[Milton-L] Off List: 'Parody' of Writing Instruction

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 26 17:40:51 EST 2008


Dear Professor Campbell,
 
I'm writing off list to avoid too much clutter from me on the Milton List.
 
I'm glad that you enjoyed the parody . . . though I have to admit that it echoes some of my own advice for students of essay composition (which made the writing of that parody quite easy).
 
But I'm really writing to ask you how you like Baylor University. I obtained my BA as an Honors Student in English Literature at Baylor and felt that I received a very solid education -- and not only because of English but also partly because I took a lot of courses outside my major. I especially learned a lot from Tom Hanks, James Vardaman, Wallace Daniel, and Robert Baird, most of whom are still around, it seems.
 
At the time, I often made fun of Baylor (as required of a NoZe Brother), but I liked the place and still think of it with warmth as my intellectual home. Someday, when I'm famous, I hope to be invited as an alumnus to give a nostalgic and uplifting talk during chapel (assuming that it's still required).
 
All the best,
 
Jeffery Hodges

Ewha Womans University
Seoul, South Korea

Blog: http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/

Doctoral Thesis: Food as Synecdoche in the Gospel of John and Gnostic Texts

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Home Address:

Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
Gunyoung Apt. 102-204
Sangbong-dong 1
Jungnang-gu
Seoul 131-771
South Korea

--- On Fri, 12/26/08, Campbell, W. Gardner <Gardner_Campbell at baylor.edu> wrote:

From: Campbell, W. Gardner <Gardner_Campbell at baylor.edu>
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night...
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Friday, December 26, 2008, 1:57 PM

Great parody, though the discourse is already pretty good at self-parody, in my
experience.... Still, delicious. Thanks for the chuckles.
 
Happy holidays to all.
 
Gardner
 
Dr. Gardner Campbell 
Director, Academy for Teaching and Learning 
Assoc. Prof. of Literature and Media, Honors College 
Baylor University 
One Bear Place, Box 97189 
Waco, TX 76798 
254.710.3412 
www.gardnercampbell.net

________________________________

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of Horace Jeffery Hodges
Sent: Fri 12/26/2008 2:07 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night...


Cristina wrote:
 
 
"In today's academies of consumer-based politics, Milton might have
gotten stuck in basic or developmental writing until he learned to have a clear
thesis statement."

 
Good point, Cristina! Johnny can't write! I mean, look at this tangled
mess:
 
 
Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's Brook that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th' upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
And mad'st it pregnant: What in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great Argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justifie the wayes of God to men. 
 
 
Johnny, this just won't do as an introductory paragraph. Even ignoring the
capitalization of common nouns (e.g., "Argument"?!), there are
problems of punctuation. But more fundamentally still -- and likely the cause of
punctuation problems -- the sentence is too long. Break it down into separate
clauses and rework these as independent sentences. Build toward that
'Argument' that you mention. And stop talking about the writing process!
Just write! The reader isn't interested in how difficult this assignment was
-- and was it really harder than climbing (soaring?!) over a mountain? Get to
the point more efficiently. You say that you have an 'Argument', so tell
us what it is, exactly. I'm afraid the reader is going to be enormously
frustrated with this introduction. Why not tell us at the beginning, in simple,
thesis-statement form, precisely how you are going to "assert Eternal
Providence, / And justifie the wayes of God to men"? I should warn you,
however, that an argument of this sort is likely to be too broad. Don't
undertake to explain God, the universe, and everything. It can't be done,
not even if you were the greatest writer who ever lived!
 
 
Jeffery Hodges
 
 
--- On Fri, 12/26/08, Cristine Soliz <csoliz at csoliz.com> wrote:


	From: Cristine Soliz <csoliz at csoliz.com>
	Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night...
	To: "John Milton Discussion List"
<milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
	Date: Friday, December 26, 2008, 11:01 AM
	
	
	In today's academies of consumer-based politics, Milton might have gotten
	stuck in basic or developmental writing until he learned to have a clear
	thesis statement.
	
	Cheers --
	Cristina
	
	-- 
	Dr. Cristine Soliz
	Visiting Assistant Professor
	Colorado State University-Pueblo
	Project Director, NEH Grant
	http://dchumanities.org/
	Area Chair Historical Fiction, SW Tex Pop Culture and Am Culture Assoc
	http://swtxpca.org
	Associate Scholar, Center for World Indigenous Studies
	http://csoliz.com
	csoliz at csoliz.com
	
	> The statement that any author is "the greatest who has ever
	lived" implies
	> a
	> comparison between that author and all others.  Criticism makes
	> comparisons
	> all the time, though, and for many different purposes.
	>
	> The problem is that people have quit writing about "greatness"
	in
	> literature
	> (using that language) for about three to four decades now.  Part of the
	> problem is that reading evaluations of one author's greatness in
	> relationship to other authors begins to sound more like a testimony to
the
	> critic's greatness than a meaningful evaluation of any literature. 
	These
	> readings sound pointless and overbearing after awhile.  Furthermore,
	> criteria for greatness usually include specific value judgments that can
	> no
	> longer be assumed to be shared even among all people writing criticism in
	> English.
	>
	> Longinus has been democratized into reader response theory because the
	> concept of the "sublime" came to be associated negatively with
	elitism.
	> But, elitism seems to be back in these days, so who knows?
	>
	> If we jettison value judgments and simply evaluate a work on the basis of
	> its formal merits, we run into other problems.  It's very difficult
to
	> make
	> comparisons among authors engaged in different tasks.  Wordsworth's
	> Prelude
	> could be compared to PL, and is strongly indebted to it, but is
completely
	> focused upon a single subjectivity.  It's highly personal so written
	> following different conventions.  Blake's Jerusalem could be compared
	too,
	> and is indebted as well, but is a mythological poem representing
	> psychological forces rather than an epic poem mythologizing religious
	> figures.
	>
	> And these are just comparisons among authors engaged in similar tasks.
	> Relatively few specific criteria apply to a comparison between Milton and
	> Shakespeare: one is writing plays, the other epic poems.  Milton's
	> attempts
	> at drama are few in number.  They're very good, but not as good as
	> Shakespeare in my opinion, certainly not as entertaining and meaningful
in
	> so many different ways.  Furthermore, Shakespeare never attempted an epic
	> poem to my knowledge.  Since these two authors spent their time writing
	> very
	> different types of works, how do you compare them?  A comparison between
	> Joyce's Ulysses and PL seems right too -- but how do you compare a
	novel
	> to
	> an epic poem?  Even if the novel's a novelization of the grandfather
	(or
	> grandmother?) of epic poems, and both PL and Ulysses are indebted to the
	> same works?
	>
	> I think it may be more useful to make narrower comparisons: who wrote the
	> greatest sonnets?  But I think we'd still have problems.  Even when
	> Collins
	> and cummings wrote rather silly sonnets, they're brilliantly silly
	> sonnets.
	> Even the sonnet keeps being reinvented and reused for different purposes,
	> so
	> that an evaluation of the greatness of any sonnet would have to evaluate
	> the
	> purposes to which different sonnets are put -- again, requiring value
	> judgments that we can't agree upon any more (If we ever did to begin
	> with).
	>
	>
	> So a statement that Milton was the greatest author who ever lived sounds
	> these days more like an emotional expression on the part of the person
	> speaking rather than a careful evaluation of literature.
	>
	> What's more interesting to me are the ways we may still be applying a
	> concept of "greatness" to literature but just calling it
	something else.
	>
	> Jim R
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