Showing posts with label research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label research. Show all posts

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Encyclopedia of the Gothic - Review



“Infinity made imaginable.”


A review of The Encyclopedia of the Gothic (2016), edited by William Hughes, David Punter and Andrew Smith. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-119-06460-2. (880 pages).

     The general editors (William Hughes, David Punter and Andrew Smith) begin their Introduction to The Encyclopedia of the Gothic by employing the now well-known story of the Chinese encyclopedia, popularized by Jorge Luis Borges and by Michel Foucault in The Order of Things (1970). Although they choose to employ the definite article in their chosen title, their enlightened emphasis on ‘provisionality’ hints at the struggle with the ‘epistemologically firm structure of an encyclopedia’ (p. xxxiv). Indeed, the evidence of diversity and the proliferation of resources [FN1] on gothic appears to challenge the possibility of constructing an encyclopedia in fixed media. Fortunately, the online version will provide an opportunity to interact with the suggestions of readers in order to cope with ‘an ever evolving genre’ (p. xxxviii). Nonetheless, the print version marks an excellent opportunity to take stock of the current state of play in gothic studies and to critically survey this gargantuan domain of academic research.

     In one sense, it might be proposed that academic canonicity originates in the authority and the legitimacy of scholars recruited to the project. In addition to the esteemed general editors the reviewer counted some 40 professors amongst the 131 contributors writing on 244 topics. It is also reassuring for the health of the subject that many early career scholars have joined forces with the influential writers who have been transforming the theoretical directions of Gothic studies since the 1980s.

     In short, it’s a highly impressive and monumental effort of collaborative scholarship. I do not envy the task of the editors who must bear the burden of their judiciousness: what to include, what to exclude. Digging deeper reveals that there are underlying narratives and a sense of shared assumptions about the Gothic project and approaches to reflecting on the diverse phenomena conceptually and theoretically.  Given that the gothic genre is not confined to a canon of literary texts the critical project is all the more arduous and the monster of possibility spreads out in all directions. Gothic has become a global project, national and transnational in its replication and migration. As if nodding to the academic industry that has fuelled the dissemination of gothic the editors kindly offer an entry at the centre of their encyclopedia around which all other entries circulate: the International Gothic Association (IGA), whose inaugural conference was held at the University of East Anglia in 1991. Incidentally, two of the general editors, Andrew Smith and William Hughes, are co-presidents of the International Gothic Association, and the latter is also the founding editor of Gothic Studies, the refereed journal of the International Gothic Association.

     It is rather impertinent to question whether a book of this kind is really needed when so much is already available elsewhere, and more material than ever is available on open access. Indeed, the IGA website (www.iga.stir.ac.uk) is a useful place to start. Google Scholar throws up 442,000 references to ‘gothic’ so it’s undoubtedly very helpful to have some guidance to refine the search terms. Certainly this volume compares well with a range of other histories, guides, and companions that have been designed to cater for the undergraduate market. It’s obviously also a safe place to start for students who want to research a specific topic, or to improve their awareness of key themes, concepts, and theoretical approaches. The editors have managed to meet the need for accessibility without falling into the trap of a gross over-simplification of complex ideas. Entries range in length from a thousand words, up to five thousand for ‘period’ surveys. The general policy of the editors has been to offer a survey of the gothic field that covers ‘periods, places, people and media.’ (p. xxxvii) Short bibliographies accompany each entry, together with cross-references. A well-constructed traditional index also helped this reviewer to track down more minor topics that I had deemed to have been missed out.

