West Chester University

Fall 2002

West Chester University

Spring 2002

Fall 2001





Course Information
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  Lit 165 Syllabus
  About the Instructor

Notes for Effective Writing I
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Writing Descriptively
  What Makes a Good Story?
  Building a Thesis
  Notes on 'Purpose'
  Strategies for Writing Introductions
  Strategies for Writing Conclusions
  Assignment #5: Argument
  Understanding Rational Argument

Notes for Introduction to Literature
  Fundamental Questions About Literature
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Approaching Literature
  Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
  Notes on Four Short Stories
  The Genesis of the Short Story
  Defining the Short Story
  The Art of the Short Story
  A Vocabulary for Fiction and Beyond
  Notes on Nathaniel Hawthorne
  Responding to 'The Birthmark'
  A Guided Reading of 'Bartleby the Scrivener'
  Bartleby--Questions for Analysis
  A Cultural Context for 'Bartleby the Scrivener'
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Study Guide for Fiction Exam
  Billy Collins - 'Introduction to Poetry'
  A Catalogue of Poems for Study
  Approaching a Definition of Poetry?
  Reading Poetry
  The Craft of Poetry: Imagery
  Readings from 'The United States of Poetry'
  The Craft of Poetry: Sound
  The Craft of Poetry: Structure
  Lines of Continuity
  Study Guide for Poetry Exam
  The Birth of Drama
  On Tragic Character
  Stepping Through 'Oedipus the King'
  Analyzing 'Oedipus the King'
  The Relevance 'Oedipus'Today
  Study Guide for the Drama Exam

Announcements and Assignments
  WRT 120 Announcements
  WRT 120 Assignments
  LIT 165 Announcements
  Lit 165 Assignments


Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Weblog for LIT 165
  Writing Assistance on the Web

Join an Online Forum
  WRT 120 Composition Forum
  LIT 165 Introduction to Literature Forum


~~ Writing Effective Introductions ~~

#1 Use a brief but descriptive anecdote. This strategy gets readers emotionally involved, participating on a visceral level.

FROM "{empty} SPACES" in ADBUSTERS (No.29, Spring 2000)

As a child I played in "empty spaces." Everyone has. These places are gaps between buildings, ruins of buildings, fallow land, abandoned industrial areas, gravel pits and sand mines. Formed through misplanning, they were our empire, the empire of children. I can remember one of these "playgrounds" very well. It was not far from my parents' apartment, perhaps as far as I could throw a stone. It was very big, maybe the size of a soccer field, and it was our own empire, with our own laws-the laws of children. This place also served as a shortcut to school, but was often the reason we were late for school or returning home. We were not allowed to play there, but we were never actually caught, because no adult was willing to patrol the area. It was a dirty, unused place, with snakes, lizards, insects of every category and wild vegetation. And there was only one way to enter: a footpath.

Our "empty space" also had a small brook. I remember well that we always tried to dam up this brook, with the idea of making our own swimming pool. But we never succeeded, despite perfect planning and nearly professional technical drawings. The project was jinxed. In the summer we built cottages that mostly didn't survive the winter, and in the winter we built snow castles. There were snowball fights with bloody noses and first kisses.
And then, suddenly, there was a fence. It was a huge fence-

#2 Create a vivid sense of place. This also gets readers immediately involved. The scene you set can be relevant to your discussion in a creative way.

FROM "Vandalism is Art" in ADBUSTERS (No.29, Spring 2000)

In the silence of a city under martial law, the post-capitalist gallery is open. Here, the shattered windows of a Warner Bros. Store, each fallen shard swept away into invisibility. Here, a boarded-up McDonald's restaurant, suddenly isolated and exposed in its empty parking lot. In the middle of a street, an abandoned police car robbed of its authority by two spray-painted words: "We Win." Everywhere there are flags adorned with new symbols, newspaper boxes piled into barricades-dozens of acts of destruction, each loaded with aesthetic and social importance. Acts of art. Acts we would typically call "vandalism."


There is a housing project standing now where the house in which we grew up once stood, and one of those stunted city trees is snarling where our doorway used to be. This is on the rehabilitated side of the avenue. The other side of the avenue-for progress takes time-has not been rehabilitated yet and it looks exactly as it looked in the days when we sat with our noses pressed against the windowpane, longing to be allowed to go "across the street." The grocery store which gave us credit is still there, and there can be no doubt that it is still giving credit. The people in the project certainly need it-far more indeed, than they ever needed the project. The last time I passed by, the Jewish proprietor was still standing among his shelves, looking sadder and heavier but scarcely any older. Further down the block stands the shoe-repair store in which our shoes were repaired until reparation become impossible and which, then we bought all our "new" ones. The Negro proprietor is still in the window, head down, working at the leather.

These two, I imagine, could tell a long tale if they would (perhaps they would be glad to if they could), having watched so many, for so long, struggling in the fishhooks, the barbed wire, of this avenue.

