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Discussion--Week 1

1. Please take a few moments to introduce yourself to your classmates.

2. Discuss at least one of the following:

What were your impressions of the in-class readings? (Orwell's "A Hanging" and Montaigne's "Of a Monstrous Child")

OR

What were your impressions of the three versions of "Why I Write"? Whose style was most effective, in your opinion, and why?

Comments

Hiii!!!!!
I'm Yefei Jin. I'm from Grand Rapids, Michigan. In my spare time, I like to run around and play sports. I enjoy the outdoors and love to one day climb a big mountain.
I enjoyed Orwell's the most because he cuts right to the chase about what good writing consists of and why they are important. I totally agree with the statement that every story contains elements from each of the four great motives. However, I disagree with Orwell's statement that the more one is familiar with one's political bias, the more likely one will hold on to one's "aesthetic and intellectual integrity." I think being too concious of one's beliefs may lead to bad generalizations. I didn't like the other two as much. Didion makes writing good literature seem all too easy for the public and the other guy can write about everything except I don't like to read about everything.



Hi I'm Tyler Dirks from Plymouth, Minnesota. I'm one of the four guys in our class, so I'm sort of hard to miss. When I'm not writing artful essays, I'm probably staying active somehow.
About the two essays we read in class on wednesday, I didn't really get what "Of Monstrous Child" was trying to say. I think our instructor said the deformed child was part of some metaphor of the state but I didn't understand how that was implied.
The part I liked best of Orwell's "A Hanging" is his depiction of death as "one mind less, one world less". I don't know if he intended this, but that observation is better than all other arguments I've heard against the death penalty. Rather than focusing on an individual's death, Orwell laments how an entire "world" will be shut off.

My name is Laura Ullery. I am from New Ulm, Minnesota. I am pretty shy and I don’t know what else to say about myself. Sorry!
Though the “Why I Write? essays by George Orwell, Terry Tempest Williams, and Joan Didion all shared the same title, they were completely different in content and style.
George Orwell’s essay starts out with the fact that he always knew he would be a writer. He shares some cute anecdotes from his childhood before listing his reasons for writing: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. He elaborates on each reason, giving an honest look into the motivation of writers. Orwell’s essay is not entirely personal; he projects his four reasons onto all writers, using himself as an example. He says that the four impulses will clash, and the impulse with the most power will vary depending on the person and the time. For him, even though becoming a writer was inevitable, his main reason for writing was shaped by the events of his life. The many political events in his life fed the fourth impulse, and political purpose dominated over the part of him that might write milder stories. His novels are a combination of political purpose and aesthetic enthusiasm. Orwell’s essay provided insight into both his motivation and his life. I thought it was honest, amusing, and interesting, though overall it was a little less personal than the other two.
Terry Tempest Williams’ essay was short, about a page and a half’s worth of her reasons. Some of the reasons appear to contradict each other. Williams offers no explanations for her reasons, she gives each reason one sentence before moving on to a new idea. Her list of reasons quickly became monotonous and had little impact on me. Some of her reasons were interesting, but I found myself paying attention to the cadence created by the fast paced style rather than the meaning of the sentences.
Joan Didion’s essay was my favourite of the three. She starts the essay with her failed attempt at being an intellectual; she just couldn’t think. Her focus was always on the sensory rather than the abstract. She eventually realized that she was a writer. Didion says that her mind is full of pictures, and she writes to decipher the meaning of the pictures. She gives an example of how she creates her stories around the pictures in her mind. I liked Didion’s style and I enjoyed reading her essay. She used some interesting metaphors and her essay included a lot of imagery. It did not provide a concrete list of reasons like Orwell’s essay; it was much more personal.
The three “Why I Write? essays were completely different in content and in style. However, Orwell’s essay and Didion’s essay had one thing in common: they did not become writers. They realized they were writers. I thought that was interesting.

Hi! My name is Danielle LeBreck, and I am from Cary, Illinois. I run on the cross country and track team here at the U, so in short I love to run. I also love to read, write, and I enjoy warm weather.

I found the in class readings very interesting, and I especially liked Orwell's "A Hanging." Montaigne's "Of a Monstrous Child" really shocked me as the story progressed. In the beginning he somewhat fools the reader into believing this child is not unlike any other child. Then quickly, he transitions into giving in depth and at times grotesque descriptions of this conjoined child. I thought his insight to witnessing this child was also very thought-provoking.

