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:
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.