In a Tortoiseshell: Madelyn Broome’s “The Language of Monstrosity” argues that in film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein, the creature’s lack of language leads to a lack of depth in audiences’ emotional responses to the creature’s misfortunes. This excerpt highlights the author’s use of her key term “human” not just as a familiar tool with which to support her argument, but as a mechanism for creating motive.
In a Tortoiseshell: In her essay about the relationships of the protagonists in Umberto Saba’s “Ernesto” and the 2017 film Call Me By Your Name, Bes Arnaout navigates the difficulty of arguing for the existence of a relationship paradigm that the theory has not considered. In doing so, Bes creatively extends her motive, that the critics have gotten the relationship wrong, to ground readers as they move through the paper. She is therefore able to motivate close-readings at critical moments to extend her thesis, which would otherwise become amorphous. In doing so, Bes opens up a new avenue for writers who want to argue something but lack the language to categorize it in existing theoretical terms.
In a Tortoiseshell: In this junior paper on Love & Friendship, a film adaptation of Lady Susan by Jane Austen, Megan Laubach’s motive is multi-faceted. Her introduction begins with in-text motive as Megan notices that Love & Friendship, despite being narrative in form, feels like an authentic adaptation of a novella written as a collection of letters. Then, Megan situates her in-text motive in a larger scholarly debate within film criticism about narration, leapfrogging from scholar to scholar in order to both disagree with them and insert her own voice into the conversation: this is scholarly motive. Taken together, Megan’s introduction is an excellent example of how to motivate a larger research paper topic on the orders of both primary and secondary sources.
Motive begins with a question or a problem. This can be in the form of a gap in the evidence, a puzzling passage, or a new phenomenon. Thus, motive is the driving force behind an essay’s line of inquiry or argument. It is the question to which the author hopes to provide an answer.
Without a strong motive, it is difficult for readers to grasp the reason for a certain paper’s existence. Even the most brilliant points can seem meaningless without an understanding of the posed question. Even then, motive must extend beyond just this initial question. The motive of a paper has to be compelling enough to imbue readers with a sense of that paper’s significance. It ultimately helps answer the question, “Why does it all matter?” It helps readers understand not only why a paper was written but also why they should care that the paper was written at all.
Example 2: A Dangerous Affair: Lady Susan’s Seductive Power in Love & Friendship by Megan Laubach
In a Tortoiseshell: In this excerpted introduction from Sonia’s research paper for a Conservation Biology course, she examines the threats posed by invasive species and past approaches taken to combat these threats. Working with an array of sources and studies, she proposes a prevention strategy of her own. This introduction is concise and effective, showcasing the necessary interplay of motive, orienting, and argument.
Excerpt / Sonia Howlett
With the rise of international trade and commerce, invasive species have become a major global economic and environmental threat. Invasive species are one of the most common causes of species extinctions, second only to habitat degradation, and are a recognized cause of endangerment to approximately 42% of the species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (Wilcove et al. 1998; Clavero & García-Berthou 2005). An estimated 50,000 foreign species have been introduced to the United States and are estimated to cost over $120 billion annually in environmental damages and losses in the US alone (Pimental et al. 2005). Unfortunately, even as scientists and policymakers have begun to recognize the threat of invasive species, augmented globalization and free trade have increased the risk of their introduction (Bright 1999; Mack et al. 2000; Lehtonen 2005).
According to many scientific definitions, “invasive species” are non-native species that overcome the environmental and dispersal barriers to establishment and spread (Fig. 1; Blackburn et al. 2011). Many policy-makers additionally define invasive species as those that also pose an economic or environmental threat (Executive Order No. 13112 1999; Lodge et al. 2006). Therefore, some policy-makers estimate that although one-fifteenth to one-tenth of introduced species overcome establishment barriers, only one-tenth of those become invasive (US Congress OTA 1993). This paper will use the political interpretation of “invasive” and refer to “invasive species” as alien species that are both established and harmful.
