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PROGRESSIVE READINGS

IN PROSE

PROGRESSIVE READINGS IN PROSE

I. EXPOSITION

N HE term Exposition is applied to | importance of the subject, no heightening | that form of composition which of the interest as we proceed, the content

deals primarily with ideas about of most articles will necessitate the use of things—not things themselves. Its chief a form in which, after a gradual cresfunction is explanation, the discovery of cendo, a definite climax is reached. In this contrasts and similarities, of relations and type special care must be taken that the associations of causes and results. If one different parts cohere naturally, that the tells a story about a fish and a man, he proper transition shows how one parawill use concrete narration; but if he graph grows out of another, how one chooses to show the relation between the large division of thought is related to the lower animal organism of the fish and the foregoing. higher organism of the man as explained So much for the conditions which the by the theory of evolution, he will then be subject itself imposes. The readers for dealing with the abstract and employing whom the article is written should not be the expository form.

forgotten. Compare the simple lucid The particular form which an exposi style in which Lafcadio Hearn addressed tory article takes should depend upon the his Japanese students with the more infundamental conception which the writer volved structure of the essays by Herbert forms before beginning his task. This is Croly or by Thomas De Quincey. Likeas important to him as the mental picture wise study Thomas Huxley's “Piece of of the completed structure is to an archi Chalk" in the light of an address deliv tect about to start work on his blue-prints. ered to a group of laboring men who By fundamental conception is meant that cared much for what he might tell them recognition by the prospective writer of in a straightforward way, and very little the full obligations of the task before him for any unnecessary elaboration of the -a recognition possible only after a due language in which it was couched. The consideration of the nature of the subject simple formula is: technical language for chosen, the class of readers it is desired to the specialist; simple, direct diction for reach, and the kind of appeal the author the average man; and a literary style wishes to make.

flavored with figure and allusion for the If the subject divides itself naturally, bibliophile. like the backbone of a fish, into a number | Even more important, in view of its of coördinate sections, then the writer effect upon the finished article, is the kind will doubtlessly use the catalogue method. of appeal which the writer wishes to So Wu Tingfang in "American Man make. The two great faculties of the ners” and Walter Prichard Eaton in mind are the intellect and the imagina"The Menace from Above" do little more tion. The intellect is brought into play than enumerate the various points of their in writing Informative Prose; the imagdiscourse with comment upon each. There ination, in writing the Familiar Essay. is little or no climax, for none is needed. The purpose of the former is utilitarianObviously the great advantage of this it is designed to bring us knowledge; the method is the clarity which is secured. purpose of the latter is artistic—it aims On the other hand as there is no growing l to give pleasure. This same distinction

is to be noticed (1) between practical and the Familiar Essay, which permits descriptions, where fidelity to detail is greater freedom of treatment. Occathe requirement, and imaginative descrip- sionally these two types blend so that the tions, in which the writer strives by a line of demarcation is almost indistinjudicious selection of detail to create at- guishable; but the elements of each are mosphere; and (2) to a certain extent present nevertheless, one usually prebetween narration of fact, whose very dominating. truth imposes inevitable and inviolable re Exposition is a mark of the developed strictions, and narration of fiction, in which mind. It represents a stage beyond that the writer by a conscious arrangement of of passive acceptance of the phenomena of the parts may obtain a desired effect. life. Simple narrations and descriptions

Thus there are created two distinct are within the power of the most immatypes of expository writing: the Informa- ture, but interpretation and reasoning tive Prose article, which should conform bespeak a critical attitude which it is one strictly to certain necessary principles; | aim of education to produce.

A. INFORMATIVE PROSE

IN Informative Prose the emphasis, lines before any long exposition is atis laid on what is said, not on how it tempted. Only a highly trained writer is said. This does not mean that dic can keep vividly in mind the complete detion is unimportant; it simply signifies sign of his prospective composition. Failthat language is to subserve the best pos ure to confine one's self strictly to a defisible expression of the idea. All thought nite plan of procedure leads to digressions, of ornamentation should be banished in distracts the mind of the reader, and dulls the attempt to convey to the reader ex the intended effect. actly the desired information. Certain Students often complain that an outline subjects, especially those in the field of in hampers them by its unnecessary restricterpretative literature, permit some li tions. This can be due only to a misuncence in this regard. Matthew Arnold inderstanding of its function. An outline his essay on “Celtic Literature" succeeds should never be so rigid as to allow no althrough the agency of his rich style in en- teration. As the mind sweeps forward, veloping his theme with some of the very new ideas, new implications will present magic he is writing of. And yet this may themselves. Minor details may be added prove a dangerous tendency. It is un- without hesitation. More important deniable that at times the florid writing of changes usually necessitate a complete reJohn Ruskin, with its long periods and organization of the scheme of the outline balanced structure, obscures the idea he either by the inclusion of new main headwishes to convey. It must be borne in ings, or by the realization that a new mind that clarity is the chief purpose of basis of division is needed. Informative Prose.

Indeed, it is this work of organization To gain this end a definite form or which is of greatest value in the writing skeleton upon which the thought fabric of exposition. No uncanny wielding of may be draped is essential. Many stu a flexible vocabulary, no adroit treatment dents fail to recognize this skeleton be- of isolated topics can atone for a lack of neath the sentences of the articles they organizing power. It is difficult to find read. Because they do not perceive it, a better example of informative writing they evidently argue it is not there, in which the correlation of ideas is perand see no reason for its construc fectly and naturally revealed than the tion. It is for this reason that most chapter on “Habit” by William James. teachers of English insist on written out- | The student must develon the abil.

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