Fabula and Syuzhet

September 22, 2014


The other day, my friend Jeremy said that he likes to lecture on writing concepts way over his students’ heads, or at least ostensibly, so that by the time the class has discussed and analyzed the concept for an hour or two, the students are still at a much more sophisticated place, even if they don’t understand the concept in its entirety.

I had struggled to find an umbrella to discuss structure in my students’ personal essays. I wanted to discuss Phillip Lopate’s “Portrait of My Body,” as an example of an author who proscribes him- or herself an exercise, and through that exercise, comes to new knowledge. To my mind, Lopate must have proscribed himself the project of describing each of his body parts in depth, and he discovers his personality and problems of perception along the way. Robert Olen Butler’s another one who writes to formal projects, and I…

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