     Comparison with the much demonised Wikipedia reveals the value of having an erudite collection of short articles that serve as a trusted introduction to key topics in the field of Gothic studies. In terms of geography there are well-informed entries on the regional, national, or wider traditions: African American Gothic (Carol Margaret Davison), American Gothic (Charles L. Crow), Anglo-Caribbean Gothic (Carol Margaret Davison), Asian Gothic (Katarzyna Ancuta), Australian Gothic (Ken Gelder), Canadian Gothic (Faye Hammill), Dutch Gothic (Agnes Andeweg), European Gothic (Francesca Billiani), French Gothic (Terry Hale), Japanese Gothic (Katarzyna Ancuta), Jewish Gothic (Ruth Gilbert), New England Gothic (Faye Ringel), New Zealand Gothic (Timothy Jones), Russian Gothic (Neil Cornwell), Scandinavian Gothic (Yvonne Leffler), Scottish Gothic (Carol Margaret Davison), Southern [US] Gothic (Meredith Miller), and Welsh Gothic (Jane Aaron); but curiously British Gothic and English Gothic are omitted as self-standing entries. One assumes that these categories were sufficiently represented elsewhere, like a background noise that is unnoticed, or a torture to which we have so long submitted that we no longer feel the pain of its presence. (I note that Wikipedia has an entries on ‘Tasmanian Gothic’ and ‘Southern Ontario Gothic’; whereas the Encyclopedia offers ‘Fin-de- siècle Gothic’ (Emily Alder) Wikipedia supplements with an entry on ‘Mal du siècle’.)

     The notion of transnationalism and the migration of Gothic tropes and narratives is evidently becoming more urgent as a focus for international scholarship and collaboration. In this regard David Punter’s entry on ‘Theory’ notes: ‘it involves the constant contact, now prevalent more than ever before because of the globalized spread of cultural interchange, between Western textualities and “indigeneous” folktales and related material.’ (692) Undoubtedly the traffic is multi-dimensional and therefore the encyclopedic projects of a Western intelligentsia and the habits of cultural consumers need to be constantly alerted to the notion of the key role of ‘provisionality’ and ‘interaction’ previously noted.

     Psychoanalytic and other theoretical approaches to Gothic are well served in this volume, perhaps revealing the interest of the general editors and the academic readership that the book targets. Taking a lead from Dale Townshend’s The orders of Gothic: Foucault, Lacan and the subject of Gothic writing, 1764-1806 (2007) David Punter’s entry on ‘Theory’ notes that theory ‘does not have to bifurcate into, on the one hand, purely historical study and, on the other, an attempt to demonstrate “universal” aspects.’ (692)

     Many entries bear the bite marks of the kiss of theory and most are commendable for their clarity and accessibility; examples include:  Abjection (Elisabeth Bronfen); Blood (William Hughes); Commodity Gothicism (Tricia Lootens); Criticism (William Hughes); Cryptonymy (Cynthia Sugars); Doubles (Dale Townshend); Environment (Gregg Garrard); Female Gothic (Diana Wallace); the Grotesque (Maria Parrino); Liminality (Katie Garner); Monstrosity (Jerold E. Hogle); Phobia (Anthony Mandal); Poststructuralism and Gothic(Julian Wolfreys); Psychoanalysis (Roger Luckhurst); Queer Gothic (Max Fincher); Sex (Ruth Anolik); Spectrality (Julian Wolfreys); the Sublime (Max Fincher); the Uncanny (Anneleen Masschelein) and Zombies (Fred Botting). All entries pay lip service to a theoretical approach but it would not be kind to assert, or to give the impression, that a theory-driven agenda dominates and overwhelms other kinds of critical appreciation and historical enquiry. In this case, the gothic church is highly accommodating and tolerant.

     Curiously, the entry on Future Gothic (Nema Montezero) appears without any References or Further Reading. Is that the Shape of Things to Come? Media topics are represented by entries on popular TV, Film (Stephen Carver), Games (Tanya Krzywinska); Radio (Richard  J. Hand), and many more. The longest entries (up to five thousand words) in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic tend to be devoted to the surveys of periods and movements. These entries provide a convenient route for students who are embarking on the study of the gothic for the first time and who need a judicious summary rather than an awesome monograph. Given the high cost of downloading academic articles, it is evident that a modest investment in a resource such as The Encyclopedia of the Gothic clearly represents excellent value for undergraduates, independent scholars and general readers. The theoretical approaches will also prove an essential resource for those seeking to engage with current academic research on the gothic.

Ian McCormick, M.A.(St Andrews), PhD (Leeds).

