Category Archives: Writing

Infelicitous Phrasing (202/303)

In other words, how do X and Y use that SOCIAL CONTENT and NARRATIVE DISCOURSE to construct YOUTH as a cultural category?

Some of the papers I’m reading simply restate the prompt as their thesis. I don’t think that’s the best opening move, frankly– it lacks originality– but as I understand it this tactic is a result of standardized testing, which encourages students to reproduce dominant forms of thought rather than to conquer new territory.

Unfortunately the phrase “use social content” is a pretty crude approximation of what happens to the social when it is appropriated for aesthetic ends. A text’s social content is not “used” but is instead the product of the creative tension between formal techniques, cultural traditions, and socio-historical context.


The best essays are written in such a way that they provoke a sense of obligation in their readers. Reading becomes a dialog, necessitating an effort to build on the ideas discussed and to carry the insights presented even further. This co-creative response is part of the pleasure of reading.