Mission Statement for Cultural Commentary

When I started writing my critical essay analyzing Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s forty-third poem in Sonnets from the Portuguese, it was largely an effort to try to use one work to fulfill two different assignments for two different classes. But in the end I still ended up writing two slightly different essays that explored the same poem. Although they ended up being slightly different, both essays seemed to have a common desire: to write academic papers that didn’t sound academic (at least not in the usual sense of being overly distant in tone or staking its analysis on obscure or tangential facts).

In choosing to write an analysis of a poem, I wouldn’t be able to avoid the required staple of using quotes and proper citation of formal papers, but I could try to write in a manner that’s accessible to a much wider audience, instead of the few groups reached by most academic essays. Browning’s “Sonnet 43” was perfect for this because–although there has been a trend to politicize her life and poems–its simple language and singular focus on the topic of love makes it accessible to a wide audience and any attempt on the writer’s part to use some arcane fact to prove their thesis would make any unrelated agenda or bias quite obvious. To achieve this greater accessibility I would focus completely on the poems language, syntax, and the repetition of sounds — and not invoke psychology, political theory, or other tangentially related fields. Focusing on these elements within the poem makes it easier for the audience to read since they wouldn’t need extra knowledge of another field or be required to do more research as they read the paper. Instead, I would make my thinking and analysis as transparent and open for discussion (and criticism) as much as possible — which is what most critiques, analysis, and commentary should be achieving.

This mission to write accessibly about very specific poetic and phonic concepts would also help me hone my ability to communicate abstract ideas in a concise and clear style — and all of the concepts used could be easily seen within the poem.

But from listening to GSIs, in addition to hearing and (listlessly) reading other students’ essays, this effort to write accessibly and refrain from proving an argument by over-emphasizing arcane knowledge doesn’t seem to be a favorable mode of thought. Yet I would think that once we graduate, the writing that is valued–both in business and creative settings–is writing that communicates clearly. Businesses value accomplishing goals as efficiently as possible, which requires communication that is simple and concise. Although driven and valued by ambiguity and openness to interpretation, creative fields–whether it’s a novel, play, or film–thrive on speaking and being accessible to all.

Whether it has an academic, business, or creative purpose, I hope my writing communicates truth, clarity, and accessibility.


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