FN1: 'Nobody ever complains of having too little to read, as Richard Fisher, the managing director of Cambridge University Press’s academic division, has put it at many conferences.' See Martin Paul Eve, Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

TOPICS COVERED:
  • Abjection
  • Abyss
  • Adultery
  • African American Gothic
  • Aickman, Robert
  • Ainsworth, William Harrison
  • Alcohol
  • American Gothic
  • Amityville
  • Angel
  • Anglo-Caribbean Gothic
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Apparition
  • Architecture, Gothic
  • Asylums
  • Atwood, Margaret
  • Australian Gothic
  • Avatar

  • Barker, Clive
  • Baudelaire, Charles
  • Beckford, William
  • Benson, E. F.
  • Bierce, Ambrose
  • Blackwood, Algernon
  • Blood
  • Bluebooks
  • Braddon, Mary Elizabeth
  • Brite, Poppy Z.
  • Brown, Charles Brockden
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Bulwer-Lytton, Edward
  • Burger, Gottfried
  • Burton, Tim
  • Byron, George Gordon, sixth Baron

  • Cabell, James B.
  • Campbell, Ramsey
  • Campus Gothic
  • Canadian Gothic
  • Carter, Angela
  • Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
  • Collins, Wilkie
  • Colonial Gothic
  • Comic Gothic
  • Comics and graphic novels
  • Commodity Gothic
  • Confession
  • Coover, Robert
  • Corelli, Marie
  • Counterfeit
  • Crime
  • Criticism
  • Cronenberg, David
  • Crowley, Aleister
  • Cryptonymy
  • Cult Fiction
  • Cults, Gothic
  • Curse

  • Dacre, Charlotte
  • Davis, M. E. M.
  • De Quincey, Thomas
  • de Sade, Marquis
  • Degeneration
  • Dickens, Charles
  • Disability
  • Domestic Gothic
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor
  • Doubles
  • Drama
  • Dream
  • Drugs
  • du Maurier, Daphne
  • Dutch Gothic

  • Editorship
  • Ellis, Bret Easton
  • Environment
  • European Gothic

  • Family
  • Fate
  • Faulkner, William
  • Female Gothic
  • Film, Gothic
  • Folklore and Gothic
  • Freeman, Mary Wilkins
  • French Gothic
  • French Gothic Film
  • Friday the 13th
  • Future Gothic

  • Games
  • German Expressionism
  • German Gothic
  • Ghost Stories
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins
  • Godwin, William
  • Goth
  • Gothic 1900 to 1950
  • Gothic 1950 to the Present
  • Gothic Revival Architecture
  • Graveyard Poetry
  • Grotesque, The

  • Halloween
  • Hammer
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel
  • Herbert, James
  • Hill, Susan
  • Hoffmann, E. T. A.
  • Hogg, James
  • Hope-Hodgson, William
  • Horrid
  • Horror Fiction
  • Hypnotism

  • Imperial Gothic
  • Incest
  • Inheritance
  • Inquisition
  • International Gothic Association, The
  • Intertext
  • Ireland, William Henry
  • Irish Gothic

  • Jackson, Shirley
  • James, Henry
  • James, M.R.
  • Japanese Gothic
  • Jewish Gothic

  • Kafka, Franz
  • King, Stephen
  • Kipling, Rudyard

  • Lathom, Francis
  • Law and the Gothic
  • LeFanu, Sheridan
  • Lemoine, Ann
  • Lesbian Gothic
  • Lewis, Matthew
  • Liminality
  • Lovecraft, H. P.
  • Lugosi, Bela

  • Macabre, The
  • MacDonald, George
  • Machen, Arthur
  • Magazines
  • Manga
  • Marsh, Richard
  • Masks, Veils and Disguises
  • Matheson, Richard
  • Maturin, Charles 
  • McCabe, Patrick
  • McCarthy, Cormac
  • McGrath, Patrick
  • Mediumship
  • Melodrama
  • Melville, Herman
  • Misogyny
  • Modernism
  • Monster Movies
  • Monstrosity
  • Mummy
  • Music

  • Necromancy
  • New England Gothic
  • New Zealand Gothic
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Nordier, Charles

