Tuesday, 27 June 2006

An Unusual Footnote & A Few Words on Form In the article abstracted this evening, I found the following footnote. See, I'm a fan of footnotes. I sometimes read them before the rest of an article in order to determine whether it's worth my time. And I've read a lot of them. So imagine my surprise when I found this beauty at the tail end of the first: Megan Glick’s undergraduate thesis, ‘‘‘Written by a Ghost of Their Time’: Locating the Civil War in Elizabeth Stoddards’s The Morgesons,’’ is one of the first works to notice the extent to which Stoddard borrows structures of thought from the commercial world to explain the domestic one; her analysis of The Morgesons and Enlightenment definitions of contractual obligation intelligently observes the porous border between domesticity and law (Northwestern University, 2002). (726) An undergraduate thesis being cited in American Literature? Amazing. Were someone to cite mine, the shame would drive me underground. On another note, tonight I wrote a far shorter, more abstracty abstract. I'm no more satisfied with it than I was with its overlong cousin–or with the fact that both fail to grab the general reader. These two failures are not unrelated; both are the product of my poor form, and both will be rectified with a little practice.* Also, I'm appending a few general notes to the end of each abstract. Most of these will concern technique–from sentence-level wit to large argumentative structure–and are there because I belong to the writing-as-perpetual-apprenticeship school. The only way to become a better writer is to imitate better writers, to work their prose over and under until you know it inside and out, and then to appropriate their techniques into your prose. *As White Bear and N. Pepperell noted, a little practice can be a dangerous thing–but I don't think that logic holds here. (By "think" I obviously intend "hope.")

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