Factual Stuff: Read. The. Prompt

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Saint Joan Inquisitor Speech Postmortem

Factual Stuff:

  • Read. The. Prompt. The Inquisitor wants to condemn Joan of Arc. I know, I know, he’s slippery. But if you don’t get his argument straight in your head, your essay is in trouble!

  • Shaw and the Inquisitor are not the same person—nor do they want or believe the same things. Shaw is the playwright and the Inquisitor is his character, and you know what? I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to see the Inquisitor as the bad guy. Just saying.

  • Beware of bringing in too much background information. Especially if it is incorrect. For instance, Joan of Arc was not the champion of the French Revolution. Look at the dates they gave you. Joan of Arc died in 1431, long before guillotines and “let them eat cake.” Somewhere your world history teachers are weeping.

Development Stuff:

  • Many of you are still trying to tackle too many rhetorical devices. Two or three is what I would try to stick to. If you know that you struggle with the 40 min. time limit, just pick two! And I’d put the strongest one first in case you run out of time.

  • Many of you are also still picking really minor, insignificant rhetorical strategies instead of the ones most central in helping the Inquisitor accomplish his purpose. Alliteration, asyndeton, consonance, etc., are not generally very effective choices on their own.

  • Make sure that your purpose actually makes sense with your rhetorical strategy. No way does polysyndeton create common ground unless you are saying “we have this in common and this and this and this.” And don’t leave your rhetorical device unconnected to purpose. Okay, so he uses repetition. Who cares? Explain how that helps his cause.

  • A lot of people are still summarizing or explaining the meaning of the quotations instead of analyzing how they help the Inquisitor persuade his audience. Don’t tell us what he meant—tell us how it helps him accomplish his goal. Trust me, I have a couple of degrees in English, I can tell what he says. I assume you know what his words mean as well. Prove to me that you understand why he’s saying it in this fashion.

  • Many people had good ideas, but struggled to analyze them clearly. Don’t let the quotation speak for itself. Spell out why this evidence proves your point. Be as detailed and specific as you can.

  • There was a lot of quoting. A LOT. You do not necessarily need to quote whole sentences or large blocks of text. Use only the parts that are required to support your point. A lot of body paragraphs I read were mostly quotations, with very little analysis. That’s backwards. You should have some quotations with more analysis (or at least equal amounts). If you must refer to the whole sentence or paragraph, it is often better to just paraphrase, cite the line numbers.

  • If something is really confusing to you, don’t analyze it. The Inquisitor’s odd use of John the Baptist tied some people into pretzels and totally derailed their arguments (how’s that for mixed metaphors?).

  • Many people ran out of time again. Try to find a balance in your reading/prewriting and the actual writing of your essay.

The Small Stuff (it does add up):

  • “Saint Joan”? Saint Joan? Saint Joan? Saint Joan? What happens when the title of a work in the prompt is in italics? Do you try to make your letters all slanty when you write it? Do you put it into quotation marks instead? NO!!! You UNDERLINE it! Grrr. Arg. (I am giving some of you the stink eye. You know who you are!)

  • Inquisiter or Inquisitor? Oh, hmmm…I dunno. Let’s just pick one. Or, hey, ooh, here’s an idea, LOOK AT THE PROMPT!

  • Remember, clarity of argument above all else. Don’t worry about prettying up your language. Your argument and analysis will carry the day. Focus on that. Don’t waste energy trying to find just the right word. The essay will be read as a rough draft.

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