10H – 9 September 2013 – In which I rant about “relatable”

Reminder to keep up with reading & journaling via your Aug-Sept Calendar. I’ve asked you to read Ch 4 of OMM for tomorrow; journal about the racial dynamics on the ranch.

Scholars, today is a writing day. I’ll start with a quick ambulance, covering four issues:

  • After you get feedback from me, do NOT resolve comments or write over the draft. Go to FILE then MAKE A COPY. Make sure to RENAME the file correctly and then make all your revisions on the new one.
  • The thesis determines the whole essay. They are not separate. If your thesis needs an overhaul, your main points do too…and you likely won’t have much feedback on them until you have a clear thesis.
  • The WHAT in your essay needs to be debatable (e.g. there could be two different opinions on it). It also needs to be analytical rather than plot-based. For example, “The American is desperate to convince Jig…” is a terrible WHAT because it simply articulates a plot point that is not open to much debate.
  • Your main points may not have much in the way of comments if your thesis needs a lot of attention…because they will be nonsensical without your thesis.
  • The word RELATABLE is absolutely, irrevocably and completely inappropriate in academic discourse. It is a very popular word right now–but it doesn’t work in our academic context. Here’s why:

a. The way we use “relatable” is not actually a word yet; some dictionaries are including it, but still require the “to,” other dictionaries are adopting it into the vernacular only.

b. “Relatable” means “easy to relate to for me”–this is a passive construction.

c. “Relatable” is personal because of the “for me” in its definition. Sadly, academic discourse cares very little about YOU and your personal experience of anything.

d. We already have language for the type of discourse “relatable” offers us. We say a s/he is  a “sympathetic” character or an “unsympathetic” character. This addresses how the general populace will respond to that character.

e. “Relatability” is not high on my list–or any academic’s list–of tools that push you toward sophisticated, critical, high-level thinking. It’s a nice idea in middle school. It’s fun in a book club. But it’s useless in analytical writing.


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