text corresponds with our intuition about what is happening.

In my learning process, the art of converting information to knowledge has three layers. Firstly, there is the level where we understand merely what we are required to know. Secondly, there is the level where we understand what we see as important in the text. The third level is what Harold bloom calls “reading with one nature”(Bloom, How to Read and Why, Schribner Touchstone 2000). The the first level we generally take notes on what we have been told to detect, there is no creativity involved and we understand a surface level of what we need to know. Knowledge is superficial and verbal. At the second level, we are reading(or watching film) because we are emotionally invested in the content, we store in our minds that which we find important and interesting. If its a good piece of work, it enriches our sensibilities and we have a fuller sense of what our chosen theme is about. Knowledge is not only verbal, but also abstract and intuitive,we have a sense of what is important and what causes things. At the deepest level, learning becomes an esoteric experience. We generally drop the analytical mind and become entirely receptive. We are almost in communion with the text and we have a deep understanding of the core of the work. Oftentimes, ‘the rest is silence’, and we cannot really explain it. A book I have had this kind of experience with was “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. I couldn’t really explain the content of the book or any of the themes, but it enveloped me in a certain silence, a freedom from banality and an appreciation for the tragic nobility of the human experience. The level of internalization directly translates into the kind of argument put forward. In my experience, a basic level of internalization usually gives way to a bland, unoriginal argument, like “Hamlet was angry because his mother married his uncle”. A second level argument could explore a theme and be more nuanced “King Henry was a megalomaniac rather than a righteous king”. A deep understanding of the text may give rise to a meta-theme, where a deep, core question is brought forward in light of a real understanding of a text.

Evidence to Interpretation to Argument

When it comes to moving from argument to interpretation, the methods and manners with which one arrives at a final presentation are often invisible. Of course there are interviews with authors, behinds the scenes footage, and other content that displays the machine of the mind at work in our favorite pieces of entertainment, but how often do we turn the lens onto ourselves? How often do we say “Hey me… how’d you do it?” In asking ourselves this question, we take the first step in analyzing our practices- ones rooted in years of habit and stability- and discover why exactly it is that they succeed, where they fail, and how they can be improved. This can be a personally formative (and potentially frightening) exercise in objectivity, and is substantially enriched through its positioning among other entries on this blog. It is my hope that through questioning and comparison, we can understand the variety of approaches each one of as has in moving from evidence to interpretation, through dissecting the individual methods of self-analyzation prevailing in this classroom.

I’ll be tracing my path through the Blog Post A assignment, a film review of Julie Taymor’s The Tempest (2010) as an adaptation of the play, which you can find here.  I’ll be breaking down my method into a series of steps that characterize my argument-building process

Admittedly, I make frequent use of popular (and sometimes less in-depth) forms of research like Wikipedia, Sparknotes, No-Fear Shakespeare, and the Oxford English Dictionary Online. However what’s great about these resources is that they assist in:

1. Understanding the text overall/generally/in a broad sense
This ensures that the evidence that I find later on is understood in context properly, within its sentence/paragraph/passage/chapter/etc.

a) Wikipedia
Here I learn what the play is about, some details about its historical background, and other major points about the play itself. Once I’ve done this, I can start reading.

b) The Tempest (play), Sparknotes, and my notes. I read the synopsis on sparknotes prior to reading each scene. After finishing an act, I make a small summary of what happens. This helps with distinguishing characters and different plotlines throughout the play, making sure I don’t neglect anything obvious that could negate a potential argument.

c) Film: Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert’s website.

Only after understanding the play do I start on the film. From these sources I can start to get a general idea of the film.

Things to note:
– I segment my initial information gathering into chunks. Here I start with the play, and only after I’ve finished do I begin on researching about the film.
– This stage in the process is often entirely analytical. Little of my opinions or emotions come into play or make it onto the page. I’m mostly concerned with understanding what happens in the story. Due to this, I don’t make many interpretive notes on what I’m reading.

2. Creating Ideas
Now that I understand what the text is about, it’s time to start focusing on specific sections to see how it communicates.

Watch the film, have the play text open, have a window for research, have a window for notes (optional: healthy snack)

On first glance this seems a bit chaotic. Where it succeeds is in creating a streamlined workflow, where I can play and pause the movie as I make comparisons to the text, record evidence, gather extra media, and follow an interesting idea or unknown definition through research. This is a stimulating and constantly moving process.