Commerce in living organisms via the pet and horticulture trades is a major pathway for the introduction of invasive species (Fig. 2) and also the most ecologically damaging (Lodge et al. 2006). Although transport of pet and horticultural species accidentally introduces a wide variety of unintended “hitchhiker” species such as parasites, diseases, weed seeds, and soil micro-organisms, the majority of currently invasive plants and vertebrates in the US were introduced intentionally, often through trade in exotic plants, seeds, and animals (Mack et al. 2000; Pimental et al. 2005). Over 900 of the 25,000 exotic plants, mostly horticultural ornamentals, that were introduced to Florida have become established in the wild (Frank & McCoy 1995; Simberloff et al. 1997). Around one-third of the world’s worst aquatic invasive species are aquarium or ornamental species (Padilla & Williams 2004). Eighty-four percent of the 149 introductions of non-indigenous amphibians and reptiles in Florida occurred via the pet trade and have resulted in the establishment of many highly destructive invasive species including several types of invasive snakes such as the infamous Burmese python (Krysko et al. 2011).
In looking for a way to reduce the rate of establishment of new invasive species in the US, the primary concern should be reducing the threat from the species transported intentionally, with a secondary emphasis on reducing the threat from potential hitchhiker species. Reducing the threat from such intentionally-traded living organisms is less costly and more efficient than addressing accidental introduction (Lodge et al. 2006). This is especially true since the traits that make an organism desirable as an imported planted or pet species, such as hardiness, adaptability, rapid growth, and easy reproduction, are the same traits that make it a particularly successful invader (Bright 1999). Prevention efforts should be particularly emphasized, rather than slow-the-spread or eradication efforts, since management cost increases and effectiveness decreases with increased time since introduction (Simberloff et al. 2013).
Author Commentary / Sonia Howlett
This paper was written as a final paper for my Conservation Biology class with Professor David Wilcove. I chose to write on the prompt of “What realistic but effective steps can be taken to reduce the rate at which new harmful, invasive species become established in the USA via the pet trade and the horticulture trade?” Starting out, I knew that I wanted to structure the paper similarly to the published policy recommendations that we read in class. From having read many such papers, I had observed that most started out with a background or overview of the issue before launching into recommendations. This also appealed to me logically because it makes sense to outline the problem before presenting solutions.
In order to make my argument as coherent as possible, I decided to split the content of my paper into five sections. In the “Introduction,” excerpted here, I introduce the reader to what invasive species are, why they are a problem that needs to be addressed, and how they are coming into the US. I use this to set up the idea that we need recommendations to prevent the introduction of invasive species and to begin to narrow down what particular areas we should focus on in order to implement that. Later, in the “Current Efforts” section, I highlight what systems are currently in place, and then in the “Challenges” section I describe how and why the current efforts are insufficient. This leads me into my four “Recommendations,” which I number and address one by one. Finally, the “Conclusion” briefly summarizes the paper and highlights its importance.
Once I outlined the structure, I wrote bullet points for what I wanted to cover in each section. For the introduction, I often included not only points I wanted to make, but also space for facts and information I didn’t know yet but ultimately wanted to include, such as the role of invasive species in the US economy. Then I researched extensively, looking into all of the questions and relevant facts I had identified while outlining, as well as more that came up over the course of my research. I excerpted key quotes and facts which I copy-pasted into a separate document, organized by section. I then drew these facts and statements together into the bulk of my essay, and finally edited the paper extensively to create more of a cohesive narrative.
Editor Commentary / Myrial Holbrook
Introductions are a lot like dessert—tempting to dig into first, but often best saved for last in the writing process. Similarly, introductions should give us a taste that leaves us hungry for more. In her essay, Sonia has done precisely this: she began drafting her essay with a general outline, building in some flexibility to her argument, then researched and wrote the body of the essay, and, in the end, revisited her initial claims to ensure that they aligned with the evolution of her research. Moreover, Sonia’s introduction, while it gives us a preview of her essay, leaves us expectant as to the more detailed analysis she will undertake in the body of her essay.
What Sonia’s introduction does particularly well is lay out her methodology for her paper. As a Fellow at the Writing Center, I often see two extremes in undergraduate sourcework in papers: students deferring too readily to sources, letting their own voice get drowned out, or students trying to claim authority over sources, oversimplifying them in the process. Sonia, however, strikes a happy balance between these two extremes. In this excerpt, her introduction, for example, she successfully incorporates, via paraphrase, a wide range of sources, while maintaining her own position.
The structure of this introduction is streamlined and precise. The first paragraph motivates the paper, establishing the historical problem of invasive species. The second paragraph offers helpful orienting information by defining invasive species for this particular context. The third paragraph continues the motivating and orienting, this time with a more narrow focus that will culminate in the fourth paragraph as an evidence-based claim. With this structure, Sonia gives us the proper dosage of motive, orienting, and argument. Notably, these are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, the best papers showcase a similar kind of fluid multi-tasking.