I really, however, enjoyed Orwell's "A Hanging" particularly because of the realization he comes to when the prisoner destined for death avoids the puddle of water. Up until this point, Orwell writes of the man's hanging as an order of business, and not something to be looked into or given a second of thought. But the moment the man avoids the puddle, Orwell realizes that this prisoner is a human being; a real live person whose life is about to be taken away. I thought that was a really powerful realization. The one tragic, disappointing part of this writing is that even though he finally comes to this realization, he steps back and does not act on it. He knows now that he is playing part in ending a man's life, and yet he still stands back and does nothing, even laughing about it later. I feel though that those laughs he made after were not sincere, it was just him trying to avoid facing the realization he had made earlier, and trying to walk further and further away from the dead man behind him, and push it in his past.

Hello all!
So, it took me several minutes to figure this site out, but I think I'm on to it now. My name is Kelly Gregg and I call River Falls, WI my hometown (45 minutes west of the cities). I live on a hobby farm (horses, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, cats, guinea pig) and get antsy if I sit for too long. The arts really intrigue me, even though I am not especially gifted in them myself. I love to explore.

Notes on the "Why I Write"s:
Orwell: I tend not to agree with some of Orwell's opinions. Specifically, I disagree with his neat breakdown of people's motives. I do not think it is so straightforward.

Williams: Although I enjoyed this essay, I thought the list became tedious. I found myself losing my place and re-reading passages. I want to hear Williams' explanations for her contradictions.

Didion: I found myself wanting to continue reading her explanation. Her point is stated and explained in a way in which people who do not experience her unique drive to write can understand. Although it was an essay, it read as a story might. I feel that this was the most effective essay because I now would like to explore more of Didion's writings and read "A Book of Common Prayer", from which the last passage was drawn.

Hi! My name is Megan Johnson. I am from Crystal, Minnesota and I am currently a post-secondary student at the university. I love to travel as well as camp. Hopefully, in the next ten years or so, I will be able to backpack around Europe.

For each version or "Why I Write" I had a different impression. "Why I Write" by Terry Williams was good but at the same time quickly became boring. Her version definitely presented a lot of information on the reasons why she wrote but I really just couldn't get into the story. I enjoyed reading Orwell's version but I didn't completely agree with him. Even though, I'm sure that many authors fit under his four categories of motives, I also believe that there are many other reasons why a person chooses to write. The most effective version of "Why I Write" was by Joan Didion. It was very funny and I never would've entertained the idea that person would write a book to sort out their thoughts.

Hi! My name is Nicole Hilgendorf, and I am from St. Francis, Minnesota. It's a small town about 40 minutes north of the Twin Cities. My major is architecture. For fun I like to go camping and spend time outdoors.

Of the three pieces titled “Why I Write,? I found Orwell’s t o be the most effective. While Didion and Williams simply explained their own reasons for writing, Orwell went a step further and offered four “motives for writing? that could easily be applied to just about anyone. For me, shifting some of the attention off of himself and allowing the readers to reflect on their own reasons for writing made Orwell’s piece the most memorable of the three. It got me thinking about which of the motives I identify with the most. However, while reading the others I was focused simply on understanding the writers’ own reasons for writing.

I also enjoyed reading Didion’s piece. The unique format was entertaining. Each sentence was new and unexpected, and this unpredictability held my attention throughout the entire piece. It was fun to try to understand some of the contradictions. It was also interesting to compare some of Orwell’s four motives to Didion’s statements. For example the phrase “I write as a witness to what I have seen,? clearly relates to the third motive while phrases such as “I write as a witness to what I imagine,? are a bit harder to place, and may be a combination of the other three motives.

Greetings! I'm Korri Schneider. I have lived in the metro area my entire life, in the town of Shakopee. In my spare time, I like to read and write. Hopefully, I plan to turn writing into a career someday.

Comments on the "Why I Write" trilogy:

Orwell: This piece was quite interesting. To read the words "I have not written a novel for seven years...It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure" coming from such a revered author was ironic. His vision of his own work must have been quite warped compared to that of the public, or vice versa. However, I admired the point he made about political purpose; there has to be some core value, some deep-down kindling that burns inside a person, to make a writer write true pieces. Anyone can fob off a sleazy piece, but it has no merit if they're in it for the wealth or the ego-boost. Orwell's effort to convey that point is most effective.

Tempest Williams: It may not have been the most effective or pleasing writing style, but it's the piece I connected with the most. The contradictions and endless list of reasons showed just how consuming writing is for the author. Writing = life. It is the author's pride and anguish, delight and frustration. Whether it's causing pain or creating joy, the author embraces it fully, because it is every bit his being.

