Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Thesis-Driven Essay

Is there anything else? Well, yes. There is the personal essay replete with images and structure that somehow recreates an experience, a memory, a moment in such a way that you feel as if you were there as it happened. A big part of this kind of writing is the voice--the tone of the speaker or narrator that exudes a certain something we call personality. College application essays fall into this bin. Besides inflicting mental torture on the student writing them, when they work they forge together intellect, emotions, memories, hopes, and dreams into something akin to a spotlight that brings to the reader that special self that is either winning or off-putting, depending on the level of craft and self-knowledge the writer possesses. Be yourself, by all means. But if that self is not agreeable to the reader, you have only yourself to blame--and your words.

Essays that are "thesis-driven" are written more on the level of intellect than emotion. Not that they exclude emotion, however. It's simply that the emotional impact of a work of literature is reflected upon, seen how it fits into the meaning of the work as a whole, and then precisely expressed in clear, logical sequence.

A key part of this thesis is its bringing together a brief expression of a work's thematic meaning AND the structures of the work (tone, imagery, diction, etc.) that bring this meaning to the reader. Theme plus structure equals thesis. Most of the time.

That's bascially AP English. One more thing: To be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. That's not negotiable. We'll be talking about this a lot in class.

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