  • O’Connor, Flannery
  • Oates, Joyce Carol
  • Occultism
  • Odoevsky
  • Opera

  • Penny Dreadfuls
  • Phobia
  • Poe, Edgar Allan
  • Poison
  • Polidori, John
  • Popular Culture
  • Portraiture
  • Postcolonial Gothic
  • Postmodern Gothic
  • Poststructuralism and the Gothic
  • Protestantism
  • Psychical investigation
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Psychological Thrillers

  • Queer Gothic

  • Race
  • Radcliffe, Ann
  • Radio
  • Reeve, Clara
  • Reynolds, George
  • Rice, Anne
  • Rohmer, Sax
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Romanticism
  • Rosicrucianism
  • Ruins
  • Russian Gothic

  • Scandinavian Gothic
  • Schiller, Friedrich
  • Science and the Gothic
  • Scottish Gothic
  • Secret Histories
  • Secret societies
  • Sensation Fiction
  • Sensibility
  • Sex
  • Shelley, Mary
  • Shelley, Percy Bysshe
  • Shilling Shocker
  • Sinclair, May
  • Slasher movies
  • Slavery
  • Southern Gothic
  • Spectacle
  • Spectrality
  • Spiritualism
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis
  • Stoker, Bram
  • Straub, Peter
  • Sturm und Drang
  • Sublime, The
  • Suburban Gothic
  • Supernatural, The

  • Taboo
  • Tales of Terror
  • Teaching Gothic
  • Technologies
  • Teenage Gothic
  • Tegg, Thomas
  • Television
  • Terror
  • Theory and Gothic
  • Thompson, Alice
  • Translation
  • Twilight

  • Uncanny, The
  • Urban Gothic

  • Vampire fiction
  • Victorian Gothic
  • Village Gothic
  • Voodooism

  • Walpole, Horace
  • Wells, H. G.
  • Welsh Gothic
  • Werewolf
  • Wharton, Edith
  • Wheatley, Dennis
  • Wilkinson, Sarah
  • Williams, Tennessee
  • Witchcraft
  • Wordsworth, William

  • Zombies

CONTRIBUTORS:

Aaron, Jane University of Glamorgan UK
Alder, Emily Edinburgh Napier University UK
Ancuta, Katarzyna Assumption University of Thailand Thailand
Anderweg, Agnes Maastricht University Netherlands
Anolik, Ruth Villanova University USA
Armitt, Lucie University of Salford UK
Bak, John S. Nancy Université France
Balmain, Colette
UK
Barlett, Mackenzie

Bennett, Mark
UK
Berthin, Christine Universite Paris Quest France
Billiani, Francesca University of Manchester UK
Billingham, Peter
UK
Blake, Linnie Manchester Metropolitan University UK
Botting, Fred University of Lancaster UK
Bronfen, Elisabeth Englisches Seminar Switzerland
Byron, Glennis University of Stirling UK
Campbell, James University of Stirling UK
Carver, Stephen Norwich School of Art and Design UK
Carver, Stephan University of East Anglia UK
Chaplin, Susan Leeds Metropolitan University UK
Chromik, Anna Institute of English Cultures and Literatures
Collins, Richard Louisianna State University USA
Cologne-Brookes, Bath Spa University UK
Conrich, Ian Birkbeck College, University of London UK
Cooper, Andrew Georgia Institute of Technology USA
Crow, Charles
USA
Curl, James Stevens
UK
Daly, Nick University College Dublin ROI
Davison, Carol Margaret University of Windsor Canada
Edwards, Justin University of Surrey UK
Fincher, Max
UK
Fischer, Benjamin Franklin
USA
Foley, Matt Stirling University UK
Franklin, Caroline Swansea University UK
Freeman, Nick Loughborough University UK
Garrard, Greg Bath Spa University UK
Gelder, Ken University of Melbourne Australia
Germana, Monica University of Westminster UK
Gibson, Matthew
UK
Gilbert, Ruth
UK
Hale, Terry Hull University UK
Hammill, Faye University of Strathclyde UK
Hand, Richard J. University of Glamorgan UK
Hartnell-Mottram, Elaine Liverpool Hope University UK
Heholt, Ruth Falmouth University UK
Hoeveler, Diane Long Marquette University USA
Hogle, Jerrold University of Arizona USA
Hollington, Mike