Simultaneously I write down ideas and observations that could contribute towards an argument. As these observations hit the page, I begin to think about the categories or structure that they fit into.

The important thing here for me is writing a lot. This ensures that strong ideas stand out among less convincing ones, and that I have a significant amount of information to work with.

Things to note:
I refrain from researching anything that specifically addresses the arguments I’m trying to make. This assists in:
– Keeping my own ideas genuine and personal
– Retaining the natural ‘flow’ of my information processing (general > focused> specific)

3. Organizing Ideas

What I have at this point is a massive document full of small chunks of ideas, links, screenshots, and other media, all haphazardly thrown into one container.

Now I can start rearranging similar ideas together and see what kind of argument they build. If there are ideas that aren’t fleshed out enough, or don’t add to more relevant or recurring themes, they can go! Typical things that get eliminated are: repeated ideas (often only written in different terms), ideas not relevant to my argument, incoherent ideas.

In the process of moving ideas around, I edit for language, expand on key points I’ve made, and construct transitions from idea to idea. If evidence is missing for a certain argument, I go back and find the best example. Pictures, links, and other media are linked up to their concurrent ideas.

Once all this is done, I modify an existing section or write from scratch an introduction that makes my argument clear. All that’s left now is:

4. Revising and Formatting

I make sure my argument is clear throughout. Now that there is a first draft, I revise, making sure my evidence correlates, and that the key points of my argument are apparent. This is especially important considering my ‘everything goes’ method of dumping ideas onto a page. This is the step that usually separates my argument from an understandable one to one that’s convincing and interesting to read.

Photos then get cropped, hyperlinks are added, and appropriate formatting is done to create some visual harmony. Finally, I sum everything up in a conclusion.

5. Concluding

What defines my method is an openness to thought, and allowing my ideas to flow naturally, not scrutinizing them too carefully before they go from my mind to the page. This, however, can only be done when I’ve sufficiently understood what happens in the text. Once I’ve thrown evidence and arguments all over the page, I can begin to cut down, and only the best of what I have to offer remains.
What could aid me in the future is perhaps more in-depth research when it comes to Step 1 of my method. After gaining a general understanding of the subject of my argument, I could always go further. This could be done through using academic resources, published articles, or sources whose information is less aggregated.

While somewhat chaotic, Step 2 of my method creates a base for which I can start to organize ideas. Visually annotating my own text during this step would definitely assist with larger projects, due to how easy it is to lose track of which ideas belong where in an unorganized mass of text. My preferred document client, Google Docs, has an incredible amount of versatility when it comes to editing and document management. While I take advantage of many of its features, there are always more that could be used. I recommend this resource if you’re looking to take.

Overall, my method of moving from evidence to interpretation is characterized by the freedom with which I let concepts and ideas develop after the initial information-gathering stage.

It was fun (and sometimes confusing) writing about how I write while employing those same methods. This paragraph was written about halfway through this post, and then relocated after! I look forward to reading about how everyone else manages their own process.

by Julian Rojas

From Formula’s to Arguments

If I were asked to describe how I move from evidence to interpretations, I would have to first ask, “What kind of evidence?” This basically boils down to the fundamental question of who I am as a person, which is quite a complex and ultimately quite long story. To understand how I form my arguments, you basically have to understand 2 things and how they interact with each other: my educational background, and my personal background.

My educational background can best be summed up as a scientist with a very heavy mathematical influence. Essentially, this paints the background for how I collect information, brainstorm, and ultimately turn this into concrete knowledge. To those who are unfamiliar with the scientific process, essentially it starts with observing the natural world, you make a hypothesis about it, devise a way to test your hypothesis, and then carry out the test to see the results.  It’s not a single process that occurs either, but constantly re-evaluating itself.

Some people think of it as a line, but it’s more like an eternal cycle, like life and death.

