Pre-Analysis Work: Writing a Summary
Now that you have completed all the required reading for this unit, you will begin the writing process. First, you must learn to compose an informative summary. (Fear not: most of you have already mastered this portion of the analysis-writing process). Second, you must choose and execute an option of analysis.
When you summarize, essentially you paraphrase, rewriting the author’s words/ideas in your own words. Meanwhile, you credit the writer with her work, seeing as all writing forms the basis of intellectual property. Remember the two-word rule: if you are using more than two thematic words from the author’s sentence, you may well be plagiarizing! Here stands an example of a good paraphrase (of Renshaw’s third paragraph): According to Renshaw (and several other writers), conspicuous deformities can force people into the margins of society where many outcasts resort to pandering, a recognized occupation in many developing nations as a primary means of survival (66).
When you summarize you must decide whether information is worthy of a credit and a citation. Now in the example above, I credit Renshaw and cite the page, but you would probably find this information in many sources. (I just wanted to show you how to do it). You make the discretionary call about what information to cite/credit, and during the peer edit sessions, the class and I will decide whether you need to do more or less in this department.
Introduction to Analysis
Now that you can summarize, time has come to write the analysis. Before you compose, you want to make sure you complete the following tasks:
1. Make sure you understand (at least most of) the text. If that requires rereading, do so.
2. Look carefully over all your notes (including from class discussion)
3. Peruse any writing you have done on the text
4. Brainstorm ideas that you can use in your analysis. You can make lists, diagrams, bubbles, whatever you find most helpful.
Analysis: Option One
1. Locate the thesis. Make sure you understand it.
2. Write out a summary of the text—no more than one typed page.
3. Choose either the thesis or a significant point in the text on which to focus your analysis.
4. When analyzing a point or significant idea, you want to draw out its implications, assumptions, and subtextual meanings. Do you agree with whatever the author implies or suggests? List your reasons, at least five or six, explaining your position. For example, you could tease out Doskoch’s contention that militia groups do not qualify as terrorists. Do national origins, race, and place of birth constitute a legitimate distinction between international hate organizations and domestic fanatics when the end result in both groups is mass death and terror? In addition to this point, you could analyze Doskoch’s recommendation not to infiltrate militia groups. What are the advantages and disadvantages in accepting this stance?
Analysis: Option Two
1. Summarize the text, same as before, one typed page.
2. Choose two, three, or four theoretical concepts (power, surveillance, social/moral conditioning, tyranny, paranoia, etc.) that you find interesting or engaging. You will use these concepts as a kind of microscopic lens by which to examine your chosen text.
3. Apply the concepts to the source text, looking at how the essay illustrates the theory. You have already seen how Foucault’s ideas about hierarchy characterize high school life, how athletes, in particular, embody the tower of power. Interestingly, such a trace could potentially provoke an opportunity to depart from Foucault’s argument, to show how athletes exert a microcosmic tyranny in the school social order. Or, is the tyranny really the work of parents and administrators who support the athletes no matter what happens? (Lefkowitz’s anecdote about the rape atrocity ably illustrates this notion of everyday tyranny).
Read both analysis options and choose your source text before you workshop.
Now here listed are some helpful hints to consider while you formulate your ideas and brainstorm for this first major essay.
General “Dos” and “Don’ts” for Analytical Arguments
1. Do not use circular claims which typically rest in moral/religious arguments and conclusions. For example, you would not want to write: Renshaw’s permissive attitude toward intersexed individuals is simply wrong because intersexuality (both as biological phenomenon and as a lifestyle) detracts from a moral traditionalism. The writer of this moralistic argument assumes that his audience shares his personal value system. The writer has not bothered to construct a claim that intellectually engages the issue of intersexuality. Moralism is usually unacceptable in academic discourse because it is inherently redundant and because it denies the plurality of political, cultural, social, and religious perspectives. Furthermore, the writer becomes vulnerable to easy dismissal. The reader may respond: “I disagree with your claim seeing as I do not look to live your idea of a traditionally moral life.”
2. Never rely on illogical claims or complacent posturing, often articulated in such terms as: “This is simply the way society is, how society works, how things operate. We cannot solve the problem so why even think about it or discuss it.” This argument says nothing except that the writer is too lazy to think outside the box. Your responsibility as a writer is to deconstruct the text, to break it down in order to show where the seams are or just how beautifully the author has constructed her argument. You should ponder, probe, always peel back the surface in search of fresh discoveries and insights.
3. Be fair in your use of criteria. For example, do not critique Foucault for not writing about contemporary culture or Renshaw for not using case studies the way Egan does in her depiction of Jill MacArdle. (I’ll say more about this in class).