Horner, Avril  Kingston University UK
Huang, Chiung-ying Bristol University UK
Hughes, William Bath Spa University UK
Inouye, Charles Tufts University USA
Jones, Tim Victoria University fo Wellington New Zealand
Joshi, S T

Kahan, Jeffrey
USA
Killeen, Jarlath Trinity College Dublin ROI
Krzywinska, Tanya Brunel University UK
Leffler, Yvonne University of Gothenburg Sweden
Lippert, Conny University of Bristol UK
Lloyd, Rebecca Falmouth University UK
Lootens, Tricia University of Georgia USA
Luckhurst, Roger Birkbeck College, University of London UK
Mandal, Anthony Cardiff University UK
Mason, Diane
UK
Masschelein, Anneleen Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Belgium
McClure, Nancy
USA
McDowell, Stacey University of Bristol UK
McEvoy, Emma University of Westminster UK
McWilliams, Ellen Bath Spa University UK
Menegaldo, Gilles University of Poitiers France
Meyers, Helene Southwestern University USA
Michasiw, Kim York University Canada
Milbank, Alison Nottingham University UK
Miles, Robert University of Victoria Canada
Miller, Meredith Falmouth University UK
Monk, Nicholas University of Warwick UK
Mousoutzanis, Aris
UK
Mulvey, Roberts University of the West of England UK
Munford, Becky Cardiff University UK
Murname, Barry Martin-Luther  University UK
Ni Chonaill, Siobhan University of Cambridge UK
Nordius, Janina University of Gothenburg Sweden
O'Gorman, Farrell De Paul University USA
O'Keefe, Ciaran

Owen, Tomos Cardiff University UK
Packham, Jimmy University of Bristol UK
Palmer, Paulina
UK
Parrinder, Patrick University of Reading UK
Parrino, Maria Bristol University UK
Peach, Linden Edge Hill University UK
Pittard, Christopher Newcastle University UK
Pittock, Murray University of Glasgow UK
Potter, Franz National University USA
Powell, Anna Manchester Metropolitan University UK
Punter, David University of Bristol UK
Purinton, Marjean Texas Tech University USA
Purves, Maria Lucy Cavendish College UK
Raghunath, Anita Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam The Netherlands
Redford, Catherine University of Bristol UK
Ringel, Faye U.S. Coast Guard Academy USA
Roberts, Marie Mulvey University of the West of England UK
Round, Julia Bournemouth University UK
Royle, Nicholas
UK
Ruddell, Caroline St Mary's University College UK
Sage, Vic University of East Anglia UK
Sausman, Justin Birkbeck College, University of London UK
Scahill, Andrew University of Texas at Austin USA
Scullion, Val
UK
Smith, Andrew University of Glamorgan UK
Smith, Andy W. University of Wales, Newport UK
Spooner, Catherine Lancaster University UK
Stelle, Ginger University of St Andrews UK
Stephanou, Aspasia University of Stirling UK
Stoddard Holmes, Martha California State University USA
Sugars, Cynthia University of Ottawa Canada
Talairach-Vielmas, Laurence Universite de Toulouse II France
Thomas, Ardel City College of San Francisco USA
Thompson, Douglass H. Georgia Southern University USA
Townshend, Dale University of Stirling UK
Voller, Jack Southern Illinois University USA
Wallace, Diana University of Glamorgan UK
Warwick, Alex University of Westminster UK
Watson, Rory University of Sterling UK
Weinstock, Jeffrey Central Michigan University USA
Whatley, John Simon Fraser University Canada
Wheatley, Helen University of Warwick UK
Williams, Anne
USA
Willis, Martin University of Glamorgan UK
Wisker, Gina University of Brighton UK
Witchard, Anne University of WestminsterUK UK
Wolfreys, Julian Loughborough University UK
Worrall, David Nottingham Trent University UK
Wright, Angela University of Sheffield UK
Wright, Elizabeth Bath Spa University UK
Wright, Angela University of Sheffield UK
Zapp, Andrea Manchester Metropolitan University UK
Zlosnik, Sue Manchester Metropolitan UK
 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Book Challenge