Understanding this model is essential to understanding how I form arguments from my observations, and if its limitations aren’t obvious enough to you yet, they will come to be quite apparent. The strengths of the scientific process are the ability to test your hypothesis against the real world. In the mathematical science of statistics, this is quite apparent in that you can make a hypothesis that a proportion of a population is one number, and then test to see if your data sample supports that hypothesis or not. You test your hypothesis, and the real world tells you if you’re completely off the mark or not because things actually happen and the results are easy to replicate every time.

So one might naturally ask, “What happens if you can’t test your hypothesis, and you are just forming an argument based on the reading of a text?” In such a way the weaknesses of my methods are illuminated. When my observations are words on a page it becomes more an exercise in reading comprehension than an exercise in formalizing an idea. I can’t form my argument, throw it out into the real world, wait for the author of the page to walk up (more so in the case of Shakespeare I suppose) and tell me whether I’m right or wrong. It’s this kind of subjective idea formulation that my education has left wanting, since so much of it has been a simple test of which number is the right number. It also doesn’t help that English had been my most hated subject before University!

So how in the hell did this even get to be the case? I used to be that student who would ask my English teacher, “What’s the point? It’s all subjective anyway when you can try and support any weird idea from whatever you feel like perceiving on the page that particular day.” We even admitted in class that how you’re feeling a particular day can change what you see during a close reading and what kind of arguments you might try to formulate. I had also not yet hit the stage of realizing that you can not like something but also understand what values it does possess. The best example would be of Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, which most of the class has apparently agreed on hating, however I can still understand why it was successful and what it offered to the genre even though it wasn’t appealing to me, though I understood why it was appealing to everyone else in English class on that fateful day in 10th grade.

So why can I do now what I couldn’t then? Well, to be completely fair, I’m extremely different from who I used to be. At the risk of outing myself to the entire class who have probably noticed regardless how damned awkward I am by now, being transgender tends to have this really weird influence that can overshadow how you perceive nearly everything. It’s not as bad as it sounds, essentially all you have to understand from this is that everything was very logical, straight forward, and had very little emotional appeal. This lead to an inability to understand any of my peers, especially emotionally, and I had very little romantic distraction in my life which caused me to excel in the sciences as well as math. Whether a side effect of that period in my life or just a natural part of myself, I also had a nearly photographic memory which led to instant uptake of information, and at those levels of education you merely had to spit out what you knew in order to do well. This lead to terrible note-taking habits, little to no study habits, and synthesizing new information was very rare. Everything came from something outside of myself, partly for being dead inside.

Now that the little segue about my personal life is over, the pieces for understanding my argument formulation are in place. Now it should be easy to understand how I’ve historically pieced together arguments from a text or film, which is primarily what we’re being taught to do in class, and you can sympathize with the idea that these mediums are meant to touch and play upon your emotions, feelings, and natural senses far more than they were ever meant to present information or concrete ideas and facts. In this way, I have had very little experience with being able to correctly understand what a text was trying to do, or how I was supposed to feel. So how do I form arguments now that I can actually empathize with people, texts, and film?

Reads: “Use example pieces of clips to infer the style a director uses. Like stats take a few small pieces and make an inference.”

Essentially, I read what is on the page, and then sum up what I think are the most important parts by linking it to something I already understand. I build my knowledge like a building, and I can only learn something if I can add it onto previous knowledge I already have. This begins the formation of my arguments as any knowledge I already possess is the result of what is likely a very long internal scientific method-like process, as I only feel comfortable calling something knowledge if it can build on and expand on my previous knowledge. In the picture above, it’s obvious that I am comparing the methods of statistics to the method of looking at only small subsets of film to infer things about a particular director’s style in Shakespeare films.

 

Look at all of that literal translation..

However, as was mentioned before with the drawbacks of my methods, my annotations clearly leave much to be desired in what I might understand of a text. Literal translations of Shakespeare prose to modern English and meanings abound, but little expansion on the emotional features of the passage or what the words might make you feel. In this way, it might seem as if I’m blind to large portions of the text since I do not seem to expand on many of the features in the text like metaphor and simile. When turning observations into an argument, it is clear that this is a fault in my method that seems difficult to correct. As such, when forming the close reading paper, a lot of possible expansion or evaluation for the decisions made by Shakespeare were missing simply because I approached text written to appeal to emotion incorrectly in the past. Now, I feel those things everyone is talking about, but have no experience pointing them out and saying, “Hey, I know what that’s doing!”

