Ow do we a each of us, for ourselves and for others a make meaning? How do we make sense of it all?”

English 205 a? Critical Thinking and Intermediate Compositiona? Fall 2012

Research Paper Writing Prompt



How do we a each of us, for ourselves and for others a make meaning? How do we make sense of it all?”



It has been mentioned and even discussed in class that language is what we use to create reality, and that reality is conveyed one to another through language, either spoken or written (and through many other means of expression (languages or Texts”), such as art, architecture, and fashion). Many linguists, psychologists, and other scholars agree on this point (if not precisely, then for the most part; finding out who some of these people are is up to you as part of your research for this paper). This is important to us as functioning human beings in two primordial ways. First, we need to make some sort of sense (meaning) out of what would otherwise be a senseless and chaotic universe. Second, we need to make meaning (substance, importance, Uniqueness,irreducibility) of our Selves(i.e., our egos) in our own minds and those of others. We do this as we have always done it, for millennia after millennia after millennia. We receive and internalize narratives a stories, mythologies, histories a delivered to us by families, elders, clans, tribes, villages, sometimes religions, sometimes schools, and sometimes governments, and especially for-profit corporate interests. And today especially, these narratives are delivered to us in a non-stop and raging torrent of many various media which seek to subsume us all.



Making meaning is what Franz Kafka does in his writings (e.g., The Trial). In a sense, he is using his characters searches for meaning as an exposition of his own personal search for (or: attempt to search for and make) meaning, and as a presentation of the results. In fact, every writer does this, as you studied in your ancillary readings and other media presented to you in this class. This is a process used by all to make meaning.



In literary critical theory, Louise Rosenblatt, Walter Iser, Stanley Fish, and others have, since 1938 and especially since the 1960s, championed Reader-Response Theory,which posits (usually not quite as succinctly as this) that creating meaning into and from a text a any text a is a cooperative effort by both author and reader. There is no meaning without that binary exchange. Additionally, since these critics believe half (or at least a significant part) of the meaning comes from the readers individual response to the authors individual effort, there quite validly could be many different meanings or interpretations of any given text. But Reader-Response Theory followers do not want criticism to get totally out of hand and lose all shared meaning by becoming completely subjective, so they do put some limits on the breadth of Reasonablereader response. In other words, though it may be large, medium, or small, tabby, tawny, or black, the response the word Catwill normally elicit from a reader is something in the Felinecategory. Yet it does invite the readers own concepts about felines to the meaning-making table, depending on the precision of the authors writing, so much so that the Felinecreated in readers minds by the word Catcan and will vary widely one from another a from your cuddly pet Mr. Whiskerswho sleeps on your bed to a quite large Siberian Tiger which would devour your bed, Mr. Whiskers, and you in but a few bites without second thoughts.



From this lengthy preamble comes a short and seemingly benign writing prompt:



What is Meaning”? From where does it come, and why?



How does one make meaning? Does one use language to make meaning? How well has that worked so far? What do you see for the art and craft (and sometimes chore) of making meaning in the future, and how do you feel about that?



(You should at least consider using Kafkas The Trial liberally to help you argue your thesis.)



Seemingly benign? Remember, this is an argumentative research paper for a critical thinking class. You need to stake out a thesis that invites an argument. If it cannot be reasonably argued at least two different ways, then it is not a thesis. Once you state your thesis, you must argue your thesis in such a way that you convince your reader that your interpretation a the way you believe a is true beyond a reasonable doubt.



You must also use credible sources to support your argument. This is not an Analytical Response Paper you are writing this time. Rather, it is critical thinking well supported by credible outside sources. What all this entails we shall be discussing and working on for the rest of the semester. Your opinion is expressed in your thesis and in your conclusion; in between is well supported Factand/or example.

You will not be undertaking this unarmed. We in this class are a cohesive unit, and we are all in it together, 24/7. And we will spend through December 11th in that mode. You all will do spectacularly well.



This is your chance to reach farther than you ever have before. Do not use it to trip on your own shoelaces. Do not be irrelevant.



Make meaning. For the universe. And for yourself.



We will discuss all the details and ramifications of this writing prompt in excruciating detail right away and for as long as we must for you to succeed.