Didion: Her piece was the least effective to me. I don't like how she compared a writer to a "secret bully" where his/her words invade the reader's mind. Reading is an adventure, an eye-opening experience, not a forceful invasion.

Hello!
My name is Brett Baldauf and I am from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, roughly six hours southeast of the cities. I thoroughly enjoy running (non-competitively) and I love singing, acting, and reading.

Orwell's "Why I Write" was my favorite of the three because he seemed the most realistic and knowledgeable. I felt like he really knew what he was doing and had put a lot of thought into his four reasons for writing. I like that he discussed both his childhood and what he wants to accomplish when he sits down to write.

Didion's essay, while still good, didn't feel as compelling to me as Orwell's did. I thought that it was very insightful that she cited her muddled thoughts as the reason for her writing. I liked the reasoning that she wrote so that she knew exactly what she was thinking, though I wasn't sure how I felt about the fact that she said she may not have been a writer had she had some inkling as to what she was actually thinking. In Charles Bukowski's poem "so you want to be a writer" he repeatedly says things to the affect of "If it doesn't come bursting out of you, don't do it. If you have to stop and think about it, don't do it." and others of the sort. That is how I feel about writing, or any vocation for that matter, and I guess I didn't appreciate that she said she would rather do otherwise.

Williams' "Why I Write" can hardly be considered an Essay to me. Part of writing, as Orwell said, is the aesthetic quality that it gives and listing of reason after reason using the repetitive "I write" doesn't really bode well for the eyes when reading anything other than a poem . Repetition can be used very effectively in writing of all kinds, but it would seem to me that maybe a list of this nature within the context of a greater piece would be more recognizable as a work. I enjoyed the contradictions and I liked reading it, coincidentally reminding me of Bukowski's "so you want to be a writer", but I would call it a poem, rather than an essay.

Hi I'm Tyler Dirks from Plymouth, Minnesota, a western suburb of Minneapolis. When I'm not writing or reading artful
essays, I'm probably staying active somehow.
About the two essays we read in class on wednesday, I didn't really
get what "Of Monstrous Child" was trying to say. I think our instructor
said the deformed child was part of some metaphor of the state but I didn't
understand how that was implied.
The part I liked best of Orwell's "A Hanging" is his depiction of
death as "one mind less, one world less". I don't know if he intended this,
but that observation is better than all other arguments I've heard against
the death penalty. Rather than focusing on an individual's death, Orwell
laments how an entire "world" will be shut off.

Hi, I'm Kat Busch. I'm from Sleepy Eye (southwestern MN). Outside of class, I like to play sports for fun with friends (mainly tennis), reading and drawing. The West River Parkway is a sweet path to run or bike on.

Williams' writing was full of emotion

and I was really interested how each idea flowed to the next so well. It seemed to be the most effective to me, because, for the most part, I could feel myself running down that same list of reasons I do some things, too. It seemed very complete and vital, even if it was so short.

In some places, I didn't understand Orwell, such as his poem. I disagree with the way he generalizes writing into four motives because I think that they aren't that separable. Some of the descriptions of them seem like they can be under each of the other motives, too. When he writes the "desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed," I think that can fall under each motive he listed.

I was interested in Didion's essay because I liked trying to find places to prove she was indeed an intellectual that dealt with the abstract. I think even when she daydreamed about the leaves outside she seemed intellectual-like. If she could create stories from things she hasn't seen, heard, tasted, felt, or smelled before, then she was actually creating ideas. Her way of connecting pictures in her mind and made a story from them sounded like a form of art to me.

Greetings! My name is Korri Schneider! I have lived in the metro area my entire life, right in Shakopee. In my spare time, I like to read and write. Hopefully, I will turn writing into a career someday.

Notes on the "Why I Write" trilogy:

Orwell: This piece was very interesting. To read the words "I have not written a novel for seven years...It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure" coming from such a revered author was ironic. His critical vision of his own works must have differed greatly from that of the public. However, I found truth in the point he made about writers having politcal purpose. There must be some motivation, a deep-down kindling that burns inside a writer to make them write true works. Any writer can pen a sleazy piece for pocket change or an ego boost, but it is without merit.

Tempest Williams: While the writing style may not have been most effective or pleasing, it is the piece I connected with most. The contradictions and endless list of reasons was proof of how all-encompassing writing is for the author. Writing = life. It is the author's pride and anguish, delight and frustration. Whether it is causing her pain or bringing her joy, she embraces it, because writing is every bit her being.