The only thing that seems to show a glimmer of hope for me in understanding how to expand and evaluate Shakespeare is when I watch Shakespeare on film. Having some background in film, and understanding how the decisions a director makes influence the audience, gives me the ability to recognize not only what is being done on screen but also why the director chose to do it that way and the effect it’s supposed to take on the audience. When a director fast cuts, I understand that they’re trying to create a sense of urgency or fast paced action and chaos. When a director shoots a character from below, I understand that they’re trying to make the character seem imposing or authoritative. I’ve gotten used to the effects film has on myself, and so I seem more comfortable explaining why I see something a certain way than if it were on text. I’d like to actually include the following excerpt from my film review to demonstrate this idea.

“Well, with that the movie pretty much draws to its conclusion, and the director seems committed to the idea that Richard had no regrets even in his last moments. Just one of those movies where everything is a parody to Hitler and Nazi Germany and – wait I forgot this was a Shakespeare film. I’m not sure if the director intended it, since there is indeed a standoff between just Richard and Richmond (Who happens to be the one challenging Richard’s crown), but it ends up feeling fairly Hollywood as it wraps up. I mean my one complaint would be the amount of lines Richmond lost in the film from the text, since he seems to take up the reins as protagonist. It just felt like you were on a boat with Richard, he was the captain, and he struck a rock and now you’re sinking with him and there’s no lifeboats and you have this cocky Richmond fellow just staring at you from his ship with his smug grin.”

Examining this up close, we can break down my formulated argument and actually do our own (quick) close reading, of my own text, to see how I formed it. One thing that stands out immediately is a particular theme in my own writing when I put forth an opinion I feel is subjective, and again the idea that repetition is important in close reading turns out to be true as well with my own writing.

“… and the director seems committed to the idea that Richard had no regrets…”

I’m not sure if the director intended it…”

“… ends up feeling fairly Hollywood as it wraps up.”

“…since he seems to take up the reins as protagonist.”

“It just felt like you were on a boat with Richard…”

The use of words that indicate an appeal to emotion, such as feeling, felt, and seems, all are a sign of my inability to be completely sure about how I feel about something. Feeling things is quite new to me actually, so I have these qualifying statements to indicate how unsure I am about something. I even mention that I’m not sure in the above statement! The rest of my film review contains an almost impressive amount of these qualifying statements of insecurity, even when they are likely not needed. This is because it is a subjective viewpoint I am putting forth, and so my analytical mindset seems to feel the need to qualify these statements. What would happen if I was putting forth a view I felt was objective?

Understanding this model is essential to understanding how I form arguments from my observations, and if its limitations aren’t obvious enough to you yet, they will come to be quite apparent. The strengths of the scientific process are the ability to test your hypothesis against the real world. In the mathematical science of statistics, this is quite apparent in that you can make a hypothesis that a proportion of a population is one number, and then test to see if your data sample supports that hypothesis or not. You test your hypothesis, and the real world tells you if you’re completely off the mark or not because things actually happen and the results are easy to replicate every time.

This is an excerpt from.. well, this. Earlier perhaps, and well out of my mind after I had written it originally. What happens if I perform another casual close reading?

“… they will come to be quite apparent.”

“In the… science of statistics, this is quite apparent…”

Nowhere in the excerpt do we see any qualifying statements that indicate being unsure or not confident in the answer, and instead I have the repetition of the words “quite apparent”. As such it might seem like two different writing styles entirely, and this dichotomy of construction is likely rooted in whether I feel like the argument is based on objective evidence or subjective evidence. If it’s not apparent already (oh look I did it again..) I don’t often go back and check the frequency of certain words in my writing. This preserves what I would call the natural features of my writing, and in a way displays my character.

So, how is it that I form the arguments then from the evidence? For my film review, I watched the film and then went back over the scenes I felt were most crucial to the film and gave my natural subjective opinion. While I may have went over it for coherence sake and to make sure each paragraph made sequential sense rationally, very rarely do I edit something that is out of place. Often times, I look at where it would fit better, and move it, only correcting grammatical errors as I value preserving the natural features of my writing. This is because I write my thoughts down verbatim, and I like to preserve the original stream of thought as much as possible, and in context. Else I delete the entire paragraph entirely and decide it’s brain garbage that I had to get out there but has no purpose entirely. The downside to this is my writing style is very unrefined and informal, leading to very long pieces that need to be trimmed and have small connecting paragraphs inserted between the original pieces so that it maintains logical order. With all the drawbacks to the way I form arguments however, it’s so far proved valuable in my primarily scientific and mathematical studies. So like it or hate it, I may be too stubborn to change it now.

