An English Major’s epiphany

I’m enjoying Hayot’s The Elements of Academic Style. Chapters 8 & 9 create a formula for a more organized structure that will keep one’s reader engaged. Ever since I was introduced to the 1-5 levels I haven’t stopped rating article’s sentences and paragraphs. Hayot’s book as a whole capitulates what academic papers should consist of.

In Representing Autism, we can see how Murray structures his paragraph to grasp the reader’s attention and allow his paper to flow. He opens with familiar impressions of autism through autistics such as Grandin, Baggs, and Williams, and juxtaposes their experiences with other novels. By doing this, Murray opens up his second paragraph by writing “the places where autistic lives do not show this kind of range are, of course, those created from outside the condition itself” (Murray, 45). These first two paragraphs follow “the Uneven U” system by Hayot. A 4 in the opening: Murray uses “less general; oriented toward a problem; pulls ideas together” by juxtaposing the writing of autistics with that of neuro-typicals (Hayot, 59). Murray then goes to level 2: introducing novels that hold representations of autism and examples within them.

Skipping ahead to the Bartleby section, Murray takes a glimpse in the past by saying that Curious Incident “is perhaps not the great literary text of autistic presence” and that Melville’s story should be “properly” given that role (Murray, 50). Murray tells his readers that “to choose a text from a period before autism was a diagnosable condition might seem counterintuitive…yet noting the processes through which autism was named and acquired its current diagnostic formations does not suppress the need to attempt to locate the ways in which the condition was represented before the 1940s” (Ibid). Murray understands that his research before autism was created is not common in this field of study but can still be nevertheless true. He defends how his argument may work by mentioning his introduction on retrospective diagnosis and how it is “a fraught process that is all too open to the abuse of the lazy claim, but it can also be a radical critical intervention that is enlightening in extending the parameters of how we understand and read disability” (Murray, 51). His claim, then, is used later on in the paragraphs that follow. By understanding other perspectives on researching autistic presence in literature before the disorder was created, Murray allows an argument to follow his claim but does not fully close his claim because of how valid it still is. Murray’s overall claim, then, is that ” ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’ presents a radical narrative of autistic presence, and that it does so some ninety years before the condition began to be recognized within the terms of clinical medicine…there are two aspects to this claim. The first is that the representation of Bartleby is recognizably that of an autistic individual and that the text offers a clear account of autistic behaviour. The narrator’s descriptions of Bartleby time and again echo the description of impairments – of communication, imagination and socialization – that would come to be central to twentieth-century outlines of autism. The second element to this claim is what we might call the critical consequences that come with the admission of the fact of a narrative autistic presence, namely the manner in which Bartleby’s subject position then determines the various analytical interpretations that can be mobilized in discussions of the story as a whole” (Ibid). Readers now get a sense that Murray has a singular claim that is broken up into two components and should be prepared to read examples of how each component fits into his overall claim.

As Murray gives examples from the text itself, he also adds other academics into the argument and their research on the novel. He brings up Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s definition of a ‘normate’ and how it fits into his claim.  Murray also later sheds light on another claim by Wyn Kelly and Cindy Weinstein that aren’t on the same route as mental disorders but rather an economic difference within the text. By introducing these different perspectives, readers get an idea as to how Murray’s overall claim works just as well. I think this technique is a stretch off where he appears to be headed because it doesn’t follow his overall claim but can also be used as another defensive strategy for his argument that allows readers to understand the different perspectives ‘Bartleby’ represents.

Murray closes off his section III by saying “For all the metacritical status of the story, and all the provisionality of any reading of ‘Bartleby’, it is perfectly justifiable to prefer this reading of the conclusion” (Murray, 59). This closing tells the readers that his reason for bringing up other readings of ‘Bartleby’ is to show how his claim is “perfectly justifiable” and mentions how it is a “preference” not an overall fact.

Hayot’s book is actually helping me as a writer. I always think of a thesis but sometimes close the idea because of its counter-arguments which make me lose my overall motivation of writing the paper. I now understand that it’s perfectly fine to think of counter-arguments because it opens up more doors for my overall thesis. When writing an academic paper, one doesn’t have to suggest that their overall paper is a fact that must be read this way, it’s just one way of reading a text. Readers don’t have to agree, but it doesn’t make the overall claim invalid if the evidence shows that the text can be viewed in that particular way.

1 Comment so far

  1.   ikhan113 on November 8th, 2016

    I found that most of Murray’s paragraph didn’t fit Hayot’s structure of an essay. Even though the uneven u is a very effective way to organize one’s paragraph, it was quite difficult for me to arrange each sentence on the 1-5 level that Hayot prescribes. So I am very happy to hear that you got it under your wing. Maybe we will discuss it before class. But anyway, I agree Hayot’s template is a very effective way to organize one’s essay. I will definitely need to read it one more time.

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