Comparison and contrasting


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Comparison and contrasting
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Your project for this assignment is to prewrite, draft, revise, edit, and proofread a “comparison and contrast” essay. For this assignment, you will be writing about 3 or 4 published, professional book reviews of Zadie Smith’s book, Intimations. Your audience is composed of young adults like yourself, as well as older adults like me; you can assume your audience will understand and be able to identify the same conventions of behavior and language that you understand as a member of late-twentieth-century American society. But you should also assume that your readers have not read Intimations, and so the reason you are comparing and contrasting these reviews is in order to be able to recommend one of them as most helpful to your readers.
You will need to identify and examine some 4-6 common elements about the reviews you select; these common elements will need to be either similarities or differences, and you’ll need to choose a combination of both. You should conclude your essay by letting your readers know what review essay you would recommend. Your completed essay will use both general and specific examples to compare and contrast elements of your subject.
You should identify several points of comparison and contrast (i.e., a combination of similarities and differences that adds up to 4-6 points); you should be able to provide both general and specific examples for each point you present. You should include an adequate explanation of the conclusions you reach as a result of your comparison.
Your insight on this assignment will be demonstrated by your choice of suitable criteria for comparison and contrast (i.e., criteria that both suit the subject of the essay and the needs of your readers), and whether you organize and develop them in a way that would be helpful and informative to your target audience.
Your paper should follow the form of the traditional essay: introduction, body, conclusion. The introduction should be a relatively short paragraph giving a brief overview of the subject and containing a brief but very explicit statement of your thesis and blueprint. The body of your paper, which can be a variable number of paragraphs, will develop and support that thesis with appropriately-presented evidence. Your conclusion, another, more generalized paragraph, like your introduction, should summarize your argument and remind your readers of the most significant points you have made. Your essay should follow a clearly identifiable plan of organization, presenting ideas in logical, chronological, or emphatic order. For this assignment, the plan should be structured clearly along the lines of a traditional comparison and contrast. You should take a look at the outline presentation at the end of this assignment descripton for some guidance on how to organize a comparison and contrast.
You should organize your essay along traditional norms for comparison and contrast. You should employ an assortment of sentence patterns and rhetorical devices to achieve both variety and unity. You should make consistent and regular references to your subject and to subtopics within your subject, by name and by clear pronoun reference, throughout the paper. You should use a variety of transitional devices, to signal sequence, time, summary, reiteration, conclusion, and (especially) comparison and contrast throughout your paper. These will provide both unity and direction for your paper.
Your style and diction should suit the conventions of college-level writing. Your tone should suit the subject and audience of the paper. Your language should reflect your best understanding of the conventions of standard American grammar and usage. In particular, you should avoid slang, jargon, vulgarisms, and any type of casual language that would be considered inappropriate to a formal, pre-professional situation. Your typed document should be legible, attractively arranged, and free of typographical errors.
Your paper will be evaluated for the following:
1. a clear, focused thesis that names your topic and the similarities and differences you are going to discuss, along with the conclusion you will reach, and that does so in an order that can be used as a blueprint for the organization of your essay;
2. a good, detailed description of the similarities and differences that exist in your subject, with appropriate examples of each, and an effective analysis their usefulness or relevance;
3. a clear presentation in essay form, with beginning, middle, and end; the middle, or body, of your paper should demonstrate your effective use of either the block method or the point-by-point method of comparison and contrast;
4. logical organization and coherence among the parts of your paper, using transitions and reiteration to make it a unified whole;
5. careful and accurate editing to eliminate slang and correct sentence fragments, run-ons, comma splices, subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, pronoun reference, other aspects of pronoun usage, comma usage, misplaced and dangling modifiers, and appropriate capitalization;
6. following the specific guidelines for length and format: your final draft should be at least 1200 but no more than 1500 words. Papers should be double-spaced, with margins of 1” (one inch) on left and right, top and bottom. Pages should be numbered in the upper right hand corner or the bottom center of each page. They should be printed in a standard, non-italic, serif type font (Book Antiqua, Bookman, Century Schoolbook, Palatino, or Times New Roman) and sized no smaller than 10 points, but no larger than 12 points. Your full name and the date should be typed in the upper-right corner of the first page. Your paper should include an appropriate title, which should be centered at the top of your first page; if you refer to or quote from ANY other text, you must list that text on a Works Cited list and provide source documentation at the end of your paper;

The book begins at the Jefferson Market Garden, a space in Greenwich Village that is exactly the shape of Georgia State but in miniature. Smith is struck by some tulips blooming in the garden. She finds them vulgar: their simple shape, their gauche colors, like something a kid would draw in Magic Marker. The “predatory way” she ogles them reminds her of Lolita. (The word choices make sense; never forget, after all, that flowers are plant genitals.) Smith notices two other women of roughly her age that are also mesmerized by the flowers, and they exchange smiles. “I didn’t need a Freudian to tell me that three middle-aged women, teetering at the brink of perimenopause, had been drawn to a gaudy symbol of fertility and renewal in the middle of a barren concrete metropolis,” she writes. That was a few days before what she calls the “global humbling” — before the garden closed, before a sad note was posted on the garden’s website that currently tells people they can’t penetrate the space’s perimeter but should “take a moment to look through the fence.”

Intimations is a slim volume – just six essays, most of them only six or seven pages long, the penultimate one is an assembly of smaller sketches, “screengrabs”, portraits of individuals encountered on the street or in the park. The book’s leanness feels like part of its aesthetic; its thought-space is uncluttered and unfussy, and everything is lightly, delicately done. Most of the pieces are from New York, where Smith teaches at New York University, but some are from London. Some of the encounters and observations are pre-lockdown; then there’s the scramble to get out of the city to a friend’s place upstate, with a plan to return home to London. There isn’t all that much explicitly about the pandemic, or the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and yet everything feels conceived under the pressure of those things happening, pushing out new meanings from old subjects. A legless, homeless man in a wheelchair holds forth on his phone on the craziness of white folks: “I ain’t running from no cold. I survived worse. I survived WAY worse shit than this.” A geeky, sweet young IT guy at the university floats beside Smith on a hoverboard. A Jamaican friend of “Sadie” and her family back in Willesden, London, is insisting that her doctor bring on her menopause, at 58. “I’m walking right in there and DEMANDING he brings it on, right now, because this is just silly business at this point.”

In “Debts and Lessons” Smith identifies the qualities she’s learned from, in her parents and family and friends and teachers. From Tracy Chapman: “‘All that you have is your soul.’ Therefore: liberty.” From a school drama teacher: “A task is in front of you … The more absurd and tiny it is, the more care and dedication it deserves.” Novels, banana bread. She thanks contingency: the accident of birth that meant, among other things, “that my school still sang the Anglican hymns, at least for a little while, so that the ancient diction of my country came to me while very young, and fruitfully mixed with the sounds of my heritage”. This is a generously grateful book. And all of her royalties, incidentally, go to charity.

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