The avenue is elsewhere the renowned and elegant Fifth. The area I am describing, which in today's gang parlance, would be called "the turf," is bounded by Lenox Avenue on the west, the Harlem River on the east, 135th Street on the north, and 130th Street on the south. We never lived beyond these boundaries; this is where we grew up. …

#3 Create an interesting, attention grabbing scenario (an imaginative projection of the future, or some hypothetical moment you want to create to make a point).

FROM "{a jammers guide to} RECLAIMING URBAN SPACE" (Sidebar) in ADBUSTERS (No.29, Spring 2000)

You're standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change. A car brakes and comes to rest six feet beyond the stop-line, blocking your path. Normally, you'd eat your frustration and just walk around. But today you're feeling rambunctious. You decide to risk a statement of personal sovereignty. To the great surprise of everyone-including yourself-you hop up onto that car, walk over it, and continue on your merry way.
Spontaneous gestures are a pie in the face of civil society. Often motivated by a powerful, personal impulse, they tend to provoke equally strong reactions, from delight to outrage. In other words, they're liberating but fraught. Illegal or highly confrontational acts may bring some heavy lumber down on the head of the jammer, who had better be ready to accept the consequences….

#4 Present a startling statistic-shock readers out of their ho-hum complacency. It's up to the writer to make readers care!


Four billion people will be diagnosed with HIV this year. As if this number weren't staggering enough, consider this. In any given college classroom, statistically one in every four students will be diagnosed with HIV.

#5 Begin with a meaningful, colorful, or famous quotation-it establishes your credibility and sometimes challenges your readers.

FROM "Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising" by Jack Solomon in REREADING AMERICA (college composition textbook)

On May 10, 1831, a young French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville arrived in New York City at the start of what would become one of the most famous visits to America in our history. He had come to observe first hand the institutions of the freest, most egalitarian society of the age, but what he found was a paradox. For behind America's mythic promise of equal opportunity, Tocqueville discovered a desire for unequal social rewards, a ferocious competition for privilege and distinction. As he wrote in his monumental study, Democracy in America:

When all privileges of birth and fotune are abolished, when all professions are accessible to all, and a man's own energies may place him at the tiop of any one of them, an easy and unbounded career seems open to his ambition….But this is an erroneous notion, which is corrected by daily experience. [For when] men are nearly alike, and all follow the same track, it is very difficult for any one individual to walk quick and cleave a way through the same throng which surrounds and presses him.

Yet walking quick and cleaving a way is precisely what Americans dream of. We Americans dream of rising above the crowd, of attaining a social summit beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. And therein lies the paradox….

#6 Ask a question-involve the reader immediately.

FROM "Obedience" in ADBUSTERS (No.29, Spring 2000)

Are today's young women and men more skeptical of authority than their parents were and more inclined to rebel against conformity? The question arose recently in an undergraduate philosophy class in Freedom and Responsibility I was teaching at the University of Toronto. We had just watched the tapes of the infamous Stanley Milgram obedience experiments from the early 1960s, which were designed to test the moral malleability of other wise upstanding citizens in the face of coercive, patriarchal authority of Science. Milgram himself was shocked by the result: over 50 percent of the residents of New Haven, Connecticut, appeared willing to electroshock a fellow citizen into unconsciousness, perhaps even death, simply because a man in a white coat told them to. …

#7 Give your readers background information they may need. Provide a context for your discussion by establishing a frame of reference.

FROM AN ESSAY in a recently published composition textbook:

One summer evening in a remote village in the Brooks Range of Alaska, I sat among a group of men listening to hunting stories about the trapping and pursuit of animals… I was particularly interested in several incidents involving … because I find this animal such an intense creature. To hear about its life is to learn more about fierceness.
Wolverines are not intentionally secretive, hiding their lives from view, but they are seldom observed. The range of their known behavior is less than that of, say bears or wolves. Still, that evening no gratuitous details were set out. This was somewhat odd, for wolverine easily excite the imagination; they can loom suddenly in the landscape with authority, with an aura larger than their compact physical dimensions, drawing one's immediate and complete attention. Wolverine also have a deserved reputation for resoluteness in the worst winters, for ferocious strength. But neither did these attributes induce the men to embellish.

I listened carefully to these stories, taking pleasure in the sharply observed detail surrounding the dramatic thread of events. The story I remember most vividly was about a man hunting a wolverine from a snow machine in the spring…

#8 Come up with your own creative "hook."

FROM an ESSAY by a former student in LIT 165 (here at WCU):

The recent murder-suicides at Columbine High School have shocked the nation and left us wondering why someone, somewhere along the line had not seen the evil afoot and taken steps to stop it. The question has been directed particularly to the perpetrators' parents. The signs were there-exploding pipe bombs in the garage, a sawed-off shotgun barrel on a dresser, neo-Nazi messages left on the computer-yet on parent intervened. A possible explanation for such inaction may be found in an examination of the dysfunctional family relationships in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Instead of directly addressing an obvious problem, family members choose to play into a fantasy, a fantasy that culminates in suicide.






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