Time to take the Book Challenge. Please post comments and suggestion below, or use Twitter #bookchallenge

  1. Which book is most often stolen from a library?
  2. Is it possible to be poisoned by a book?
  3. How much did it cost to produce the world's most expensive book?
  4. What was Shakespeare's best insult?
  5. Who invented science fiction, or fantasy?
  6. When was the world's first novel written?
  7. What's the funniest moment in literature?
  8. Which book has the best opening line?
  9. What's the longest book ever written?
  10. Who is the world's best selling writer, alive or dead?
  11. Who is the most famous/infamous fictional woman to appear in a story?
  12. When was the first comic strip published?
  13. Who wrote the world's first romance?
  14. When was the world's first recipe book composed?
  15. Who was the world's most prolific author?
  16. Who invented young adult fiction?
  17. Which book has caused the most trouble?
  18. Who is the most liked/hated superhero? 
  19. Who was the world's slowest writer?
  20. Who is the most monstrous person in literature?
  21. Where will you find the world's biggest library?
  22. Who was the first black person to tell his/her story?
  23. What's the longest word to appear in a work of fiction?
  24. Is there a book that no one has ever finished reading?
  25. What's the most interesting lost book?
  26. What's the highest ever auction price for a printed book?
  27. What's the world record for writing a book in the shortest/longest time?
  28. What's the best nonsense word in a published work?
  29. What's the most famous anonymous work? 
  30. What's the most shocking fight in literture?
  31. Who is the oldest character in literature?
  32. What's the world's most tragic play?
  33. What's the world's most infamous literary hoax?
  34. Which books include talking objects?
  35. What's the most famous line in literature?
  36. What's the world's scariest book?
  37. Which book has the best ending?
  38. Are there any books that don't use punctuation?
  39. What was the first word ever written in a work of fiction?
  40. Who is the best-read person in history?
  41. Which book has been banned most often?
  42. Which book do you wish you had written yourself?
  43. Please write down three more questions which improve on the ones written above.


Dr Ian McCormick served as Professor in the Arts at the University of Northampton.

His most recent book is The Art of Connection. [Quibble Academic, 2013]





Thursday, 10 July 2014

27 tips on academic writing and publishing


The path to publication is arduous!

"Publication is a self-invasion of privacy." - - -  Marshall McLuhan

You can't publish unless you've written something ...

1. Ban thoughts of failure or rejection; by starting to write you are improving on the blank page of terror

2. Write a rough draft quickly; the quality of the writing should be worked on later

3. Familiarise yourself with an appropriate academic phrasebank

4. Learn to use a range of connectives in order to make your ideas flow

5. Avoid writing marathons - they seldom produce quality outcomes

6. Learn to use short stretches of highly focused writing time

7. Check that your have displaced all potential distractions

8. Identify SMART targets for your short periods of writing:
  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.



"Democratic societies are unfit for the publication of such thunderous revelations 
as I am in the habit of making."   --- Salvador Dali

Finding a method and style suitable for publication

9. Don't try to justify every intuition by slavishly seeking out a reference to someone else's work

10. Describe and develop your ideas

11. Broad theoretical brush-strokes are exhilarating, but remember that you are not writing the history of everything

12. Avoid going off on too many tangents as these tend to confuse editors and reviewers

13. Communicate your main point(s) early

14. Include some memorable sentences that effectively summarise your work/contribution

15. Clearly demonstrate the thought-pathways leading to your conclusions

16. A clear focus beats a sprawling display of acrobatic leaps

17. If the ideas proliferate consider splitting your project into several articles

18. Be explicit and precise about your original contribution to scholarship

19. Fine-tune your writing at a later stage

20. Ask a trusted friend/colleague to read and comment on your final copy

21. Employ a proof-reader if you are unsure about the quality of your English

22. Research the most appropriate journal for your work

23. Listen to advice from colleagues and supervisors

24. Check that the format of your article has a perfect fit with each journal's requirements

25. Revise your work to suit a journal's ethos and style guide

26. Don't be disheartened - 80 to 90% of  submissions to leading journals are rejected

27. It's your chosen way of life. Enjoy!



"Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty." --- Madame de Stael


“I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous: and it did not get into print until, fifty years later publishers would publish anything that had my name on it.” ― George Bernard Shaw
 

 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Creating a Map of Connection and Transition

Students create their own maps of connection

"The creative journey has more departures than arrivals."

