Monday, 18 December 2006

Reverse-Engineering Other People's Prompts: A Contest (x-posted to the Valve ) The following searches brought potential plagiarists to Acephalous the last two weeks. What do you think the prompts prompting their searches looked like? Consider, for example: “Is Tyler Durden a masculine character?" Really? Someone needed Google to answer that? I find it difficult to imagine the motivating prompt: Is the central character in a novel epitomizing the compensatory masculinity of “a generation of men raised by women” really all that masculine? Your answer should take the form of a “Yes” or a “No.” Students choosing the latter must also identify the occupant of Grant’s Tomb. Failure to do so correctly will result in my friends and I reconsidering our position on compulsory sterilization. Some searches resist identification by virtue of their excessive generality, like the one demanding Google produce a “good reading [of] ode on a grecian urn.” Do such searches betray the desperation of a beleaguered and waning faith in student intellection? Over the course of the semester, your profound ignorance of history, literature, culture and the fundaments of English grammar convinced me that anything resembling an argument written in anything approximating standard English is almost too much to ask. I would no more entrust you with a sentence than a baby with a machete, but as an oral exam would remind me that you exist outside the nightmare my therapist recommended I consider the fifty minutes I spend with you demons three times a week, I have no choice but to suggest someone else write your paper for you. Straight plagiarism is preferred, since your transparent paraphrases will only force me to spend ten seconds resenting everyone who decided the world would be a better place if no one strangled you. Then there are the students who leach the fun from this contest by including the prompt in their search, e.g. “What are the elements of our personality? Which of these elements are the result your heredity and which are the results of your environment? Was nature or nurture more important in your development? How did you become the person you are? free sample essays." That search inspired me one of my own: What is social darwinism? Did it really exist? Or did people believe in different evolutionary theories, like those of Lamarck? Were they aware that they did, or did they think they were good Darwinians? free sample essays Sadly, I’m one of the only people capable of answering those questions. But enough about me. What prompts do you think compelled savvy undergraduates to venture the following searches? “Chiasmus? Examples of in [The] Crying of Lot 49?" “What does biology have to do when you have a chemist botanical gardener kicking your ass?" “Corey Haim’s comment [about] Darwin was?" “[What] academic experiments [have been] done on fish with controlling pills?" “How [do you] cite a blurb [in] MLA [style]?"
How to Open an Academic Essay, Part VIII: Ekphrasis Outside the second-floor bedroom of a small suburban mansion, dark clouds conspire in thunder. Rivers will swell, cattle drown, claps one. Gaudy Christmas sweaters will be drenched, another crashes. Unaware of the cumulonimbus cabal overhead, Scott slips into an overlarge black leather chair and prepares to study. The welt of its exaggerated box cushion wrinkles under his weight, revealing the richer shade of black the chair had been before the morning sun (which would have crawled the through east-facing window by now, were it not obscured by the chattering thunderheads) bleached its treated hide. So Scott reads, his left heel tapping the chair's tapered maple leg, his right elbow relaxing on its thick scrolled arm. His head lolls, resting briefly on the descending crest of its thick, upholstered back. In his left hand, he holds a copy of Amy Kaplan's The Anarchy of Empire, open to a chapter entitled "Manifest Domesticity." It begins with a description of a white pioneer family in a small clearing surrounded by a dense, towering forest. The mother stands at the center of the picture, with her husband at her side holding his rifle, and her children at her feet, staring at a freshly killed deer. An open cooking fire, a crude log cabin, and a few stalks of corn complete the scene. (23) Kaplan's approach to academic writing appeals to Scott, who smiles at how cleverly she employed ekphrasis to set the scene of her argument. The critic of novels should be familiar enough—be it intuitively or theoretically—with the techniques of the novelist to use them as Kaplan has here. Why not draw your readers in, he asks himself, with the one thing you can be certain appeals to them? As if in answer, a vision of himself writing the first paragraph of this post appears before him. He reads his overblown prose and is disheartened by its forced archness, the way it wishes to be taken seriously but reeks of preemptive, defensive irony—tidy bulwarks against the possibility of suck—and remembers the old chestnut: Those who can do, do. Those who can't, write dissertations about those who can. Previous Installments: Part I: The Dawn of Man Part II, part I: The State of the Field Part II, part II: Killing All Fathers Part III: The Historical Anecdote Part IV: The Self-Aggrandizing Personal Anecdote Part V: The Meta-Theoretical Apparatus Part VI: The Balinese Cockfight Part VII: The Modernist Newspaper Clipping

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