24 January 2013—Channeling Liam: Daylight Savings Time
|[a] Text and illustration RF|
Teach them, really.
The letter writing exercise is especially useful while studying primary source materials, as we are doing right now. The nonfiction writer John McPhee explains to his students that a letter is often precisely the solution to problems of interpretation or clarity—when in doubt, write to mother, he says. In this case, it is not a plea of “send money” that the letter contains, but a reworking, rethinking, and contextualization of your work. You need not limit yourself to kinfolk, but you need to think about who the recipient will be (ideally someone who will welcome a letter about “studying sources”).
You owe it to yourself to listen to this long interview with McPhee. At the very least, listen to the first two minutes. It is the very purpose behind this assignment.
|[c] I said, "start writing" RF|
3. Your readings last week and this week (Weeks IV and V), are meant to stimulate your thinking with regard to writing this assignment. Pay attention to both.
Provide your reader with at least a few ways of thinking about his life and
c. You must discuss give at least one specific example from Geil's writings.
This should not be difficult. Feel free to use more.
d. You must include at least one illustration in your letter. Think of the
rhetorical role of illustrations in the New York Review of Books.
a person who lived in very different era a century ago. How do we learn
about human experience through documents? This is a question that
is as relevant to anthropology as it is to history.
Voilà you will have something not unlike what Alexis de Tocqueville might have written about understanding a complex, foreign culture that baffled and enticed him 180 years ago. While your letter won’t be as long as Democracy in America, it is likely—if it is done well—to be much like Tocqueville’s rich and evocative letters back to his family about encountering people, texts, and institutions in a strange land called the United States.
You get the idea. If you don't, just raise your hand and ask me (or send me an e-mail message). I'll be happy to help.
|[e] And then you may rest RF|