Dear Stan Slanders,
I spent this morning reading over my buddy's excellent first chapter. It was very good. I think he is smart. But his chapter begins with an argument. He assumes his readers will be interested in that argument because, well, because he is. I know my buddy wants people to read his chapter, but I don't know how to tell him that most people find arguments boring. What should I do?
A Colleague Enraged that People Hang Academics Living Outside the United States
Stan Slanders Replies:
Thanks for sharing, A.C.E.P.H.A.L.O.U.S. I've enclosed a check for $7.50 American (or $8,987.64 Canadian). Maybe we can save a couple Canadian scholars from the roaming Quebecois hordes. Your question, however, demands a thoughtful response, but this'll have to suffice:
Of the many ways to open an academic essay, clearly the most traditional (among undergraduates) is to recapitulate in words the opening scenes of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Inform your reader that they're witnessing The Dawn of Man. Talk about this (figurative) primitive human society--e.g. America before the advent of academic feminism or Western Culture before the fall of imperialism--and show some (figurative) ape-men fiddling around with some (figurative) bones. Discuss how violent these (figurative) ape-men became after the arrival of something strange, unusual or otherwise discomfiting. Cue Also Sprach Zarathustra. Show how the new thing provokes a frenzied rage from the (figurative) ape-men. Loose the bone! Seamlessly jump-cut to a (figurative) spaceship following the same graceful trajectory and you have written the mother of all introductions. (Essays introduced in this manner are often difficult to conclude. Final paragraphs alternately baffle, entrance and stupify readers.)
Yours in Academic Vice, Virtue and Vitriol,