more than just revision

November 16, 2007 at 5:55 pm (Uncategorized)

After reading Nancy Sommers’ “Between the Drafts” I began to question my own methods of revision. Whenever I was handed back an essay in the earlier years of my education, the revision that was expected of me was to go through the copious amounts of angry red pen that clawed at my sloppy paragraphs and fix them. The result, if done correctly, was a happy green check. It was usually a simple, mechanical process that just consisted of changing the tense of this verb, adding in a few commas, and checking the spelling on that word. As I grew older and began to write more, I realized that so much more needed to be done, and that sometimes, multiple drafts were necessary. Thinking back on it, I’m surprised that some of my paper assignments never required a rough draft, or rather, our rough draft was our final draft and that was the end of it.
I was partial to Sommers’ reason for studying revision. She explained that revision was a way to escape our early drafts, a means by which we are allowed to go back over the past and mend our mistakes. After all, who can expect someone to get something absolutely right the first time? Revision provides us with the freedom to change. I had never really looked that deeply into it before.
I think what makes Sommers a true writer was her recognition that her writing was just regurgitations of sources that influenced her. It’s good to be influenced by people, but not to the extent where you trust their words over your own, such as Sommers once did.
When she reflected back on her childhood, it really provided insight into how she was raised and how that ultimately impacted her life of having no self-confidence. She never believed that she could be an authoritative figure instead of just listening to others. To put it in simpler terms, she explained the situation with her daughters and how they were questioning her authority in order to determine their own. Even when we are not aware of our actions, we are questioning the rules and making our own. It’s the circumstances of uncertainty and discontinuity where we gain and learn the most.
I also found the structure of her essay helpful in order to understand how she finally reached her resolution. She included flashbacks from the way past to the recent past, and intertwined her inklings about revision and her experience as a teacher dealing with students, who were struggling over the same obstacles as she was, and fellow colleagues who influenced the cause of the students’ struggling. As in the beginning, she concluded with a family occurrence and examined the discovery of finding one’s voice.

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the cycle of stereotypes

November 7, 2007 at 7:33 am (Uncategorized)

Brent Staples’ two essays evoked two polar opposite emotions from me. At first, I didn’t understand why he even bothered to revise a perfectly good and effective essay. The second essay takes his situation and completely flips it upside down. His tone in the first one evokes pity from the reader: how could such a nice and sensible guy such as Staples who is “ scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken” be mistaken for someone about to knife a person? But after awhile, I realized that the complete alteration from the first to the second essay is necessary to fully understand Staples’ situation and the lack of a solution.
I have never really taken the time to ponder the thoughts of someone who unfortunately fits into a negative stereotype. I don’t even understand how Staples grew accustomed to it-how could you possibly get used to people crossing the street so they won’t have to pass you, averting their eyes, halting their conversations to clutch their purses and each other? While reading this, however, I could relate to his “victims.” I don’t know what it is, but if a tall black guy was walking in my direction down an isolated street at night, I would get a little nervous too. I’ve always wondered about that-how did that become an instinct of many white people? And why do some black men live up to that stereotype of being a criminal, as Staples points out? When and how did it all begin?
Staples stated that it is the “male romance” to embrace the power to intimidate and frighten others with their manliness strength. It’s a misconception that males in society should be dominant and aggressive. Likewise, society sees females as being submissive. Although this stereotype is enforced on males, people still expect them to live up to it even if they choose not to follow it, such as Staples.
This idea comes into play in the revised essay. If others won’t see past the stereotype, what more can one do but to live up to it? Staples’ first essay concluded on a positive note with him trying to help others feel comfortable around him so that they would discard the stereotype that all big black men are out to get them. His theory is correct- would someone about to steal your money be whistling a Beethoven melody? Apparently, no one thinks so. However, should Staples and others in his situation be forced to change their daily routines just to accommodate those who stick strictly to stereotypes? No.
I found it interesting that Staples said that he learned to “smother the rage” at being always taken for a criminal. His second essay contradicts his anger management skills and actually displays his true emotions surfacing. Staples chose to give into his rage and live up to the stereotype that is forced upon him. If power is already attributed to him, why not take advantage of it? His tone changes to fit the change in his mentality as he portrays himself as a hunter preying on victims. It’s not his choice to finally terrorize people- according to Staples, they are the ones to blame for his turnaround. And he is completely right- if people are unable to accept that some black men will not harm them, what more can be done? Although I sympathize with Staples, how can we ever rid ourselves of stereotypes if the cycle continues of the belief in them and then having them fulfilled?

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