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developing insight and Acknowledging complexity…. In writing!.
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developing insightand Acknowledging complexity… In writing!
“An essay scored a 9 demonstrates exceptional insight and language facility. It combines adherence to the topic with excellent organization, content, insight, facile use of language, mastery of mechanics, and an understanding of the essential components of an effective essay. Literary devices and/or techniques are not merely listed, but the effect of those devices and/or techniques is addressed in context of the passage, poem, or novel as a whole.” • -AP Essay Rubric
Students should “read deliberately and thoroughly, taking time to understand a work’s complexity, to absorb its richness of meaning, and to analyze how that meaning is embodied in literary form.” • –AP Literature Course Description
INSIGHT IS “The capacity to gain an accurate and deepintuitive understanding of a person or thing.” (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
INSIGHTFUL, INTUITIVE people… • -Can tell “what’s going on,” even when very little actual information is available. • -Can articulate—spot on—what internal emotions and motivations are causing others to act the way they do. • -Can imagine and justify the perspectives of others. • -See metaphorical messages everywhere; they read the universe, life itself as a text. • -Are often deep thinkers, can be introverted, cultivate rich intellectual lives, and spend real time pondering life’s paradoxes and mysteries. • -Are emotionally struck by art… they are easily able to interpret messages within an artistic expression.
Q. What does this have to do with lit analysis? A. Everything. • Well, almost everything. Yes, we need to include textual evidence and identify literary devices to support our claims about the text. However, it’s those claims—the CORE OF YOUR ENTIRE PAPER—that need to be as insightful as possible. Insight is what makes writing worth reading; it’s what gives the reader that *wow* moment in your writing where you’ve peeled back the words of a text to reveal something truly striking. • Terms can only get one so far. The main purpose of writing is to communicate something worth saying. Insightful things are worth saying. Your score will reward solidly supported insight far more than your identification of terms (see side by side comparison on essays 1A/1E).
How Can I learn how to be more insightful? • Read other insightful things—Magazine articles (from good stuff like National Geographic, Harper’s, The Utne Reader, etc.), professional film/music/book reviews, memoirs… • Experience art and think about it. Poetry. Music. Visual art. Books. Film. Really think about it. Write about it. Respond to it. Put the terms away for a moment and react from the heart. THEN, go back to see how it’s achieved. • Have a real discussion with someone moderately wise about important aspects of life—heartbreak, fear, faith, love, value, power… not politics, but common human experiences. The more perspectives you’re exposed to, the more you’ll have in your mental bank to draw from. • Be willing to entertain risky ideas, if only for an afternoon.
Insight is very similar to Wisdom Genius Mind-reading abilities
What about Complexity?*Hint: Cats aren’t very exemplary on this front either
“Complexity” refers to the fact that… • Life, and everything in it, is far from simple. It’s intricate—frustratingly complex. This goes for us just as much as it goes for characters. Stuff is complicated!
No easy answers • Complexity comes from opposing forces, conflicts of interest, uncertainty, a plethora of variables, lack of human control, discrepancies in ethical/moral code, chance, and just general human unpredictability. • This means that there are, at any given time, MULTIPLE POSSIBILITIES for the question “What is true?” And, beyond that, there are MULTIPLE FACTORS that shape what is true. • Complexity creates tension, and, therefore, stories.
Complexity shows its face • In relationships • In self-concepts • In emotions and reactions to them • In choices, all of which have multiple options • In social commentary • In paradoxes • In possibilities • In personalities • In the answer to the question “Who is right?” • In the answer to the question “What is the cause?” • In the answer to the question “Who is in power?”
What must I do about the presence of complexity? • Acknowledge it in your writing! • Describe to us how and why your subject is __________ yet also _____________ . • Refrain from making generalizations, establishing simple judgments, or assuming “that’s just the way it is.” Explore each facet of your subject carefully, and don’t dismiss options other than the one you’re automatically drawn to as impossibilities.
For example, let’s take the situation of main character Sethe in Morrison’s Beloved… Not acknowledging complexity Acknowledging complexity! While the act of killing one’s own child is unthinkable in a normal moral climate, a culture of slavery disturbs and rewrites what is “right” for both the enslavers and the enslaved. Sethe makes this move to avoid what is, in her eyes, an even greater sin—allowing her children to be captured and sold. Sethe’s past experiences with abuse and sexual violence bolster the fear she has for the path her daughter’s life could take, and transform the murder into a protective act that, ironically, is a result of maternal instinct. While confident in her choice, Sethe is far from comfortable with it, and is haunted in more than one way by the spirit of the daughter that died by her own hand. • Sethe killed her own child. Regardless of the reasons she may have had for doing it, this was an unacceptable act. She knows she is wrong, and spends the majority of the novel atoning for this wrongdoing.
These are thinking skills that Function as the foundation of a creative, wise, and smart-as-a-whip mind. They transcend ap Literature and Composition to encompass and benefit… well… your whole life as a thinking person! Practice them devotedly.