Sam Odonnell

Writing for a Literary Criticism Journal

Wiki Post 1

Journal Overview and Citation Practices

I have chosen the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism. It publishes meticulously researched literary criticism and other academic papers by undergraduates. This journal also publishes interviews with intellectuals and book reviews, but for the purpose of this class, I’ll stick to literary criticism.
Submission guidelines range anywhere from 3,000 to 5,400 words.

By focusing on the question of literary thinking and cognition,
this essay addresses a set of issues raised in Stathis Gourgouris’s
Does Literature Think?: Literature as Theory for an Antimythical
Era, which asks not only about the ‘object’ of literary cognition
(the what) but also about its epistemological mode or model (the
how). Gourgouris explores the possibility of specifically literary
forms of cognition that, perhaps unlike philosophical or scientific
systems of thought, resist schemata and fixed categories. His book
asks the question
“whether [literature] has a capacity to theorize
the conditions of the world from which it emerges and to which
it addresses itself.”
Gourgouris distinguishes literary cognition
from analytical processes
by highlighting literature’s “explicitly
constitutive performativity”; he insists, moreover, that literature’s
epistemological activity as such always functions within a particular
social-historical horizon. Literature’s mode of theorizing is therefore
contingent upon the norms of thought and behavior in relation
to which it emerges; it remains inseparable from an immediate
political context—its conditions of production—but nonetheless
capable of performing a kind of transformative immanent critique.
By functioning within and yet resisting the mastery of dominant
structures of thought, literary cognition “challenges our usual
definitions of knowledge in strict conceptual terms.”

Gourgouris continues: “Instead, it demands that we account for the implicit, the
nonpalpable, the ineffable, the perfectly contingent.”

Peter Conroy is using Stathis Gourgouris as a backdrop for his argument. He summarizes Gourgouris’s book, telling the reader what it does—exploring possibilities, asking questions. He then quotes Gourgouris to cement that claim. Conroy then goes on to discuss how Gourgouris distinguishes literary cognition from analytical process. Conroy then summarizes what Gourgouris said about literature’s epistemological activity, and that it remains inseparable from an immediate political context. He finishes this paragraph by directly quoting Gourgoris on literary cognition and how it challenges our definitions of knowledge.
Based on this close reading and analysis of the above text, the genre expectations are that the author being critiqued is directly quoted more often than paraphrased. The author is a vehicle for which ideas are conveyed to readers, so that the same author can illustrate a point of view.

Wiki Post 2

Definition Practices

Today I chose to delve into something a bit more psychological for my analysis. The following is clipped from an essay about the phenomenon that occurs when spectating—watching a play or a movie, or even looking at oneself in the mirror.
Excerpt from “Spectator Dynamics in Greek Tragedy” by Samantha Moffett.
In his essay “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I,” Jacques Lacan proposes that
the identification with foreign, external bodies is an extension of the developmental
milestone during infancy when a child recognizes itself outside itself—that is, in a
mirror. The acceptance of a seen body as Self comprises, thereafter, an “imaginary order” which permits projected subjectivity, the fluidity between image and self-image.

Here, Moffet defines the term “projected subjectivity.” This terminology appears to be psychological jargon which must be defined for the layman. Here, she is using a sustained definition because it advances inquiry. Readers may have a prior knowledge of projection and subjectivity, but Moffet does not want them to associate projected subjectivity with those definitions. Rather, she wants readers to understand exactly what she means when she says "projected subjectivity," so she defines it right away.
She presents another definition later on, of a more common word.

The child cannot yet will his body to perform every movement he intends or actualize every outcome he imagines. Therefore, when recognizing his lackless image externally, he is enthralled—he becomes Little Narcissus, idealizing his reflection.

Here, Moffet defines the word “enthralled.” This is a term whose definition can be fluid, so it’s important for the author to clarify. This is a perfect example of apposition.
As the article continues, she uses her definitions to build her claim and ultimately define spectatorship through another author.

Initially, the seen body is preferable to the felt mind—and this preference is the precedent for “visual pleasure.” Mulvey contends that spectatorship occurs in two forms: identification (passive looking at a male protagonist) and objectification (active looking at a female character).

Here, Moffet uses Mulvey to help her define spectatorship. This is a term that is universally understood, but not necessarily in the context that Moffet wishes to elucidate. Therefore, she clarifies with the help of another author.

Wiki Post 3

Style of Dense Passages

From “‘Why This Book is Written as It Is’ Techniques of Truth and Trauma in Charlotte Delbo and Tim O’Brien” by Kat Balkoski:

The question remains unanswerable in the abstract: wherein lies the intersection of
literature and truth? Despite the difficulties the question poses, this comparative
analysis of the testimonial writings of Charlotte Delbo and Tim O’Brien aims to
elucidate the space of literary truth through close attention to narrative strategies
and self-situation.

What? Did you say something? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over how obtuse you’re being. Let’s rewrite that passage in layman’s terms:

The following question is not answerable out of context: where do truth and literature meet? Despite the difficulties the question poses, this comparative analysis of the true accounts of Charlotte Delbo and Tim O’Brien aims to highlight where truth and literature meet. It will do this through close attention to how the narrator works and how the author makes use of sensory detail to orient the reader.