Didion: This piece was least effective to me. I don't like how she compares writing to "the tactic of a secret bully," as she claims that writing invades the reader's private mind. Reading is an adventure, an eye-opening experience, not a forceful, involuntary attack.

My name is Amy and I'm from Omaha, Nebraska. I'm sure you will all get to know me well enough from class, so I'll just get right to my opinion of the "Why I Write" essays.

Didion's essay was my least favorite. I thought the idea that writing is merely to change people's minds was rather contradictory to what she later said about the purpose of her writing being because she doesn't know the answers. The idea of not knowing yourself, or why you write for that matter, is very passive. Although I understand that writing has the potential to be aggressive, part of the beauty of writing, in my opinion, is that words can be anything. They can be intimidating, but words can also be reassuring, calming, and even passive. Also, I think saying words are an "imposition on the reader's most private space" comes across as being rather one-sided. True, words have the ability to be imposing and intimately connect with the reader, but mostly a reader chooses to have that "imposition." By choosing to read something, or even by choosing to read a class assignment, I feel a reader accepts the author's imposing words-even if the author is a bully. I suppose I just found this essay a disappointment compared to the other two, but that's part of the beauty of writing: the same pieces can mean entirely different things to different people.

I thought Williams' essay was artistic and insightful, and of course I can't argue that she didn't answer the question of why she writes. Certain reasons stood out more than others and I thought the placement of the phrases helped create that effect. I'm pretty weird about endings though and I must say that I wish the last sentence didn't exist, but that is just my opinion.

I loved Orwell's "Why I Write." Although I understand the argument that the more aware one is with one's political bias the more closed minded he may be to others' opinions, I don't think that was what Orwell was trying to say. I think he was talking about knowing yourself, how you see yourself compared to the world, and how you see the flaws in the world around you. Also, Orwell says your political bias. That means not only being aware of your beliefs, but also of your dispositions. Yes, writing "political" works can be offensive and will never please everyone, but some of the most world-changing pieces have been written by people aware of their "political bias" and how they want the world to change.

Hi! My name is Megan Johnson. I am from Crystal, Minnesota and I am currently in the post-secondary program at the university. I love to go camping and to travel. Hopefully in the next ten years or so I will be able to backpack around Europe.
I had a different impression for each version of "Why I Write". Terry William's "Why I Write" was good, and she gave a lot of reasons why she is a writer, but her story quickly becomes boring since her list of reasons become excessive. I enjoyed reading Orwell's reasons why he wrote but at the same time I didn't agree with him. Even though I'm sure that many authors fit under his four categories of motives I also believe that there are many other reasons why a person chooses to write. The most effective version of "Why I Write" was by Didion. It was very funny, and I would've never entertained the idea that a person would write a book to sort out their thoughts. I suppose I like her version the best because her story made me think.

Hi! My name is Alex Kraak and I'm from Janesville, WI. I love laughs, sarcasm, travelling, watching football and baseball (Boston teams especially :]), and being active!
I loved Williams' essay the best, it seemed to explain how there is no explanation for the reason we love the things we love, or why we do them. It shows we can use the one thing we love to do to escape from everything, to express anything, and to turn to it from anything. I thought it was very catchy and effective to use the anaphora 'I write because,' that is probably what attracted and made me enjoy this piece the best! It helped me relate and feel the same about all of my hobbies in the way he did!
Orwell's piece seemed to be written more 'intellectually' to me. It seemed like more effort had to be put in for his piece to sound the way it did, that it wasn't has much of a hobby as it was for Williams. I liked how he included the influences of his childhood on his hobby. Although he included the influence on HIS own writing, he also seemed to generalize that everyone who writes, writes for four reasons. I think to some extent it was true, but was proved wrong in Williams' essay.
Lastly, Didion's essay was good too! I felt like i related to her and how she was distracted by all these different things. She writes to discover meaning in things, to find answers, and to me that is what my hobbies do. They allow me in a sense to sit back and think about why I do the things I do. I also liked how she said the way things 'shimmer.' As dorky as it sounds that's how I feel a lot. I guess it could be a little ADD, but it's just the way I am. Hearing people laugh or hearing people use sarcasm adds a little 'shimmer' to my life. That sounds corny but hey, what can ya do?

Hey, my name is Trevor Simmons. I'm from Rochester, Minnesota (claim to fame: Mayo Clinic). I transferred to the U this year from a smaller college in NE Missouri. I enjoy eating breakfast, playing drums, traveling by night and trying to keep things real.

