Thursday, August 28, 2014

Essay #1
Due: September 5, 2014
(3 pages)
One of the central aims of this course is to help you develop the ability to produce writing that is clear, well organized, and grammatically sound. At the most basic level, this means learning how to compose coherent sentences and paragraphs, and to deploy other mechanical elements of writing with confidence and relevant stylistic conventions. That said, without an original argument, no amount of handsome sentences will save you.
So, say goodbye to the five-paragraph essay. Time is short, and the only way forward is a ‘salto mortale’ —a flying leap into the abyss—into the world of writing beyond summary. In your first assignment, this leap will take the shape of a brief manifesto on the topic of global warming.
What is a manifesto?
A manifesto is a declaration of a particular policy, theory, or cause. A manifesto does more than just declare, it also offers an explanation and justification of its terms, claims, and provocations.
What makes a successful manifesto?
Keep it brief. The too-long manifesto is a genuinely frightening textual object (see, here). And while all great manifestos are punchy and brief, a successful manifesto will look very different depending on what’s being declared and the person declaring it.
For example, you might choose to include:
  1. A list of numbered tenets or provocations
  2. A story or parable
  3. A diagram or timeline
Or, you might be convinced that numbers and lists, as far as meaningful climate action is concerned, are just the sort of obstacle we must learn to give up. For example, you might insist that current climate politics are already too focused on numerical outcomes (e.g. "We have a 50% chance of achieving the goal of 2° degrees additional warming by 2030"). Instead of occult divination by numbers, you might call for an approach centered on qualitative changes in how we think and act. This could be the abolishment of ‘garbage’, or the transformation of existing fossil fuel reserves into ‘stranded assets,’ or...

Lastly, a word about tone and voice. Despite their many shapes and sizes, all manifestos are written to challenge and provoke. Your manifesto should reflect this long argumentative tradition. This might call for spare and somber language, or an inner dialogue of paranoid questioning and answering. Or if you think there’s simply nothing left to be done --that climate change is fait accompli on this 'gloomy' orb-- perhaps, then a voice of parodied bravado will be better suited to the task. 

Whatever you decide, declare it boldly.  

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