It’s plain to see that by defining vague terms, the paragraph gets longer, but it is also more readable. Let’s look at another passage from the same text:

Delbo and O’Brien destabilize normative binaries of the real and the imagined, the
internal and the external, subject and object, and now and then. The beauty that
these texts exhibit and provoke should not shock us in relation to their subject matter, for to remove narratives of trauma from the aesthetics of literature is to fatally
undermine the potential of testimony. Not to analyze, not to engage textually and
hence, aesthetically, with the literature of the camp or the battlefield is to imply that
a stale compassion and falsely reverential silence are adequate responses to acts of

Again, this is hard to read. The author doesn’t define her vague language, and thus she loses the reader in a barrage of technical terms that either must be looked up or already understood. Fortunately, this writer has a firm grip on the English language, and is capable of rewriting the above passage for the average reader. Behold, the above text interpreted:

Delbo and O’Brien break down the common distinctions between fiction and nonfiction, between internal and external, between existing in the mind of the author and existing in the real world, and between now and then. The beauty of the language should not shock the reader because of the subject matter, because to separate the subject matter of trauma from the beauty of literature is to do harm to the foundation of the story itself. Removing the key element of aesthetic—beautiful language, that is—from a traumatic account is to suggest that a phony reverence or stale compassion will suffice in place of this language.

This way, it is not as obtuse in language, however, it also gets clunky and jumbled. The reader is still forced to reread. The flow of words is an important factor in crafting a piece, especially a scholarly article. This is why skilled writers employ the use of a thesaurus to help them through writing. Let’s look at one more passage and see if it isn’t possible to rewrite it so that it’s not only easy to read, but fun to read as well.

But both metaphor and narrative enable particular kinds of literary truth, because
they endow the landscape with violent potential, hence rendering trauma visible.
Not quite as thick as the preceding segments, but still not light reading. Let’s lighten it up for the layman:

Both metaphor and story-telling allow literature and truth to come together, because they give the landscape violent potential, and so make it easier for the author to convey trauma.

Here, I’ve replaced academic vocabulary with smaller words that the average person can understand. Whether it’s fun to read is up to the reader.

Wiki Post 4

General Academic Style

I'm looking at "Spectator Dynamics in Greek Tragedy" and “'Why This Book is Written as It Is'
Techniques of Truth and Trauma in Charlotte Delbo and Tim O’Brien." These two articles are stylistically different. "Spectator Dynamics" is a bit less formal with its language, staying away from dense nominal styles. whereas "Techniques of Truth and Trauma" is much more academic in its vocabulary, not employing the discursive "I".

Summary of Good Writing in The Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism

Begin by briefly summarizing your original paper, if you had one. Then, describe what counts as good writing in your chosen research journal, given what you discovered through your wiki posts. Do you think your observations about specific articles reflect good writing in most articles in the journal? Finally, explain how you have tried to meet those standards of good writing in your revisions.
My original paper was a literary criticism of Colson Whitehead's novel, Apex Hides the Hurt. It explored the idea that a name is more than just a name. Rather, a name is something that lends a level of credibility to something. In the case of Apex, the novel points to the fact that the unnamed protagonist struggles with the concept of names.
In the case of the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism, good writing stems from good sources. That is, not only do good writers write well, but good writers actively call upon other good writers to help them make their claims. So what is writing well? Writing well involves crafting an idea and articulating it so that a general audience understands it. This can be conversational, but it doesn't have to be.
Throughout my paper, I have called upon Whitehead's text to illustrate my points about names. I have not yet included secondary sources, but that is something I intend to do with further drafts.

Project 2 Revision Plan

The New Yorker is an illustrious magazine with connotations of success. When it comes to the tone of the magazine’s articles, however, the style is far from dense. It’s a very readable magazine. Thus, the nature of my revision should focus largely on readability. With this in mind, I intend to bring the language in my paper to a more conversational tone. The New Yorker publishes quite a wide variety of works, from editorials to news to book reviews to advice, so my paper will fit right in.
The New Yorker is also, however, a credible magazine. Every article has multiple sources to back up the author’s claims. For this reason, I will have to gather another source to speak to my topic, ideally something more contemporary.

Wiki Post 8

I will be using the genre of literary criticism. I plan to work closely with a scene in Apex Hides the Hurt and analyze what is happening in that scene.
The audience for this piece of literary criticism will be academic professionals versed in literary criticism. I will likely need to explain some of the background and why I chose the scene I did.
My purpose is to inform/persuade, with more attention on persuasion.
Essentially, this will be a revision of project 1, but will be much more focused and narrow.


1. How would you suggest I work academic voices into this?
2. In what way can I make this article sound more scholarly? Does the conversational tone throw off the reader?
3. The journal to which I’m submitting publishes a lot of book reviews. Would this article be better suited as a book review?
4. What words should I define in order to make this article more coherent?
5. Which nominal styles—if any—are embodied in the voice of my paper?
6. How can I shorten my summaries to make room for analysis?
2013 Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism

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