 

Works Cited List

The Scientific Method. From The Scientific Method as an Ongoing Process., by ArchonMagnus,  August 7 2015, <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Scientific_Method_as_an_Ongoing_Process.svg>,

Shakespeare, William. King Henry V. Ed. T.W.Craik  Routledge, 1995. Print

Crowl, Samuel. Shakespeare and Film : a Norton guide / Samuel Crowl. Ed. Julia Reidhead. W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. Print

A Formulated Argumentation on Argument Formulation… Catchy…

One of the great dangers of self-analysis is that it is inevitably biased. Our own self-views judge our own self worth by our own personal experiences. It is rather natural for us to view ourselves with lenience, to rationalize away the very shortcomings we critically denounce in others, to see the speck in another’s eye while ignorant of the plank in our own. In many ways, this serves as a sort of evidence for why we should invest ourselves in others – to learn about them and to understand their perspectives, to use sober discrimination (note: not the stereotypical connotation of irrational, bigoted discrimination) about the choices and actions in their lives as a mirror to our own. For only by broadening ourselves in the lives and light of others can we truly begin to see ourselves for who we are. All this is to say that self-analysis is a business that should be conducted with particular attention and delicacy. In that respect, once again I tread into those perilous waters of self-examination to explore, and judge the worth of, my processes in critical thinking and argument formulation. In an ironic sense, I relish the challenge of presenting evidence to formulate and support an argument in defense of how I present evidence to formulate and support an argument. It is a kind of “chicken and egg” situation that suddenly reminds me of a humorous (albeit loquaciously obtuse) anecdote between Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij1pZvv9m0g

 

The first step to argument formulation is, logically, to know about what it is you intend to argue. In one’s journey for knowledge, Research is the vessel. If I know little to nothing of the subject I will invest time in gathering a broad array of reputable source material (i.e.: evidence-based, fact-supported, bibliographically referenced, etc.). Gathering as many facts and perspectives as possible is a necessary beginning to any formidable argument. Upon first contact with the informative medium, be it literature, video, speech, or any other form, I will simply observe it for what it is. No note taking, no highlighters, just a focused attention to appreciate the source material for what it is. Upon completing a first read/viewing/listening, then will come a second and subsequent reviews. With any hope, something worthwhile was remembered from the first encounter and in light of the recently gained knowledge I can locate topics of importance more easily.

The caveat to this method may be if the “research” to be gleaned comes from a live source, such as a lecture or a field trip. In cases where it is not possible to repeat the informative experience (as one could with a book or film), one must find a safe division in their attention so as to capture important moments from the experience, but not to become lost by stepping out of its context for too long by busily notating fleeting thoughts. My philosophy is this: Let memory be your page and focused attention be your quill. The mind must be allowed to be open and receptive to what it is being presented. These are skills I find sorely lacking in the general population of the “internet generation” of today… Hey Facebook, stop telling me that breakfast cereal and artisan coffees are trending. I don’t care. Unless “Focused Attention” starts trending, stop distracting me with your pointless e-mails. Please. Seriously, the rise in ADHD in the last ten years has very little to do with drugs or diet by comparison to the outrageous fact that children are being conditioned to perpetually divide their attention to all things at all times, rendering their attempts at concentration (if indeed they can even concentrate) ineffective. But I digress…

giphy

Babysitter? I’m sure there’s an app for that…

Is-Your-iPhone-Poisoning-Your-Baby

Perhaps in more ways than you know…

The next step in the argument formulation process is what one might call “brainstorming”, though I prefer “pensive reflection”. What information did the source material convey? How do you feel about it? What are your views toward the material and why? Are there any counter arguments? Could you construe the information in a different way? By playing the devil’s advocate with yourself a great deal of perspective and balanced rationale can be gleaned, along with defensive rebuttals to those who will inevitably attempt to poke holes in the bubble of your logic.