In short, Sonia’s introduction shows her deft maneuvering of a complex issue into the context of a ten-page research paper. With an effective introduction, almost any topic can be made manageable, arguable, and tantalizing to a variety of tastes.
Professor Commentary / David S. Wilcove, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs
For her final paper in EEB 308 (Conservation Biology), Sonia chose to write about an especially tricky problem: How do we reduce the rate at which harmful, invasive species become established in the USA due to importations of foreign plants and animals for the horticulture and pet trades, respectively? Our collective desire for strange and beautiful plants and animals leads us to import millions of non-native plants and animals every year. A significant number of these species subsequently escape from captivity and establish flourishing populations in the wild, often to the detriment of native plants and animals. Some even pose a threat to human health. The fact that this issue involves ecological questions (which species are likely to escape and become problematic?), economic questions (the pet and horticulture trade is big business), and social questions (people want to own strange, new species) makes it particularly vexing to solve. Sonia wrote a very thoughtful, well-written assessment of the issue. She provided a compelling overview of the problem, and she developed a set of well-reasoned, practical recommendations that would, indeed, make a difference. It was, in all respects, an excellent example of interdisciplinary scholarship.
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Harriger, K. (2016). Written testimony for a House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research, and Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture hearing titled “Defending American Agriculture Against Foreign Pests and Diseases”.
Jenkins, P. 1996. Free trade and exotic species introductions. Pages 145–147 in O. T. Sandlund, P. J. Schei, and A. Viken, editors. Proceedings, Norway/UN Conference on Alien Species. Directorate for Nature Management and Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway.
Krysko, K. et al. (2011). Verified non-indigenous amphibians and reptiles in Florida from 1863 through 2010: Outlining the invasion process and identifying invasion pathways and stages. Zootaxa 3028: 1-64
Lehtonen, P. 2005. Response to Sarah Reichard’s “The tragedy of the commons revisited: invasive species.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Forum. The Ecological Society of America.
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Maki, K. and S. Galatowitsch. 2004. Movement of invasive aquatic plants into Minnesota (USA) through horticultural trade. Biological Conservation 118: 389-396.
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FIG. 1. The “Proposed Unified Framework for Biological Invasions” of Blackburn et al illustrates the various barriers organisms have to pass in order to become invasive, and the management options at each stage of biological invasion. (Blackburn et al. 2011)
FIG . 2. Major pathways by which nonindigenous species enter and are transported within the United States. For the right-hand branch of pathways (Commerce in Living Organisms), each pathway also entails the possibility of other species hitchhiking on or in the species that is the focus of trade, or in the medium (e.g., water, soil, nesting material) or food of the focal species. Figure and caption courtesy of Lodge et al. (2006). Highlighting added to mark the pathways for the pet and horticulture trades.
Distinguishing between the two types of motive – scholarly and in-text – in an introduction can be a challenge. As an author tries to convey to the reader why their argument matters, they need a strong in-text motive: the answer to the “so what?” question as to why the argument is relevant to the text, event, or other primary source under discussion. The scholarly motive is, however, just as important: since their paper is entering a scholarly conversation on the topic at hand, the author needs to take a clear position within that conversation. This can mean agreeing with a scholar but expanding on their view, knocking down another scholar’s argument and replacing it with a new model, or any other way of engaging with the existing literature.
In this opening passage from the essay “Tolstoy and the Geometry of Fear,” Kathleen Parthé articulates both her in-text and scholarly motive from the outset as she analyzes a symbol for death in Tolstoy’s short story “Notes of a Madman” (published posthumously in 1912). She explains how an analysis of the symbol, a square figure, can help the reader to understand and appreciate the story in the context of larger questions of death and fear in Tolstoy’s work (in-text motive). She also points out why her article is necessary to Tolstoy scholarship: although the critical literature has focused on the broad theme of death in Tolstoy, it has neglected the author’s use of symbolism, leaving a gap in the scholarly conversation that Parthé now tries to fill.
