“Line of thinking” paragraphs Or learning to revise your own papers. What is the difference between revising and editing? One of the most successful strategies for revision is to re-outline “after the fact” – i.e., after you have devised an initial structure and completed a draft of the paper. This process is especially useful for identifying the transitional or “stitching” strategies that are best suited to each paragraph and to the paper as a whole. But what else can you do, and where can you do it? This exercise helps you to recognize where other kinds of transitional strategies may be wanted (and why) and begin to see what other possibilities – for your particular essay – might look like. It also helps you to understand whether your draft is saying what you most mean it to say; it creates a map for revision. PART 1. Write out a “line of thinking” paragraph The line of thinking paragraph is a mini-version of the existing draft. In short, it re-tells your argument, using one sentence (or two, if necessary) for each existing paragraph in your draft. It is NOT an outline of the draft, or a description of your main points, but rather a sort of re-enactment of the basic interpretive and argumentative “moves” in your essay. Take out a clean sheet of paper. And your draft. On your clean paper, write one new sentence that delivers the key message of each paragraph in your draft; write these sentences in sequence until every paragraph in the essay is “covered” and your clean sheet has turned into a paragraph encapsulating the entire draft. But remember… …you are not outlining, and you are not describing; you’re re-enacting. Don’t write, “This paragraph tries to say that Rossetti was influenced by Barrett Browning, and she was aware of this influence as problematic to her brother, a circumstance which informs moments of defiance in “The Lowest Room.” Do simply write, “Rossetti was influenced by Barrett Browning, and she knew that this influence bothered her brother, a circumstance which informs moments of defiance in “The Lowest Room.” Don’t (outline style) write down what you mean the paragraph to say; write down what it does in fact centrally communicate. If you can’t figure out what a paragraph centrally communicates, or if it communicates too much at once or communicates not what you meant it to, here is a place for revision. Let your line of thinking paragraph (as much of it as exists) help you know what you most want the paragraph to say – then revise your paragraph to make it say that. Part 2: Now find a partner and switch papers. Take about 10 minutes to read each other’s papers. … Are you done yet? Now discuss with your partner what you discovered in your line of thinking paragraph. Does your partner agree with the way you re-enacted each of your paragraphs? Can they help you re-enact the ones you found more troubling? You don’t need to do this for every paragraph, but you might want to ask your partner for help with the paragraphs that gave you the most trouble. Or you might want to show your partner an example of a paragraph that you felt was successfully re-enacted. Are there other questions your partner might help you answer about revising your paper? Such as… • Did you use Chicago Style correctly? • Did your partner catch any typos or grammar errors in your paper? • Was there are part of your paper that was confusing or needed clarification? • Anything else? PART 3. Re-read and revise your “line of thinking” paragraphs at home Read your paragraphs again and take note of the following components: • key terms • points of transition/ connection in the argument (“stitching”) and the ways these work. For example, does the stitching involve: --comparing and or contrasting a point from a previous paragraph to a new point in the next one (or that will be coming in the next one)? --elaborating or extending a previous point (often marked by “in addition” or “further”)? --qualification: acknowledging – and perhaps conceding – the relevance of an alternative interpretation? --responding to a question or counterargument by challenging or refuting this claim? --orienting: situating your argument after a discussion of other interpretations? --raising a question that will clarify or further explore your earlier discussion? --using a “meta-move” that simply says quite directly what you are going to do next and why The key term is an immensely useful tool for anyone trying to move away from a “listing” structure (signaled in prose by phrases like “another example,” “the next moment where,” and so on) towards a structure rooted in concept and the transformation of concept. If you see yourself listing ask whether that portion of your discussion might be reorganized around a name for a dynamic you see in the text and your writerly project of explaining/ illuminating this dynamic for your readers. Having considered the questions above, identify for yourself at least one spot where the line of argument may need to be strengthened; and a spot where it appears already to be strong. Paper #2 Preview! In a three-to-five-page paper (or digital equivalent) analyze a short story, novel, poem, play, or any other text using a theoretical method (or methods). Note: You don’t need to show mastery of the theory, which is why the assignment is short. Rather I’d like to see that you’re putting good effort into understanding the theoretical method you’ve chosen and that you’re trying to apply it to a text. More on this soon!