hailey swanson e- portfolio
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DESCRIPTIONThe first, second, and final draft of my E-Portfolio for ENC-3331: Essay as Cultural Commentary at the University of Central Florida.
ENC-3311 Essay as Cultural Commentary
Professor Matthew Bryan
E-Portfolio- Draft 1
Table of Contents
1) Introduction: My Final Thoughts on the Occasional Essay; pp. 3-6
2) Defining the Occasional Essay DRAFT; pp. 7-10
3) Defining the Occasional Essay FINAL; pp. 11-
4) The Rhetoric of Authority in Contemporary Occasional Essays DRAFT; pp.
5) The Rhetoric of Authority in Contemporary Occasional Essays FINAL; pp.
6) Small Town Living DRAFT; pp.
7) Small Town Living FINAL; pp.
My Final Thoughts on the Occasional Essay
As I am writing final papers and giving end of the semester presentations, the Spring
2014 semester is coming to a close. I feel like I have learned much valuable information and
essential skills as a student, but perhaps the most impactful aspect of my schooling this semester
has been my improvement as a writer. Before enrolling in the ENC-3311 Essay as Cultural
Commentary course, I realize now that I did not know much about essays. Because of my high
school experience with essay writing, I thought of essays as five-paragraph structures that only
focused on boring, educational topics. I used to dread writing them because of how repetitive and
overall monotonous they were to me. However, Professor Bryans Essay as Cultural Commentary course completed changed my opinion of essays. In this course, I had the
opportunity to further explore the essay genre outside of the boundaries once set for them by my
former instructors. I got more in-depth with my understanding of essays, learning about the
subgenre of the occasional essay, and I did all of this with guidance along the way.
When this semester started and I began working on assignments, I remember not
knowing what to expect. When I initially signed up for this course, I thought, What if I have to write essay after essay? That does not sound like any fun. I feared having to read long, pointless essays, and even more, having to write them. However, I wanted to challenge myself, and I
figured that I could learn a few lessons to help me in the future, as writing in almost any
profession is inevitable. Also, I love writing, and I wanted to explore a side of it that I knew
barely anything about. Luckily, I decided to take on this challenge, because this course turned
out to be both beneficial and exciting. My outlook completely changed on essays; I used to dread
reading and writing them, but after taking this class, I feel the opposite now.
During the first part of the semester, when Professor Bryan chose essays for the class to
read, I was surprised by how interesting they were. They focused on topics that were meaningful
and served a bigger purpose other than being educational or entertaining. The topic of each essay varied, which helped me to realize the vastness of essays. All essays are not the same, was then imprinted into my mind. I could write about anything I wanted to, with varying lengths,
styles, rhetorical strategies, etc. I embraced this sense of freedom, and I felt like it was the next
major step on my journey as a writer.
It is when I began writing my own essays that I first started to understand the occasional
essay subgenre. This was a completely foreign concept to me, as when I thought I barely knew
anything about the essay genre, another subgenre was getting thrown at me. However, by
analyzing different texts, writing my own pieces, and receiving feedback from both my peers and
Professor Bryan, I began to grasp its purpose. Whereas essays are vast and near limitless, the
occasional essay focuses more on specific events or ideas, and provides commentary about
culturally relevant issues. However, similar to the essay genre, it is constantly changing and open
to new ideas, rhetorical strategies, styles, etc. In other words, the occasional essay focuses on a
specific occasion and provides cultural commentary about it, both analyzing and describing a
bigger picture that is supposed to be insightful and meaningful, whereas an essay does not
necessarily focus on a specific occasion or hold a bigger meaning behind it.
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace was the first assigned reading of this semester that helped me to understand the meaning behind the occasional essay. In this essay,
Wallace focuses on the occasion of the Maine Lobster Festival, and he uses the bait and switch
technique to bring up the issue of the mistreatment of lobsters. When writers incorporate
rhetorical strategies such as the bait and switch technique, not only does this increase the target
audience numbers and capture their attention because of the topic relevance, but this makes room
for a bigger picture to be brought up. For example, in Wallaces essay, the cultural issue being
discussed is the mistreatment of lobsters. Wallace makes this issue relevant by relating it to the
Maine Lobster Festival, which is an annual event that residents and tourists come to and support.
Wallace captures the attention of readers, many of them likely future attendees of this festival, by
making them think that they are reading about this event. However, he turns the tables and not
only increases the number of people this essay can now relate to, but he causes readers to think
about their own actions. He gets into detail about some lobsters even being boiled alive and the
horrible pain they endure, and it is specific details like this that he wants readers to take in, so
that they can consider the event they are supporting. In the end, he encourages his audience to
take action by leaving them to make a conscience decision about whether or not to attend this
festival, and it is this call to action that wraps up his story. It is these calls to action that wrap up
the occasional essay, and the bigger picture behind the story being shared.
Additionally, the occasional essay uses rhetorical strategies to not only create a bigger
picture and encourage a call to action, but it builds the authority and credibility of the writer.
When a writer can use rhetorical strategies to provide research, specific information,
testimonials, interviews, personal experiences, etc., it makes them more believable as an author.
It proves that they are knowledgeable about the topic they are writing about, and that what they
say and the point they are making can be trusted. When a writer is vague and does not provide
any specific information to try to make a point, it comes across as rambling and possibly even
that they are not familiar with the very topic they are writing about. If a writer can prove to their
audience that they are familiar with a topic and understand its implications, to create a bigger
picture that is relevant to them as readers, then they can be regarded as authoritative and
believable. When it comes to my own experiences as a writer, as I have began choosing essays to
read and topics to write about on my own, I know that I am only continuing to grow. This course
has helped me to understand the basic concepts behind the occasional essay, including its
meaning and purpose, and I will utilize this information for the future. Just like anything in life,
writing requires constant learning and practice, but there is always room to explore and to
improve. My career as a writer is still blossoming, but I know that I am on the right track. I have
explored different essays, received valuable feedback, and applied myself enough to be
successful in the future.
If there is one important concept that I took out of this class, in addition to learning more
about the essay as cultural commentary, it is to be open-minded to all the opportunities I have as
a writer. As I mentioned in my introduction, I did not expect to find this course so enjoyable. I
thought that it would be extremely time-consuming, difficult, and boring, but I took a chance. I
remained open-minded about the knowledge I could obtain from this course, and in the end, it
ended up being my favorite course this semester. I found it so enjoyable to hear different stories,
to write a multitude of my own stories, and to help others improve their writing. I was able to
encourage people to think more in-depth about different concepts, including the concept of
appreciating the little things in Major Assignment 3, which is something very important to me. I think that sometimes we all get so caught up in what we are doing, that we forget to take time
to sit back, smile, and enjoy the small blessings in life. I am grateful to have the opportunity to
inspire, improve, and learn, and because of my personal progress in this class, and even as a
writer in my personal life, I know that I am on the right track for a successful future as a writer,
in whatever field of work I choose to go into.
Defining the Occasional Essay DRAFT
The occasional essay is made up of numerous genres and subgenres, which create
diversity in writing. The diversity within these genres and subgenres can be seen through various
styles and strategies of writing, different authorial personas, and personal stories, which reflect
larger cultural issues. Every writer has a story to tell, it is just their method of doing so which
makes them unique. In this course, we have read and discussed a multitude of disti