One must always be well prepared!

One must always be well prepared!

Following this critical analysis of the facts, I will at last take to the page. Sometimes at this stage my words flow like a fountain – a stream of prose (or sometimes poetry) may come coursing out of me and I’ll scarcely look back to read my rhetoric until paragraphs or pages have been compiled, my brain paused to recollect itself (I confess, that is the case in this instance). Other times, the topic will be broad and evasive. Then, with nothing more than a general idea of some points I’d like to touch upon, the document I begin to compose is a Frankenstein monster of disparate, disproportioned parts, barely held together by coherent grammatical seams. But slowly, as words are set to the page, ideas begin to congeal. Thoughts become sentences, sentences paragraphs. It is here that the initial writing process begins to marry with editing. In truth, I edit constantly. For me, editing is a stream of consciousness that manifests even as I think and speak. As new ideas flow, after a section is finished, after a rough draft, and a second draft, and a third and fourth – as long as there are ideas to be shared and words to share them there are edits to be made.

Of course, one cannot revise indefinitely. To quote Leonardo da Vinci (if I correctly recall): “A work of art is never finished, only abandoned.” One can only ever hope to reach a state of relative satisfaction with their work. Yet with every work attempted, one sets their own standard. While there may be other standards to appeal to, such as the expectations of an audience or the critical eye of a grading professor, the highest standard is the one you set for yourself. In that regard, with continual practice, your work should continually push new boundaries. However, the new heights are rarely achieved by some magical transformation. Much more often they are the byproduct of a fundamental technique, honed to an immaculate precision. But again, the practice is, in itself, a work of art never finished.

 

How then shall I give an example of this process by way of actions from my own history? Should I speak of the many times I have sat in theaters, reviewing and analyzing concerts, operas, and ballets? Should I address the countless hours spent in libraries, classrooms and quiet spaces where I would read and research for thesis papers while many a tree was sacrificed in the name of note paper? Or should I simply reminisce of the night where more than ten hours were happily whiled away with a friend in a discourse about the Wizard of Oz – of how the book differs from the 1939 MGM film, the Broadway musical Wicked and the terrifying 1985 “Return to Oz”; of how the storied locales and characters would make a fine setting for an adventure/survival horror video game? It was an evening where we used each other’s knowledge, creative ideas, counter arguments and the source material at hand to build upon and further a common topic, ridiculous as the topic may have been…

Alas, like Mercutio, I talk of nothing. Indeed, to craft a well-pointed argument does not necessarily correlate to a point of discussion worth arguing. Or to put it another way, you can shout all you want, but who cares? Certainly, it is the mantra of many activist groups. “We want our voice to be heard!” But is your voice saying anything meaningful? Truly? In the grand scheme of this ball of rock hurtling around a nuclear fireball in the sky, amongst a universe of nature and the billions of other, equal voices of your human race, where we all long for meaning and truth to our existence, are your self-serving, ignorant, divisive by diversity propaganda tirades really worth speaking? Worth hearing? Social media would certainly like us to believe so. And yet how ironic that the “social” aspect of the media creates a unilateral field of anonymity and ignorance – where experts are replaced by individuals’ unsupported opinions; where facts are replaced by 140 character sound bites; where character (new context) is overshadowed by charisma; and where a general lack of communication skills is not only tolerated, but is indeed catered to.

Social media, if we were honest about it.

Social media, if we were honest about it.

So to answer the original question, and to all that has followed here, I say: let this account, this rant, this spilling-of-the-guts stand as an argument and as evidence unto itself. Let these words, so carefully chosen, be a monolith, stalwart against the ignorance, deviance, condescendence and obscenities that are wantonly and irreverently cast out to the masses by the very same minds that have drank such intellectual poison. To those that are still reading these words: I thank you for you attention. I could not ask for a greater honor. Now take these words and judge the truth of them for yourselves. Take note of the world around you, the messages that impact, that bombard you. Take note first with your brain, and with your spirit, before with a pen.

 

“And whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is noble, whatever is admirable, whatever is true; if anything is worthwhile or praiseworthy, think upon such things…”

 

…Whew! Got a little carried away there…!

 

Images sourced from Google.ca