Claims! Constructing Argumentative Papers TS English/Fall2013
Course Goal • Argument: To produce complex and persuasive claims that matter in an academic context • A “complex” claim is NOT about using big words or making your idea as hard to understand as possible. It is about approaching your topic of inquiry from a critical perspective, developing it from a variety of angles or perspectives, and incorporating within it several types of analytic points. • Most importantly, claims are intended to be “persuasive” which means your primary goal is to persuade your audience to your critical point.
Terms: Argument/Claim • An argument includes: • An ANALYTIC engagement with multiple pieces of EVIDENCE that are organized by… • A LINE OF INQUIRY which helps to develop those pieces of analysis in support of… • A central, argumentative CLAIM that seeks to add to the ACADEMIC CONVERSATION on the topic/text/issue at hand.
Claim Vs. (5-paragraph) Thesis • LIKE a Thesis Statement, a Claim… • Is located at the beginning of the paper • Helps your reader to understand your goals and to follow along with your ideas as they develop • UNLIKE a Thesis Statement, a Claim… • Is not limited to one sentence • Does not contain a list of every point you will make in the paper, but focuses on explaining your goal, how you will go about achieving it, and, perhaps, why it matters • Is NOT general (so that many types of evidence can be used in its service), but argumentative in its specific and detailed analysis of a topic/issue. • Speaks to the concerns of a particular academic conversation
Claim vs. (5-paragraph) Thesis • Thesis: Bram Stoker’s Dracula connects the monster to the idea of the “pre-modern” past. We can see this connection in X, Y and Z. • One sentence • Vague position: “connects” is a vague gesture, not a detailed description of the relation of these concepts. Not a strong position. • Shallow analysis: Fails to submit this “connection” to more inquiry. What happens because of this connection? What is the meaning of that? How does the novel develop this connection? • Fails to say anything about why this connection matters for our understanding of larger topics or issues.
Complicating your Claims • Thesis: Bram Stoker’s Dracula connects the monster to the idea of the “pre-modern” past. Early in the novel, Dracula himself claims to represent the values and heritage of an earlier period of “great races” and warlike, masculine valor. In contrast to this vision of savage men in glorious battle, Stoker’s modern men are scientists, lawyers, gentlemen, and physicians. The emphasis within the text on celebrating “good men,” seems to speak to a larger desire to confirm the capability and strength of the modern man, particularly in his ability to protect women. In this sense, Dracula not only represents the fear of barbarism located in the savage human past. He also provides a vehicle for very modern anxieties about the effects of over-civilization on masculinity and masculine authority.
Complicating your Claims • Thesis: Bram Stoker’s Dracula connects the monster to the idea of the “pre-modern” past. One of the ways it achieves this connection is by tying Dracula to the East, which is represented as both “picturesque” in its quaint, country ethnicity and as “barbaric” in its superstitions and rituals. The idea of “barbarism” was used to suggest that “other” cultures were both exemplary of a primitive past (that the British had evolved out of) and a contemporary threat to western reason and civilization. Of course, the problem of Dracula is that he refuses to remain in Transylvania, and intends to make his home in London, one of the capitals of western civilization at the time. Thus, the vampire not only representative of the “less civilized” human past, he also recalls one of the central contradictions of this colonialist logic – the so-called “barbaric past” is always contemporary with the “civilized” present. The figure of Dracula inhabits this contradiction and is representative simultaneously of the savagery of the “old world” and the repressed violence of the modern world.
Complicating your Claims • Thesis: Bram Stoker’s Dracula connects the monster to the idea of the “pre-modern” past. But the novel also suggests, in a much less insistent way, that the Count is very modern in his sensibilities. While he may be vulnerable to the laws of religion and pagan ritual, Dracula is a student of modern institutions and ideas. He is capable of savage, physical violence, but his most effective tactics involve the manipulation of the law, contract, and consent. By taking these elements of the novel into account, we can see how Dracula suggests that the 19th Century distinction between pre-modern and modern social order breaks down around questions of power and control.
Claims are always “in process” • Writing is NOT simply the result of thinking and learning that happens elsewhere, it is a valuable part of the learning/thinking process. Encountering difficulties as your develop your idea is a productive aspect of this process • You should always remember that your claim (like your analysis and organization) is a work in process until the paper gets turned in. • You should be open and willing to changing your claim (either drastically or through small alterations) AS YOU WRITE and think through your analysis.