 

Students often have problems thinking about the flow of their ideas within a paragraph. This is not surprising as different thought-pathways occur at each (full) stop. 

For instance, having expressed one idea, the next one might illustrate, supplement, qualify, or reverse the preceding sentence. 

As a result, our sentence journeys quickly become very complicated. A complex argument often degenerates into confusion, and the sense of feeling lost. Writers and readers need signposts, and they need a map.

In reality, writing involves weaving together a complex and dense thread of connectives and transitions. These words have the special function of signalling the direction of travel. They help to maintain a sense of purpose and direction. By using them effectively the writer is able to stick to a plan. Transitions help writing to flow.

By thinking about the different kinds of transition needed in writing it is possible to create word and phrase clusters for each one. 

In visual terms each cluster can become a line that has many variations: 

the Location Line, 
the Timing Line, 
the Comparison Line, 
the Contrast and Difference Line, 
the Supplement Line, 
the Disputation line, 
the Sequence Line, 
the Example and Illustration Line,
the Summary Line. 

My book provides lists of these word clusters, together with hundreds of examples of their usage drawn from published writers in all fields of work.

I have also provided a useful summary of the most frequently used transition words and phrases at the end of this blog.

It is easy to create your own multiple-line personalised maps:

Pairs of students research and select the key words that will stand in as the stations. 

They draw coloured lines with sufficient stations and then add the words to create their personalised map of connection.  

They will be learning about connection by making links.

A traditional - and easy - way to create a London Tube-style connection map is to use coloured wool and drawing pins on a noticeboard. Each station then becomes one of the key words or phrases used to signal a sentence connection or transition. The cluster then represents the colour of the line.

Lines of writing can also be demonstrated in the classroom by using human subjects as the 'stations' and throwing around a ball of coloured wool. But be warned, this activity can create a tangled web. Yet this experience usefully serves an apt metaphor to express the idea that complex writing sometimes works - and sometimes fails. Sentences are social; they require teamwork.

A useful follow-up game is to guess the line:

"If am at station X and move to station Y, which line am I on?"

Logic line clusters can also be used to analyse an essay. This involves highlighting the writer's choice (or implied choice) of connection and transition, sentence by sentence. In this process we stick back in and stress the otherwise invisible moments of connection and transition.

Clearly, a high frequency of time-based words suggests narrative; a high frequency of space-based words will be evident in description; multiple sequence words are crucial for argument, &c.

I also like to use the idea of the electronic circuit board. We are not always using all of the elements on the board. Nonetheless, a broken circuit will sometime lead to a fatal system error.

I'd love to see your connectivity maps if your have tried out this activity! 


Images for Connectivity on Pinterest

 




The Nine Lines of Connection:



The Space Line

A sense of where something is in relation to something else. This use is rather like using a preposition or an adverbial phrase. The words associated with this usage are: above, across, adjacent, adjacent to, alongside, amid, among, around, at the side, before, behind, below, beneath, beside,  between, beyond, down, from, further, here, here and there, in front of, in the back, in the background, in the centre of, in the distance, in the foreground, in the front, in the middle, near, nearby, next, on this side, opposite to, over, there, to the left, to the right, to the side, under, up, where, wherever. These words all suggest a sense of place or location and are therefore very useful for visual description.

