In a Tortoiseshell: In this close-reading paper written for the Humanities Sequence, Sandra Chen begins with a detailed analysis of a poem’s text to make larger arguments about its meaning.
In a Tortoiseshell: In her East Asian Studies essay on the Taiwanese film Terrorizer, Amy Cass uses close looking techniques to analyze how the film presents photography as a way of seeing and understanding urban reality. Amy uses her engagement with the visuals of the film through careful close looking to provide the evidence for her arguments, which stretch beyond description of the film and into bold, motivated claims.
In a Tortoiseshell: In her paper, Katherine McIntire analyzes the Disney World theme park “Frontierland,” arguing that by relying on the historically inaccurate concept of the lone cowboy it promotes problematic values that are antithetical to Walt Disney’s philosophy. Her incredibly clear introduction orients the reader to the analytic work she plans to do and to the many sources she plans to consult while constructing her argument. By giving herself space to tease out the specifics of her primary source and the various key terms relevant to her argument, Katherine effectively lays the groundwork for her motive and thesis. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: In her politics paper, Maggie Baughman recommends a specific set of policies for the US State Department to follow in order to combat the spread of misinformation by the Chinese government within Taiwanese election cycles. Her thesis is built upon a unique and compelling methodology combining epidemiological theory with politics. By manipulating multiple forms of evidence as well as the framework of her argument, Maggie also renders her thesis both pragmatically and pedagogically manageable.
While previous issues of Tortoise have highlighted pieces with exemplary sections of “close reading,” none thus far have highlighted what in this issue we are calling “close looking.” Similar to close reading—a description of which can be found here—close looking is essentially the detailed analysis of the presentation of a primary source’s argument. In some instances, close reading and close looking are trying to reconstruct a creator’s intent from their creation itself. Both require the breaking down of individual elements of a piece in order to understand its whole. The trick is the ability to re-associate the reality of an object with the possibilities which existed prior to or during its creation. One must ask, “Why is this feature present? What else could have taken its place, and what effects does its presence have on the piece as a whole knowing what else could have been in its place?”
Despite their similar objectives and questions, close looking utilizes different types of media from close reading. Where the object of a close reading is grounded in text—poetry, novels, speeches—close looking focuses on the visual. From sculptures and photographs to films and even commercials, close looking analyzes those media whose evidence comes in the form of color, shape, size, materiality, and even time. It can be difficult to translate one’s experience with close reading to the act of close looking and vice versa, since one must readjust their expectations and relearn how to break down pieces into analyzable components. But understanding how to do so opens worlds of evidence to authors with the gusto to take them on.
This section features authors who have mastered the act of close looking. Pay attention to what parts they dissect their objects of analysis into and how they then reassemble those parts to create deeper meanings.
In a Tortoiseshell: In the introduction to his junior paper in mathematics, Dylan Galt presents the motivating questions underlying his exposition of Stiefel-Whitney classes and cobordism, preparing the reader to appreciate the significance of the rich mathematics which will follow. Continue reading
One of the most difficult sections of any paper is its beginning. The expectation of an opening that captures and holds readers’ attention while still communicating necessary set-up for an argument is certainly daunting. Nearly all the concepts from the Lexicon must find their way into the start of a paper in the exact right quantities; lots of motive in an introduction is usually desired, whereas very little analysis is wanted or needed so early on. Couple this with the fact that there are infinite possible ways to start a paper, and it may feel downright impossible to accomplish successfully at times.
Rather than focusing solely on thesis or motive, this section highlights papers that successfully incorporate these terms while also orienting the reader, introducing necessary sources, and defining key terms. Pay close attention to the relationships between ideas in sentences and clauses themselves, since it is at this level where the beginning of a paper can truly finds its greatness.
In a Tortoiseshell: Austin Davis’s “Pity the Poor Working Girl” looks into the Pittsburgh Nylon Riots, which rocked the city shortly after the end of WWII, and examines how this event exemplified broader tensions that were at play in the city and nation at large. This excerpt from the first several pages of the essay is a strong introduction that describes the event, clarifies its relevance, and transitions smoothly into Davis’s thesis.
Tortoise: A Journal of Writing Pedagogy is an annual journal that publishes excerpts of student scholarship from within the Princeton community. Showcasing writers from all disciplines and levels—both Princeton undergraduate and graduate students—we emphasize the writing process as much as its “finished” product.
Tortoise publishes excerpts of exemplary academic writing with reflective commentaries on the research and writing methods underpinning the prose. Our ambition at Tortoise is not only to share student writing with a wider audience but also to demonstrate how it works and how it was developed.
Our Spring 2020 issue, entitled “Top-notch Tactics,” is a compilation of excerpts (as well as one full-length feature piece) each of which poses a different answer to the question,
What does it look like when you get down to the nitty gritty of writing a paper?
Whether this answer takes the form of a discussion of the role of “close looking” in a paper on film — comments on developing a thesis in a Woody Woo policy recommendation — thoughts on the role of exposition in mathematics — or anything in between, our authors and editors delve into the many small tactics that take us from an idea to an outline to a finished piece.
I would like to add a special note of thanks to our authors, editors, the staff of the Writing Center, and everyone else who helped to make this issue possible. We all know that this semester has been anything but what we expected, and that any number of things fell by the wayside in the general hubbub. I think I speak for the entire Tortoise staff when I tell you how happy we are that we are able to present this issue to you today nevertheless. Again, I would like to send out a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed to this issue and helped bring it to where it is today. We hope you enjoy the issue!
In a Tortoiseshell: Using various feminist thinkers as a scholarly lens, her own primary source material from an interview she conducted, and a close reading of multiple artistic mediums, Bes puts forward a thesis that is clear, original, and motivated. In addition to containing all of the key ingredients for a powerful argument, though, Bes’s thesis is an exemplar model due to the way she deepens and refines that thesis as the paper progresses and as she gradually exposes the reader to more key concepts, relevant scholars, and pieces of evidence. In this excerpt, which appears towards the end of Bes’s paper, we see her thesis in its full complexity and nuance and get a taste of how Bes strategically goes about uncovering that complexity in gradual stages. Continue reading