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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Inseparable

"Blank is inseparable from blank." When you find yourself writing that sentence (fill in the blanks), you need to find a more specific claim. The "inseparable" claim just means that there is some unspecified relation between the two elements, that they cannot be considered separately, only together. Your job, however, is to specify what that relation actually is.

"Blank is no exception." You've described a general trend, and then you want to transition into your more specific subject. "Blank is no exception" (to this general trend) does the job, but it is a weak claim, because it simply asserts a lack of contradiction. You want to say that blank is a particularly interesting example of the general trend, for these specific reasons.

"Is it any accident that..." "It is no coincidence that...." Two things happen at the same time. The scholar is asserting a relationship because the two things happen in the same decade. But it could be coincidence unless the actual relationship is specified. Juxtaposition takes the place of a real argument for the relation between the two elements. In many cases I've seen, the time frame of the supposed coincidence does not even match up.

A lot of scholarly writing consists of asserting claims of relatedness. In all three cases (three clich├ęs of scholarly writing), the relationship is stated in a lazy and imprecise way.

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