The Timing Line

Supply a sense of when something is happening, or to communicate the sense of a logical sequence in time. Examples of this usage of transitional words and phrases: about, after, afterwards, all of a sudden, as soon as, at the present time, at the same time, at this instant, before, currently, during, eventually, finally, first, formerly, forthwith, fourth, from time to time, further, hence, henceforth, immediately, in a moment, in due time, in the first place, in the future, in the meantime, in the past, in time, instantly, last, later, meanwhile, next, now, occasionally, often, once, presently, prior to, quickly, second, shortly, since, sometimes, soon, sooner or later, straightaway, subsequently, suddenly, then, third, to begin with, today, until, until now, up to the present time, when, whenever, without delay.

The Comparison Line

Point to a comparison of two ideas. This may be achieved by deploying words such as additionally, again, also, and, as, as a matter of fact, as well as, by the same token, comparatively, correspondingly, coupled with, equally, equally important; first, second, third, fourth, fifth; furthermore, identically, in addition, in like manner, in the light of, in the same fashion, in the same way, like, likewise, moreover, not only ... but also, not to mention, of course, similarly, to say nothing of, together with, too. As these examples demonstrate the ruling idea is similarity.
Tube map of the Art of Connection with key words presented as stations
Another Map showing The Art of Connection

The Difference Line

Indicate a contrast. English provides many examples to signal the notion of difference. The most common examples are and still, and yet, above all, after all, albeit, although, although this may be true, at the same time, be that as it may, besides, but, conversely, despite, different from, even so, even though, however, in contrast, in reality, in spite of, instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, on the other hand, or, otherwise, rather, regardless of, still, then again, unlike, whereas, while, yet.

The Supplement Line

If the writer wants to present additional or supplementary ideas the most common options are: also, and, as well, moreover, then, too, besides, equally, furthermore, in addition.

The Argument Line

In the process of disputation, argument, or debate a writer sometimes indicates that a point has been agreed or already taken into account. In order to suggest that a point has been conceded the following words and phrases may be used: granted, obviously, to be sure, agreed, certainly, of course.

The Sequence Line

In order to provide a sense of logical sequence the writer uses words such as accordingly, as long as, as a result, because, because of, consequently, due to, even if, for fear that, for this reason, for the purpose of, forthwith, given that, granted (that), hence, henceforth, if, in case, in order to, in that case, in the event that, in the hope that, in view of, inasmuch as, lest, on account of, on (the) condition (that), only, owing to, provided that, seeing that, since, so,  so as to, so long as, so that, thereby, therefore, thereupon, thus, to the end that, under those circumstances, unless, when, whenever, while, with this in mind, with this intention. In these examples there may be a sense of cause and effect, or the sense that one idea results from another. In some cases there is the sense of conditionality or a specific relation of purpose.


The Illustration Line

If the writer has been using concepts, ideas, or theories, it is often helpful to provide an illustration or an example. For this purpose we deploy words such as: another key point, as an illustration, by all means, certainly, chiefly, especially, first thing to remember, for example, for instance, for one thing, for this reason, frequently, important to realize, in detail, in fact, in general, in other words, in particular, in this case, including, indeed, like, issues to consider, markedly, most compelling evidence, must be remembered, namely, notably, on the negative side, on the positive, point often overlooked, recalling, significantly, specifically, such as, surely, surprisingly, that is to say, taking into account, to be sure, to clarify, to demonstrate, to emphasize, to enumerate, to explain, to point out, to put it another way, to put it differently, to repeat, truly, with attention to, with regard to, with this in mind.

The Summary Line


Useful connective words include: after all, all in all, all things considered, altogether, as can be seen, as has been demonstrated, as has been noted, as shown,  above, by and large, finally, for the most part, generally speaking, given these points, hence, in a word, in any event, in brief, in conclusion, in conclusion, in either case, in essence, in fact, in short, in summary, in the final analysis, in the long run, on balance, on the whole, ordinarily, overall, that is to say, that is, to sum up, to summarize, usually.



It will be clear that many transitional words have multiple and overlapping functions. The summary, for instance, also signals the end of a sequence. Similarly, examples may also be supplements, because they provide additional illustrations or instances.

Download a sample of this book.

The Art of Connection.

Illustration of connectives and transition words used in English composition
This was produced by a boy of  10 years