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Analysis Based on Assigned Class Reading

Analysis Based on Assigned Class Reading

Going Against the Grain: Writers Taking Risks

Context and Description
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
(Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”)

Creativity is a risky business. Being creative involves being different. Being different can be risky because not all differences are created equal: Some differences are appreciated and seen as creative; others are dismissed, laughed at, or considered to be too crazy to attempt. When we do something unexpected or surprising, it can be seen as a risky behavior–we are not following the rules or doing what might be considered “the norm” in a certain situation. Risk-takers need to think about their choices and how they might affect those around them.

The same idea of risk-taking also occurs in writing. Writers use their creativity to try new things in their writing in many ways: in the style of how they write, the genre they choose, how the genre is used or adapted, or the look or format of their finished work. Using a different way of writing–for example, slang, profanity, different language variety or other non-traditional forms of writing in a traditional context–can be effective in making points about differences in social status, cultural experiences, and identity positions. Yet, they can also be judged as a sign of poor writing. Taking a stance on a topic that is different from the majority opinion can stimulate discussion but it can also involve the risk of being dismissed or attacked. Speaking out in writing against the “norms” of society (politically, socially, etc.), or even choosing a topic that is considered more “taboo” are additional examples of risky creativity in writing that challenge or provoke the audience.

To explore the nature of creative risk-taking in writing, compose an analysis of a piece of published nonfiction writing where writers are taking risks. The types of risks may include addressing controversial topics; taking a non-dominant or unpopular perspective; or using unconventional writing features, including vocabulary, style, language variety, genre or visual design. You will choose one outside source that exemplifies a writer taking a risk, and you will complete a summary, analysis, and response to this source in essay format. Overall, you will analyze the effect of this risk taking: Does it make sense considering the author’s purpose, audience or genre? Or, does it fall into the “crazy” category?

As you explore your ideas, you may want to consider the following questions:
? What aspects of the text are risky?
? What kinds of risks might people take in their writing? What do they look like?
? What makes some writing riskier than others?
? What parts of the writing process/experience are affected by risk? (Topic/subject, word choice/diction, final layout/design)
? How do writers manage risks? What factors determine how risky a writer can be? (audience, location of text, social expectations)
? How do writers make these creative, risky choices “work”?
? How does a risk-taking writer work with traditional norms and expectations of writing?
? Are there certain situations where taking risks in writing is not allowed? Why?

Once you choose your text, you may want to ask these even more focused questions:
? What kind of risks does the writer take?
? How does the writer manage the risk?
? How are the dominant and alternative perspectives represented in relation to each other?
? Who decides that the choices the writer makes are risky?
? What is the overall effect of the risk-taking? Does it work, or is it a mistake? Why?
? Why is the risk worth taking? What is the writer trying to contribute by taking this risk?

Learning Objectives
Through this writing project, you will accomplish:
? Producing an effective critical summary of a chosen secondary source
? Critical reading and analysis of a secondary source
? Application of ideas in a secondary source to analysis of chosen topic
? Effective integration and appropriate documentation of ideas from secondary source (quoting and paraphrasing)
? Generation of new insight into the chosen topic (for reader and perhaps for writer)
? Using a source to discuss a theme/larger issue

Process Genres
Here are a few process genres that might help you develop ideas for the profile essay:
? Personal reflection on risks in writing (and consequences) OR times you “played it safe”
? Brainstorming list of different risks writers take (and possible reasons why/why not)
? List of things you have read (in any language) that seem to bend the rules without breaking them (substance/topic; rules of writing). How does the author break that “rule” effectively?
? Reading an example of a nonfiction text where the author takes a risk and writing a response/mini-analysis of the text (using quotes and paraphrases correctly).

Since you are writing a genuine response to a published work, your audience will not only be the author of your chosen source, but also any individuals who have also read (and possibly reacted to) the source. Therefore, you need to be aware of who reads your source so that you can compose a text that is appropriate to that audience. For example, if your source is an article from The New York Times, you will need to write for an audience that expects to read formal and well-reasoned texts. You may also be writing for individuals who have NOT read your chosen source; they may be looking to you to fill them in on not only what was said in the source, but also what you think about it and why. In that case, your summary of the source will need to be as thoughtful and complete as possible so that you are presenting an informed and accurate account of the source. Your audience members will not only read what you have written—they will take your text and react to it. It is important to keep this knowledge in mind when completing this writing project–or any other writing for that matter.

The Genre of Reaction Essay
A summary and critique would begin with an introduction that introduces the text to be discussed. It could also focus on issues or questions to be explored through the critique of the text. The body will consist of a summary and a critique of the text. The summary part represents the main theme or argument of the text as well its overall organization and details that are relevant to the critique. The critique will then analyze or evaluate the text in terms of a set of criteria. The summary and critique part can be organized either in two parts (i.e., the summary of the whole text and the critique of various points) or in alternating segments (i.e., a brief overview followed by a sequence of several summary-critique units, each addressing a different aspect of the text). It would then conclude with an overall evaluation of the text and/or a discussion of the implication of the text for the readers. You may also find alternative ways of organizing it, but keep in mind the risks involved in taking an alternative approach.


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