concrete language

Where did I just read that the reason western rhetoric is “into” concrete language is not because it appeals to the understanding better, but because of the greater influence of physical science (as opposed to, say, philosophy)? Robert Connors??

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2 thoughts on “concrete language

  1. But why is it then that so many of my students can only write vague generalities and struggle to put any concrete details into their work. I do the “forest/trees” analogy and I give them Scudder’s “take this fish” and struggle to get any concrete details. Of course being a ‘trees” person myself, one who has to work to induce the generalizations, this baffles me, though I am now used to it. One student said recently that he thought Twitter and texting were to blame – cut to the bare minimum. But you would think that would still require the concrete details and less philosophizing.

    • Hey, Sara. I’ve been thinking a bit about this lately, actually. I think one reason at least that students don’t add concrete details is because they’re not SURE of the point they’re making in the first place. To add evidence / specifics / details to an assertion means that you really understand that assertion and the way it relates to your overall argument and how it actually applies to reality. But since many students haven’t put that much thought into it, they just “skim the surface” and end up with an essay without much development.

      I just had my students read a Christopher Hitchens piece — his chapter “Religion Kills” from his book, God is Not Great. And I’m liking how it provides an example of sufficient development. Hitchens spends 10-15 pages providing examples of how religion worsens — or even triggers — tribal hatred and bigotry. He makes one simple assertion, gives one fairly-simple reason, and then spends 95% of the chapter providing vivid and concrete examples. He knew he would have people in his audience who would NEED a lot of examples in order to begin to buy into his claim.

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