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328.3 3.33 Ways to Digital Style (40%, 400 points)

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

To create three remakes, choose 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 to work with. In other words, the remakes should key on the text's arguments (implicit or explicit), images, tropes, and other stylistic qualities. Tropes are the most important of these. You should be able to identify at least three tropes in the passage, and when explaining each remake, you must identify tropes by name. This means that you will almost certainly revisit the Crowley and Hawhee chapter in the process of developing this project (unless you are working from detailed notes). Also, you should choose your passage with a high degree of 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 be accompanied by a brief comment (between 100-300 words) written to explain the spcific stylistic qualities amplified by the remake. Collectively, the remake notes must explicitly identify at least three tropes from Crowley and Hawhee (onomatopoeia, antonomasia, metonomy, periphrasis, hyperbaton, hyperbole, synecdoche, catachresis, metaphor, and allegory). I recommend using boldface to make them stand out in your explanations. The explanatory note 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 memo 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: Two examples from students are posted in EMU Online Doc Sharing; all of the examples linked below stem from this passage):

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). All work should be sumbitted in a single file, both when you turn in a draft and when you submit the finished project. Specific criteria and formatting details for each of the pieces will be 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 justify your decision and also write about its genre and author, you should be mindful of these issues 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 (students in past terms have found Long Form especially helpful in the selection process). Here are a few strong examples to give you some sense of the genre and scope you should be choosing from:

Genoways, Ted. "The Spam Factory's Dirty Secret," from Mother Jones.
Gawande, Atul. "The Itch," from The New Yorker.
Finkel, Michael. "Here Be Monsters," from GQ.
Ravitch, Diane. "The Myth of Charter Schools," from The New York Review of Books.
Collins, Jessanne. "My Summer on the Content Farm," from The Awl.
Wallace, David Foster. "Consider the Lobster," from Gourmet.
Klosterman, Chuck. "Three-man Weave," from Grantland.

Drafts, In-progress Feedback and Deadlines
You must commit to a passage no later than Monday, October 24. 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 7. Include a copy of the original passage with your draft. Submit your draft as a single document. You should be prepared to give your presentation on Monday, November 14. Completed projects are due on Wednesday, November 21.

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 Google Sites. 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)

P3. Ignite Presentation (5%, 50 points)
Project Three builds toward 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.

P3. Poster (10%, 100 points)
The project culminates with the creation of a poster in one of three sizes: 11x17, 18x24, or 27x39. You will design the poster in class and print it at Halle Library. The printing center is located in the library's lower level across from the computer lab. The poster should creatively display your project (or selected pieces of your project). You will have two full weeks to work on the poster in class before sharing it with your classmates on Monday, December 12, the day it is due. Plan to print it no later than Friday, December 9, as printing larger sizes may take up to a few hours. Printing the smallest size (11x17) at Halle will cost $.20 per color copy and can be done while you wait. Printing larger posters at Halle Library costs .50 per inch, so plan to spend as much as $9-14 to print your poster if you decide to produce a larger poster (this expense is offset somewhat by the low cost of books for this course).

You have the option of straying ever so slightly from a focus on P3 (if, that is, you are called creatively in another direction), but you should do so in consultation with your professor. You might, for example, find inspiration in one of the well-known grammar pack posters from The Oatmeal (yes, why not a poster on hyperbaton or synecdoche?).

For additional guidance on poster-making, you can see an example of an academic poster related to P3 here. For step-by-step guides and additional considerations, you can of course turn to the web (e.g., here, here, and here to start), or you could view Jerry Overmyer's step-by-step YouTube video, "Making an academic research poster using PowerPoint." Finally, I am developing a posters-related Q&A, which you can add to in the weeks ahead.

Evaluation Criteria

Project Three is valued at 400 points (40% of your overall grade in the course). Two hundred and fifty points are assigned to the remakes, 50 points are assigned to the presentation, and one hundred points are assigned to the poster.

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, 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)

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

  1. Communicates stylistic insights from P3 or an approved alternative: (provides context, focus, and scope appropriate to the size of the poster)
  2. Technical precision: (image use and quality; readability)
  3. Aesthetic appeal: (record of audience perceptions, deliberate design elements)

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 2019 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

"Style, as we know it, is not 'mechanics' but, rather, a rhetorical canon inseparable from the contingencies of purpose, audience, form, and historical or social context in which a communicative act takes place" (327). —Cornelius Cosgrove, "What Our Graduates Write"

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