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The Commonplace Book. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/library/spcoll/bcmsv/samples/images/BCMSV%20lt-000225.jpg. What is a "Commonplace?”.
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Here is one explanation: "Commonplaces are small nuggets of language that carry a lot of weight for a particular group or in society at large, at a given time. They can be slogans, bumper stickers, catch-phrases, or simply pieces of language that we use all of the time, but which are more complicated than we realize, perhaps because they are so very common. Because they can be evoked in the same way as a slogan or an idea, objects such as 'the flag,' and documents such as 'The Constitution' (especially 'The First Amendment' and 'The Second Amendment') also function as commonplaces in rhetoric.
“Commonplaces: An Introduction,” Professor John Hilgart, English Department, Rhodes College, and Professor Van E. Hillard, First-Year Writing Program, Duke University
In a sense, "commonplaces" are words used to identify or explain key ideas.
and what is
a Commonplace Book?
Commonplacing is the act of selecting important phrases, lines, and/or passages from texts and writing them down; the commonplace book is the notebook in which a reader has collected quotations from works s/he has read. Commonplace books can also include comments and notes from the reader; they are frequently indexed so that the reader can classify important themes and locate quotations related to particular topics or authors.
"Commonplacing is the practice of entering literary excerpts and personal comments into a private journal, that is, into a commonplace book or, to use a 17th century synonym, a silva rerum ("a forest of things"). Typically the excerpts were regarded as exceptionally insightful or beautiful or as applicable to a variety of situations, and so as such they are often especially quotable. . . . The practice of commonplacing can be traced back in the European tradition to the 5th century B.C.E. and the Sophist, Protagoras.
began blank. The reader used it to collect
premises, arguments and other
quotes from the various books read.
The common place book was always
at hand for the next addition or as a
Conversational prompt. It might well
fill up with contradictory snipets.“
-- Book and e-book: The Future of the Book
At the Library
a Commonplace Book
Write a commonplace log before each class meeting and submit it in your <emma> journal. You will also be required to keep a copy of all of your logs on the hard drive of your own computer or on floppy disks in case there is a problem with a server and you need to turn in your log in hard copy format. Be sure to write and save your log as a word processing file before copying and pasting it onto <emma>. This will allow you to save a copy of your commonplace log for your ongoing "book"; it will also save you from losing your log if there is a technical error.
Each log should include at least three quotations from the readings that you find significant. If you have been assigned to read more than one text, be sure to include at least one quotation from each text. A quotation may be as short as a phrase or sentence, or as long as a paragraph.
Each log should also include your comments on the quotations you have selected. In your comments, explain why you chose each quote and what you can deduce from it. Who do you think is speaking here, and who is s/he speaking to? What is the speaker talking about, and what do you think s/he's hoping to accomplish by this? Do you have any ideas about how this quotation can help us understand the text? Do you have any thoughts about why it might-or might not-- have been persuasive to the intended audience? Is this something that you find persuasive now? Is there anything you would like to remember from this text for your own life; if so, what and why? Do you have anything you would like to say back to this author?
Find a line or passage that offers a powerful statement. You are allowed to define powerful in any way you wish. Sometimes a quotation is particularly persuasive, emotional, descriptive, or meaningful-but there are all kinds of other things that set one line apart from the rest. Decide for yourself what is powerful, and then think about what makes it powerful. OrFind a line or passage that helps you understand this text. Or
Find a line or passage that confuses you. You find yourself wondering if you might understand the whole text better if you could make sense of this part Or
Find a line or passage that reminds you of another text (or "voice") in the American conversation. (How is this similar to or different from the other, and how can that comparison or contrast contribute to our understanding of the conversation.) Or
Find a line or passage that demonstrates a noteworthy way of connecting with and persuading the audience. Or
or Find a line or passage which made a strong impression on YOU. It could be something you seriously disagree with; if so, go ahead and counter the argument. On the other hand, if it's something you like, is this something you want to remember and/or live up to in your own life? Would your life be any different if you do? REMEMBER: This is a list of suggestions to help you identify the quotations for your commonplace books. You don't have to follow all of these suggestions in each log. If you did, we'd all be worn out.
You can use an informal style as long as you write in a way that does not undermine your credibility as a commentator. (Significant grammar problems will affect your readability and your credibility.) As I recently learned from an online commonplace book, Confucius once said:
If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.
THAT is an explanation of the way in which style and grammary are assessed. Concentrate on communicating clearly and effectively instead of worrying about avoiding mistakes.
Choice of Quotations--A really good commonplace book allows us to benefits from the observations of a really attentive l reader who notices when there is something puzzling, or when there is a pattern, or when there is a moment of real power in a text. The reader can help the rest of us even by being willing to confess what s/he doesn't understand.
Commentaries--A really good commonplace book doesn't mention what is "boring" or "interesting" or "hard" or "easy" but instead comments on the possible meanings of texts. Instead of paraphrasing what the quotation says, a good commentary comments on how particular words, phrases, or patterns in that quotation might lead us to a deeper sense of the text's meaning. Instead of saying "I agree" or "I disagree" with the text, a good commentary might offer a more thorough explanation of the reasons for agreement or disagreement. Finally, a good commentary takes into consideration the context in which the text was originally written in order to evaluate its possible meanings and effectiveness. Instead of concluding that a text is ineffective (or just plain bad) because of confusing language or politically incorrect thinking, a good commentary will consider whether anything can help us understand how the text might have been received in its own time.
Writing--A commonplace book is serious but it is also a journal--a work in progress rather than a finished "product." Hence, it does not need to meet the writing standards for formal, completed academic projects. However, it usually is a way for the reader to practice his writing and thinking. For this reason it does need to communicate ideas clearly and persuasively. It also needs to be written in a fashion that can gain the respect of readers.
Finally, a truly great commonplace book, although made up of separate entries about separate texts, will reflect the gradual development of the reader's understanding of American literature. Logs will sometimes refer back to earlier texts in order to compare and/or contrast works or to consider the evolution of a particular way of thinking or writing. As specific kinds of questions begin to strike the reader as particularly important, the commonplace logs will begin to use those questions to explore those issues on a deeper level.
Nicholas Statham. Abridgment. Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, Special Collections
Johannes Andreae (d. 1348). De arbore consanguinitatis, affinitatis et cognitionisspiritualis.