The "Why I Write" essays by Orwell, Didion and Williams were each interesting reflections on the nature of writing and the question of why one writes. Being that I have not read these authors' work previously (aside from some Orwell excerpts), I now feel somewhat enticed to read them further with insight into their personal motives and creative intentions. I also thought it was pretty cool how the identification of egoistic elements behind the writing process was touched on in all the essays. In my opinion, Williams had the most effective style in trying to capture and express his reasons for writing. While Orwell and Didion articulated their essays very beautifully, I personally feel that Williams' raw, poetic approach was more easily accessible and equally as grasping. Williams conveys his meditation with fewer words than Orwell and Didion, but through his simplicity and verve he portrays the intangible underpinnings of writing without surrendering effectiveness.

Hello! I'm Cait Mantych and I'm from Genoa City, WI. I'm not much of a city girl, enjoying backwoods running, painting, and woodworking much more than the city grunge, hustle, and bustle. The University has been a pretty neat place to be though for the past couple of weeks. I don't know if anyone else is staying in Middlebrook Hall, but there's a scenic little road that runs along the Mississippi right behind the building. It's worth checking out sometime!
When I was reading the three versions of "Why I Write" this morning, what struck me the most was the ways each piece gave great insight into the writing style and personality of its respective author. I found it difficult to judge any of the pieces very harshly; I think the reasons behind one's passions are difficult to explain and almost sacred to the writer. Didion, Orwell, and Williams really exposed themselves. None of those essays were easy to write.
Ms. Williams' essay was so lyrical and abstract. I could sympathize with her desire to "madly erase each line," especially when realizing the gravity of the words that had just been put to paper. She created a very intimate setting to reveal her reasons for writing; in the hushed hours of a dream dawn, I could picture Terry walking with Moab and Brooke (dogs perhaps?), her written thoughts being pulled like a string of scarves from the muddled surroundings to create an almost too lengthy, too overwhelming list. I don't think Ms. Williams analyzed her reasons like Didion and Orwell. I think the nature of her essay was more spiritual and fluid, rooted in feeling and passion rather than logic.
As for Didion, I could see how difficult it was for her to explain herself and how important it was to her to have her readers really understand her meanings. She says she is "abstract," "peripheral," and she sees "pictures in (her) mind," and then she goes on to explain exactly what she means by these statements. I can't say I've really liked any of the Didion works that I have read, but in this essay of hers I got to see her inquisitive side that, truly, I like and respect.
Finally, Orwell was the last piece I read and it showpieced his organized intellectual writing form. I thought it was interesting when he said his "starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice." I wonder if he ever wrote something out of pure pleasure, out of love or humor? I feel sure he did, but perhaps it was not the "serious writing" he wanted to talk about. I laughed when he slammed writers and their "sheer egotism." I got the impression, one that I admired, that he wrote his essay to please no one but himself.

Hi! My name is Molly Kim. I am from Dallas, TX. However, I did live in Minnesota for 11 years, so I know about the winters here. I love dance and I am a huge neat freak.
I really apprectiated Orwell's "Why I Write." He doesn't write because he enjoys writing, he writes because he must. I think this is really interesting because I feel that you should do something because you like to do it. Orwell, however, writes because "there is some lie [he] wants to expose" and he wants people to hear him.
I thought William's essay was extremely lyrical and she seemed to both love and hate what she did. This seems more normal to me because people don't always love to work, but if they love what they do, there are moments when their job is amazing and others when they would much rather be doing something else.
Didion's essay was my least favorite. However, I understand her need to write so that she can understand how she herself feels.

Hi! My name is Nicole Hilgendorf, and I am from St. Francis, Minnesota. It's a small town about 40 minutes north of the Twin Cities. My major is architecture. For fun I like to go camping and spend time outdoors.

Of the three pieces titled “Why I Write,? I found Orwell’s t o be the most effective. While Didion and Williams simply explained their own reasons for writing, Orwell went a step further and offered four “motives for writing? that could easily be applied to just about anyone. For me, shifting some of the attention off of himself and allowing the readers to reflect on their own reasons for writing made Orwell’s piece the most memorable of the three. It got me thinking about which of the motives I identify with the most. However, while reading the others I was focused simply on understanding the writers’ own reasons for writing.

I also enjoyed reading Didion’s piece. The unique format was entertaining. Each sentence was new and unexpected, and this unpredictability held my attention throughout the entire piece. It was fun to try to understand some of the contradictions. It was also interesting to compare some of Orwell’s four motives to Didion’s statements. For example the phrase “I write as a witness to what I have seen,? clearly relates to the third motive while phrases such as “I write as a witness to what I imagine,? are a bit harder to place, and may be a combination of the other three motives.