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328.1 Elements of Style Remake (see The SSEOS: An Example)

"Good prose does not come from a one-time inoculation" (14). - Richard Lanham, Style: An Anti-textbook

The Assignment
Project One invites you to remake Strunk and White's well-known The Elements of Style by recontextualizing selected composing principles in relation to a pop culture "text" of your choice. Doing this well will require you to understand selected principles from The Elements of Style and to apply those principles to other samples of writing. The project is inspired in part by Derek Pell's Marquis de Sade's Elements of Style, a small book that spoofs Strunk and White by using de Sade's risqué writing to ridicule, comment upon, and in cases radically transform Strunk and White's handbook. To prepare for this undertaking, we will read and discuss The Elements of Style, look at selections from Pell's work, and try it out with a few examples of our own in class.

Derek Pell Cover PageIn effect, we are pursuing a richer sense of Strunk and White's maxims to contemplate just how adequate they are for a greatly expanded sampling of contemporary language contexts, including those increasingly circulating online. By creating an encounter between Strunk and White and some pop culture "text" of your choosing, you will establish a framework for the self-conscious examination of style. The point of fusion where Strunk and White and your pop culture text meet ought to be prime for parody, for play, and for explorations of style that restate or otherwise extend principles established in The Elements of Style. This is another way of saying that you are being urged to produce a project that productively counters the style-in-a-vacuum problem Lanham describes, to produce a project illustrative of the ways style can be "a pleasure, a grace, a joy, a delight" (28).

As you read The Elements of Style, you will notice that E.B. White describes William Strunk, Jr. in a variety of ways—as friendly and funny, as positive, as whimsical, as inflexible and choosy. We can almost imagine Strunk as someone who would be flattered by Pell's careful remake of the "little book." Keep this in mind as you proceed: you are welcome to involve as much or as little parody as you like. Yet, perhaps what works best about Pell's parody is its sharp contrast with Strunk and White's style.

Your remake should follow the organizational lead of The Elements of Style. That is, you must adapt something from each of the five sections of the book, having sections that correspond to 1. Elementary Rules of Usage, II. Elementary Principles of Composition, III. A Few Matters of Form, IV. Words and Expressions Commonly Misused, and V. An Approach to Style. Many of your examples will come directly from your pop culture "text," but you are allowed to modify them as needed. In other words, you might need to retro-fit the examples to align with some section from Strunk and White. You will also notice that Pell relies heavily on images. You are welcome to incorporate images, but you are under no obligation to do so.

Assignment Details
The project should be a minimum of 1000 words. Typeface, line spacing, and the formatting of subheadings should be deliberate, but you have some flexibility in adapting these features of the document to fit with your aims. A full draft of the project is due on Monday, October 5. Bring a paper copy to class on the 5th for peer response. The completed project is due on Wednesday, October 7. Submit your work no later than the start of class on Oct. 7 by uploading it to the Dropbox available in EMU Online. Include an appropriate title for your project (see below).

Remember that extra credit options involving the Academic Projects Center are presented in the course syllabus.

Develop a catchy title that explicitly establishes the tie between your pop culture text and The Elements of Style. Notice that the title page of Pell's book (above right) positions Pell as a translator, and includes other parodic asides.

Evaluation Criteria

Project 1 will be evaluated according to the following six criteria:
*Reflects a command of selected principles from EOS, as established by the application of identifiable maxims from Strunk and White to selections from some pop culture "text" (audience and purpose)
*Wholeness (the project is complete; all aspects are available)
*Illustrative examples (concrete examples, vivid language)
*Organization (sequencing)
*Visual effectiveness (look and design of page)
*Accuracy (concerning mistakes or errors)

Each criterion listed above will be evaluated on the following scale:


EX: Exceptional. The writer has applied the criterion with distinction.
AC: Acceptable/meets expectations. The writer has applied the criterion to a satisfactory degree.
NI: Needs improvement. The writer has minimally applied the criterion in the project.
NA: Not applied. The writer has not applied the criterion in the project.

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller, PhD
Office: 612M Pray-Harrold
Fall '09 office hours: MW, 9-11:30 a.m. and by appointment
Phone: (315) 708-3940 (cell)


"A few years ago, when I was grading papers for a graduate literature course, I became alarmed at the inability of my students to write a clean English sentence." -Stanley Fish, "What Should Colleges Teach?"

"We concentrate on utility at the expense of joie de vivre. And we then wonder, as de Tocqueville prophesied we would, why life has lost its savor" (19). -Richard Lanham, Style: An Anti-textbook

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