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328.3 3.33 Ways to Digital Style (30%, 300 points)

For this project, you will amplify style by remaking a three-paragraph passage of non-fiction prose three ways. By recasting the passage three ways, you will shed light on stylistic qualities, particularly the ten tropes we find addressed by Crowley and Hawhee in their chapter on style. That is, you will draw on Crowley and Hawhee and other texts we have read this semester as frameworks for identifying and intensifying stylistic qualities in the passage you choose. Your remakes should render those stylistic qualities more sharply, lending depth, perspective, and insight to a reader's experience of a passage's style.

You will create three remakes, choosing from four available options: 1) an adaptation of a Queneau exercise, 2) a syntax analysis, 3) a web comic, and 4) an imagetext triptych. Each remake should recast the passage you choose. That is, the remakes should key on the text's arguments (implicit or explicit), images, tropes, and other stylistic qualities. For these reasons, you should choose your passage with care, considerate from the outset of the ways your passage will be recreated. Passages rich in tropes, figures, images, and arguments are likely to translate into certain remake options more readily than others. We will look at examples in class and also discuss the selection process early in the unit.

Each remake will accompany a brief comment written to explain the stylistic effect amplified by the remake. Together the remake notes must explicitly identify at least three tropes from Crowley and Hawhee. In a paragraph, the comment accompanying each remake will also account for decisions you made in the process of creating the piece. Think of the comment as an artist's note for the way it will help readers think about the remaking process, the stylistic qualities you sought to emphasize in the remake, and the context this work emerged from.

The options for remakes are as follows (Note: the examples linked below extend from this passage):

P3. Ignite Presentation (5%, 50 points)
Project Three culminates with a presentation you will deliver to the class. Your presentation will report on your transformations of the three-paragraph passage. It may include discussion of the passage itself, the stylistic qualities of the passage, the remakes, and the decisions you made as you recreated the passage three ways. Presentations will accompany a Powerpoint slideshow consisting of twenty slides each set to rotate automatically after 15 seconds. Individual slides may not include more than five words. Slides should include carefully selected, carefully sized images (i.e., these are visually intensive presentations, not text heavy slide-documents). As you present, you may use up to five index cards; however, you are strongly encouraged to present extemporaneously, working informally from memory rather than reading from a script. Watch a few Ignite presentations at the O'Reilly site or Ignite Ann Arbor.

Assignment Details
Your project will consist, ultimately, of the original three-paragraph passage and three remakes, each with notes explaining how style is amplified in the work. The explanatory note for the passage and each remake should be between 100 and 300 words. The passage, Queneau adaptation, and syntax analysis will be submitted as texts; the web comic and imagetext triptych will be submitted as images (jpeg files). Specific criteria and formatting details for each of the pieces is explained more fully at each "example" link above. I will add to these explanations as we encounter problems and as you share questions.

Choosing a Passage
Selecting a strong passage will establish a foundation for everything that follows. You should begin the process of choosing a passage immediately. Remember that the passage must be non-fiction. Because you will be required to discuss your decision and also write about its genre and author, you should keep these questions in mind as you begin inquiring into options. As a guiding principle, your passage should come from an article longer than 2000 words (i.e., avoid short news reports or editorials). Students in the past have developed successful projects working with some of the following writers: William Least-Heat Moon, Alice Walker, Ralph Ellison, John McPhee, Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Johnson, and Rick Bass. You can also consult with Halle librarians, or browse various non-fiction publications online at The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, and Long Form. Here are a few strong examples to give you some sense of the genre and scope you should be choosing from:

*Johnson, Denis. "Boomtown, Iraq," from Portfolio.com.
*Powers, Matthew. "Mississippi Drift," from Harper's (scroll down for PDF).
*Grann, David. "The Chameleon," from The New Yorker.
*Connors, Philip. "Diary of a Fire Lookout," from The Paris Review (excerpt).
Power, Samantha. "Bystanders to Genocide," from The Atlantic.
Gladwell, Malcolm. "Overdrive: Who Really Rescued General Motors?" from The New Yorker.
Surowiecki, James. "Later: What Does Procrastination Tell Us About Ourselves," from The New Yorker.
Colapinto, John. "The Interpreter," from The New Yorker.
* Collected in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009, ed. by Dave Eggers.

Drafts, In-progress Feedback and Deadlines
You must commit to a passage no later than Monday, November 8. You may seek feedback on any remake at any stage of the process simply by emailing it to me or stopping in during office hours. If you email, I will, in most cases, respond with suggestions and questions within two days. A full draft of your project is due on Monday, November 22. Include a copy of the original passage with your draft. You should be prepared to give your presentation on Wednesday, December 1. Completed projects are due on Wednesday, December 8.

Develop an unforgettable title for your project.

Submission Guidelines
The project you produce should be gathered into a single document, either a .doc file, or a simple web page you create using something like Edicy.com. The file will contain the following:

  1. Identifying information (name, date, course, and professor's name)
  2. Project title (unforgettable!)
  3. The original passage (full text, typed in full; proofread carefully)
  4. An explanatory note about your reasons for choosing the passage, including some discussion of genre and authorship (100-300 words)
  5. Remake #1
  6. Remake #1 Explanatory note (100-300 words)
  7. Remake #2
  8. Remake #2 Explanatory note (100-300 words)
  9. Remake #3
  10. Remake #3 Explanatory note (100-300 words)

Evaluation Criteria

Project Three is valued at 300 points (30% of your overall grade in the course). Two hundred and fifty points are assigned to the remakes; 50 points are assigned to the presentation.

The remake portion of Project Three will be evaluated according to the following six criteria:

  1. Rhetorical effectiveness: The passage is thoughtfully chosen; it offers sufficient richness for engaging with qualities of style. The remakes convincingly establish linkages with the passage. The passage (as well as the genre it comes from) has been studied carefully, and the remakes were produced accordingly in such a way that is suggestive, insightful.
  2. Technical precision: All three remakes are technically precise. Each remake adheres to the conditions established for it (image dimensions, number of filters applied, typeface adjustments, incorporation of links and hashtags, application of Williams's steps toward clarity or Lanham's Paramedic Methods).
  3. Development (the project is complete, fully developed; all aspects, including required length and an unforgettable title, are available)
  4. Amplification of style: Style is explicitly addressed in the note accompanying each remake. The relationship between style and the remake process is also explained, explicitly referring to three or more tropes introduced by Crowley and Hawhee.
  5. Visual effectiveness (look and design of each remake)
  6. Accuracy (concerning mistakes or errors)

The presentation will be evaluated according to the following three criteria:

  1. Delivery: (eye contact, engagement with audience, presence, command of material, timing)
  2. Slideshow: (auto-rotation, image-intensivity, technical precision)
  3. Explanation of process, remakes, and stylistic amplification: (compelling content, appropriate scope for five minutes, insight into style reflected in remakes)

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
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing
Director of Composition
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Office: 315 Shanks Hall
Spring 2020 Office Hours: T, 12-3
Phone: +1-734-985-0485

"Neither The Elements of Style nor any other style book can be the definitive text on writing in every genre or media." —ENGL328 student, Fall 2009

"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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