Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Morning Reading: Where Do Sentences Come From?

from the "Draft" series in the New York Times: Verlyn Klinkenborg, "Where do Sentences Come from?"

Sift the debris of a young writer’s education, and you find dreadful things — strictures, prohibitions, dos, don’ts, an unnatural and nearly neurotic obsession with style, argument and transition. Yet in that debris you find no traces of a fundamental question: where do sentences come from? This is a philosophical question, as valuable in the asking as in the answering. But it’s a practical question, too. Think about it long enough, and you begin to realize that many, if not most, of the things we believe about writing are false.
Whenever you find an unasked question you’ve also found an assumption. Here’s another example: what is writing for? The answers seem obvious — communication, persuasion, expression. But the real answer in most classrooms is this: writing is for making assigned writing. Throughout their education, students everywhere are asked repeatedly to write papers that are inherently insincere exercises in rearranging things they’ve read or been told — papers in which their only stake is a grade. There’s no occasion to ask something as basic as “Where do sentences come from?”
 Certain kinds of writers do try to answer this question. They talk about “process” as if it explained something important. But what “process” usually describes is the circumstances — time, place, tools — in which certain writers believe that sentences come from wherever they come from. That gets us nowhere. It’s like asking where water comes from and pointing to a David Hockney pool as an answer.

To read the rest, click here.



Anonymous said...

Interesting. Thank you for posting this.
Interesting, too, as it might be relevant to the visual arts. The in the mind approach throws me a bit, though, but probably because, for me, the physical part of writing always has seemed so important. But maybe that's because the visual arts is so material-based and tactile---at least for me it is.

the other L

Lou said...

Hmm, I don't know about this idea. The distance he places between sentences and meaning bothers me.

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