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  • 'Formulaic' is a 9-letter word for avoiding what writers need to learn

Comments May 19, 2008 10:36 am

1.) Intro 2.) Body [Three paragraphs] 3.) Conclusion.

One of my main concerns with the "x-number paragraph" essay assignment is that it encourages a shopping-list thesis.  Instructors force unity, but they don’t encourage students to seek out unity, connections, or conflict.  Can't we stop encouraging writers to think in terms of threes?  The Puritans live on, and the classroom’s “divine trinity” seems to be the opposite of mysterious or thought provoking.  American irony, I guess.  Or maybe this obsession with three is just a symptom of American class ideology: start in the lower-class “introduction” paragraph, develop your shopping-list thesis in the longer/hardworking/tri-segmented (lower-middle, middle-middle, upper-middle) middle-class “body,” and end with a rich reflection in the upper-class conclusion.  Pull yourself up by the rhetorical 3-piece bootstraps.

This, perhaps, is fine for elementary education—and I’ve found that Graff’s “argument formulas” help many undergraduate writers, including my college sophomore self, get their pens moving—but where’s the frontier spirit that catalyzes internet writing?  Freedoms with constraints and soft boundaries, but freedoms always encouraged over restraints: isn’t this the American ideology that instructors should bring to the classroom?

Reply to at 10:36 am