Address these questions in about 5-10 sentences total.
Based on the passages and exercises, what do you now understand about point of view: that is, the decision to write in the first, second, or third person?
What choices can you consider, in terms of point of view, for Portfolio, Part 1?
What does point of view have to do with description, based on what you've done with Dickens, Salinger, Spock, McInerney, and the Times article?
Why treat pronouns in a unit on description?
Why do we need to think about point of view so early in the writing process?
Read the essay again, and now circle or highlight every word when it's repeated more than once.
Word Cloud Exercise
Now, paste your own writing from Portfolio, Part 1 into a cloud-generating website, and look at your cloud, then answer the following questions.
What words come up most frequently?
Which seldom-used words suggest revision directions?
What does this exercise suggest about your draft, and what may need to come next?
How might you begin thinking about your description and examples differently?
How may you approach the next assignment, or later, your revision, based on this cloud?
At this point, I don't recommend that you go back and rewrite the assignment as much as think about your increased awareness of repetition and its concomitant problems. Instead, let's continue on to the next part of the paper.
This excerpt is taken from the first pages of the 1985 novel White Noise by Don DeLillo, based on the impression a professor has on the rituals of students' arrival to his campus. As you read, notice how the passage complicates what we've said so far about repetition, in that it can be repetitive, but in a deliberate and effective way, unlike, say, Chris's response. What is repetitive? And what effect does it create?
Respond to the questions below regarding the passage:
How is the passage an example of description? How does it help you to understand aspects of description more clearly? What aspects?
What is your favorite or least favorite sentence?
As we already saw with our oranges, there is a world of difference between "an orange" and "your orange." Similarly, notice how DeLillo uses and repeats the definite article, "the," as his chief determiner throughout this opening passage. What is the effect? Why do you suppose he uses "the" instead of "a"/"an" or a different determiner like "their"?
On the surface, the passage is a description-or even just a list-of the students' stuff. But beyond the surface, it seems like a description of the students themselves. How? And how can this passage be a model for what you're doing with description for Portfolio, Part 1?
Although we've begun to address repetition, we still have a problem: how can we use it effectively? You'll notice that DeLillo's passage is repetitive, but it seems like less of a problem than Chris's repetition. If our repetition isn't as effective or deliberate, what can we do about it? There are always synonyms, but these only go so far, and there are no synonyms for "I," or "is," for example. And even if we could replace some words with others, we need to tackle the problem, not the symptom-notice how Chris's paper substitutes "little" for "small," among other replacements, but the paper is still not more descriptive. Yes, we need to eliminate repetition, but the real problem seems to be a lack of solid, concrete description, by which I mean here specificity, rather than variation in and of itself.
Portfolio, Part 1
Now that we've established what we mean by description, let's work toward a more formal writing assignment that builds upon the exercises. This is the first assignment in the first portfolio, the one that you'll compile at the end of this module for the first of four Assignments.
In about 300-350 words, describe something that is special or important to you. It should also be something that is generally familiar to the average American. You'll notice that "something" is vague, which gives you as a writer room to decide on an appropriate topic. Consider food, as our exercises and models have.
On structure: Many people are taught to write essays using what's known as a five-paragraph method. Don't feel obligated to use a five-paragraph approach for this assignment-I'm asking for an answer, not format, for now. We'll return to the idea of the five-paragraph essay, with structure and development, later in this module, and then in greater detail later on.