required, desirable and delightful elements of academic writing


This is the time of year that I run writing workshops and courses. And because I’m preoccupied with teaching, I’m also thinking about new and different strategies for authoring and revision. Authoring and revision strategies are inter-related – heuristics used for authoring can often be converted for revision purposes and vice versa.

I sometimes find inspiration for teaching in surprising places. Like the design literatures. This post features a modification of a tool used by designers to prioritise the features and attributes of an artefact and to assess potential user satisfaction. Meet the Kano Analysis.

Kano Analysis is a tool designers use instead of, or as well as, a cost-benefit analysis. I was initially interested in KA because one of its concerns is delight. Designers assess an artefact not simply on essentials such as durability, utility and ease of use, but also on whether it somehow pleases/excites the potential user.

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Dangerous Visions – Harlan Ellison (1967 – Editor)

1960s: Days of Rage

Dangerous Visions is a science fictionshort storyanthology edited by American writer Harlan Ellison and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. It was published in 1967. A path-breaking collection, Dangerous Visions helped define the New Wave science fiction movement, particularly in its depiction of sex in science fiction. Writer/editor Al Sarrantonio writes how Dangerous Visions ‘almost single-handedly […] changed the way readers thought about science fiction.’ Contributors to the volume included 20 authors who had won, or would win, a Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, or BSFA award, and 16 with multiple such awards. Ellison introduced the anthology both collectively and individually while authors provided afterwords to their own stories. Advertisements described Dangerous Visions as ‘For the first time anywhere—33 great new stories by all the science fiction masters of our time’, and ‘Not collected from magazines, not collected from other books ……

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What Is a Poem?

Flowers For Socrates

Happy Birthday to Annie Dillard, born April 30, 1945

Annie Dillard is an American author, best known for her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. While she is better known for her prose works – essays, literary criticism, and narratives often based on her journals, she also writes poetry.

Defining poetry was a lot easier up until the late 19th Century. The advent of “Modern Poetry” and “free verse” has considerably opened the field, but has also caused confusion among people more accustomed to rhymed iambic pentameter.

So a “found poem” gets really controversial. It is a prose text written by one author which struck a different author as poetical, so they then edited and sometimes rearranged the original text to turn it into a poem. Annie Dillard published a whole book of them, called Mornings Like This: Found Poems.

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The Hustler – Robert Rossen (1961)

1960s: Days of Rage

The Hustler is a 1961 American CinemaScopedrama film directed by Robert Rossen from Walter Tevis‘s 1959 novel of the same name, adapted for the screen by Rossen and Sidney Carroll. It tells the story of small-time pool hustler ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson and his desire to break into the ‘major league’ of professional hustling and high-stakes wagering by high-rollers that follows it. He throws his raw talent and ambition up against the best player in the country, seeking to best the legendary pool player ‘Minnesota Fats‘. After initially losing to Fats and getting involved with unscrupulous manager Bert Gordon, Eddie returns to try again, but only after paying a terrible personal price. The film was shot on location in New York City and stars Paul Newman as ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson; Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats; Piper Laurie as Sarah; and George C. Scott

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C.P. Cavafy – “Things impolitic and dangerous”

Flowers For Socrates

C.P. Cavafy (April 29, 1863 – April 29, 1933) the most distinguished and highly influential modern Greek poet, who never lived in Greece, whose work had been ridiculed and rejected early in the last century by the Athenian literati, then almost forgotten by Greece until publication of an anthology of his poems in 1935, two years after his death. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt, which he first left at age nine after his father died, and his mother moved their large brood to Liverpool so his elder brothers could run the family import business, a time when Cavafy learned English and discovered Shakespeare, Robert Browning, and Oscar Wilde. These years influenced his choice of the Anglicized “Cavafy” as his pen name. When he was sixteen, the business failed, and the family returned, in debt-ridden gentility, to the Greek community in Alexandria. He was exiled again when he was nineteen…

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“The Death of the Author” – Roland Barthes (1967)

1960s: Days of Rage

Ecclesiastes famously warns us that ‘Of making many books there is no end’ – the same, of course, applies to book commentaries. George Steiner has long denounced the ‘mandarin madness of secondary discourse’ which increasingly interposes itself between readers and works of fiction. For better or worse, the internet – with its myriad book sites – has taken this phenomenon to a whole new level. Since Aristotle’s Poetics, literature has always given rise to its exegesis, but now that no scrap of literary gossip goes untweeted, it may be time to reflect a little on the activity of literary criticism. I have chosen to inaugurate this series with a few considerations on ‘The Death of the Author’ because of its truly iconic nature: it symbolises the rise of what would come to be known as “theory”. Even if he never names them, Roland Barthes (like Proust before…

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Reassurance by Barbara Eknoian (I AM STILL WAITING Series)

Silver Birch Press

by Barbara Eknoian

You left without a goodbye,
leaving a sticky residue
in my mind.
I’m wondering,
if given the chance,
what you might have said.
Honey, it’s been a nice ride,
but it’s time for me to go.
Maybe, I’ll see my folks,
get some answers,
and finally learn
what it was all about.

I’m waiting for a sign,
perhaps in a dream,
not like the one
that appeared when
you first left me:
You were singing
in your high school choir,
which made no sense,
since you always said
you had refused to join
when your music teacher
pulled you into his class
by your collar.

I am still waiting for you
to tell me
all that you might have said
about your romantic feelings
in our long marriage.
I am waiting to hear your voice
in a dream say,
I’d marry you again, Honey.

Previously published…

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Single by Kelley White (I AM STILL WAITING Series)

Silver Birch Press

by Kelley White

yesterday I heard your footsteps on the porch
listened as you paused at my door
I took a breath;
you went away

and I am still waiting, hungry
my hand kneaded the tension
off my brow,
too late, too empty

carry me home, carry me over
the hollow we made
by our laughter
in the snow

sick, bitter, a muscle in a jar
twitch night and grimaced
the old man
at home

who is the angel
who left a shadow
the window shade

a child is crying; I may have to carry
that anger, that need, those eyes
that ask me
for time

break the desert with
a fountain, break the sun
with a rain
of song

and small, she is a lonely
mother, too many children
to bind
in her silk

lower the window

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Towards a Poor Theatre – Jerzy Grotowski (1968)

1960s: Days of Rage

“As theatre directors go, Jerzy Grotowski is up there alongside such greats as Stanislavski, Artaud and Appia. A key figure in avant-garde theatre, during the 1960s and 70s he became known for his intense investigations into the nature of the relationship between actor and audience and for his experiments with the physical and spiritual aspects of theatre. Rather than confining himself to the traditional stage, Grotowski preferred non-traditional spaces such as buildings or rooms. Usually, the audience was seated within the action, becoming, in a way, a part of the performance. He called this ‘poor theatre’ – a performance which focuses more on the skill of the actor without the usual excess of traditional theatre such as costumes and detailed sets. Born in Rzeszów, southern Poland, on August 11, 1933, after finishing his acting studies at the State Higher School of Theatre in Kraków, Grotowski went to Moscow’s Lunacharsky Institute…

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The Changing Light by Burleigh Mutén (I AM STILL WAITING Series)

Silver Birch Press

The Changing Light
by Burleigh Mutén

I am still waiting behind the hotel
even though you are    hours    late,
the sky already purpled     just
barely winking     a steady breeze
chilling my cheek

First your shoe will swing around
                              the corner, your leg
and smile, you      and your hat
will slide into view       you’ll glance
at your wristwatch            tuck your head
look over your glasses and          time
will fire the concierge
                                        our gaze

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