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The Four Directions in Writing the Profile: Narrative, Exposition, Direct Quotation and Paraphrasing

Assignment Summary

Generally in teaching the profile I tell my students to go out and interview someone and let them struggle with this for a while without giving them much sense of direction.

Then I give them a text such as the piece "Chess" from Writing for Your Portfolio. I arrange the students into four groups and ask each group to underline one of the following: narration, exposition, direct quotations and paraphrasing.

They have already learnt that narration is writing that moves through time and space. Its primary function is to tell a story or describe an object, place or event. Exposition is writing that explores, explains or analyzes facts or concepts.

Then I ask them to read their own papers (usually at this phase in a rough draft) to the groups and have the groups comment on where the papers could use more narrative, exposition, direct quotation and paraphrasing.

I explain that these four rhetorical strategies like the four points on the compass help the reader and writer find and define their position.

Narration is necessary to provide setting and context. Exposition is necessary to provide depth and analysis. Direct quotations give immediacy and life to the interview while indirect quotations help summarize large pieces of information that may become too bulky.

Instructor's Comments

I am not sure how the idea came to me, but I really have not had much of a handle on this genre and have not liked teaching this essay for that reason. I have not been able to find--purely out of sheer laziness--any interviews that I would use as models.

In reality the best forms of analysis come in the forms of narratives as in novels, short stories. Narrative, according to my definition, describes an event and object in time and space while exposition analyzes, argues and interprets in other latitudes. I was sort of desperate to give my students something to hang on to, some compass that could guide them through the paper. Hence the four corners: narrative, exposition, direct and indirect quotations.

I am convinced that we need to break out of mechanistic concepts of rhetoric such as the application of "folk" grammar or other artificial rhetorical structures. Rather as enablers of writing we need to give our students compasses, or even better GPS systems that hook onto "satellites" (probably some Platonic form out in their subconscious) guiding them towards expressing themselves.

genre profile
course WRT 101
activity type individual revision exercise, small group discussion
skills generative revision , holistic revision, peer evaluation
duration 1-3 classes
copies of a drafted essay (for group)
handouts: none
contributor: Richard Buch