—Rosamond van Wingerden ’20
“Tolstoy was repeatedly drawn to the crisis of dying because he felt that the traditional literary perception of death was inadequate, Death for Tolstoy was not just another subject; it was an important personal and aesthetic challenge. The critical literature, however, has treated death in Tolstoy only from the thematic point of view, and the devices the author chose so carefully to signify death have been for the most part unexamined and underestimated. Virtually no attention has been paid to the most unexpected of all devices: the first-person narrator in “Notes of a Madman” (“Zapiski sumasshedshego”) experiences the fear of death as “a horror – red, white, and square” (uzhas krasnyi, belyi, kvadratnyi).
The goal of this article is to demonstrate that this “square” is more than simply another interesting example of the various ways of fearing death that Tolstoy observed in himself and others. I will attempt to show how this seemingly anomalous image is actually related to a series of Tolstoyan linguistic devices for depicting death, and is in fact the ultimate device in that series. Three kinds of evidence will be offered in support of this argument: other examples in Tolstoy’s work, independent observations in linguistic and critical literature, and similar groupings of devices in writers such as Bely and Zamyatin. Finally, the square will be discussed as a type of geometric image, which, along with other mathematical borrowings, enjoyed a rich development among twentieth century artists, especially in Russia.”
(Kathleen Parthé, “Tolstoy and the Geometry of Fear,” in Tolstoy’s Short Fiction [New York: Norton & Co.], 404-5)
An opening monologue for an awards show like the Oscars is not something that we would usually consider argumentative writing in any formal capacity. Often riddled with cheesy jokes and jabs at Academy members, it’s difficult to view these monologues as pieces of writing that employ lexicon terms. While Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue this year did include the usual jabs and jokes, the deluge of allegations concerning sexual assault and misconduct in the film industry in recent months constituted a problem that the Oscars needed to address. In describing the Oscars, Kimmel first acknowledges the fact that historically, it has always been a show known for handing out awards. However, given the controversies of the past few months, he indicates that this ceremony in particular must be different. We can think of these controversies as a motive for the Oscars, a problem to be addressed and grappled with over the course of the show. Further, we can consider Kimmel’s final words as constituting a response to this motive: this year the Oscars weren’t meant to just be an awards show, but “a platform to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment” as a response to the controversies of the past months. In characterizing the Oscars as a platform for social advocacy, Kimmel adds nuance to our perception of award shows and provides an answer to the all-important question: “So what?” Whether or not the viewers believe the Oscars successfully respond to this motive ultimately depends on their analysis of the evidence: the awards, the speeches, the performances, etc.
—Ryan Vinh ’19
Excerpt from The New York Times “O.K., before we start handing out the awards, some history, because we’re going to do things a little bit differently. The first Oscar ceremony lasted, and this is true, 15 minutes, from beginning to end. And people still complained. But — so, if you do win an Oscar tonight, we want you to give a speech. We want you to say whatever you feel needs to be said. Speak from the heart. We want passion. You have an opportunity and a platform to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment. If you want to encourage others to join the amazing students at Parkland at their march on the 24th, do that. If you want to thank a favorite teacher, do that. Or maybe you just want to thank your parents and tell your kids to go to sleep. What you say is entirely up to you. You don’t have to change the world. Do whatever you want. But with that said, this is a really long show. So here’s what we’re going to do. Not saying you shouldn’t give a long speech, but whoever gives the shortest speech tonight will go home with — Johnny, tell them what they’ll win.”
Though mostly regarded as a form of entertainment, movies oftentimes contain powerful examples of rhetoric and quality writing, especially cinematic classics. In “The American President” (1995), Michael Douglas plays President Andrew Shepherd running for reelection against Senator Bob Rumson. Well-structured and well-argued, Shepherd’s speech at the end of the movie features a series of strong motives building off one another that explains why his speech is significant and needs to be presented in that moment. Shepherd begins by addressing Rumson’s attacks on his character head-on, then transitions into discussing the fragility of the state of freedom, both heated issues in the election campaign that Shepherd must immediately handle. He then returns to the question of character by defending his girlfriend’s character, which had been attacked by Rumson. His speech ends with two concrete actions he is prepared to undertake to fix certain problems in the country, concerns brought up in the campaign trail. Throughout his speech, his motive builds and expands, as the audience comes to understand Shepherd’s purpose in delivering the speech: to clear his name from the attacks of his political rival and to prove to the American people that he is the best person for leading the nation.
—Regina Zeng ’18
“For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being President of this country was, to a certain extent, about character. And although I’ve not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I have been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.
For the record, yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is “Why aren’t you, Bob?” Now this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question, why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the constitution? Now if you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago.
America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.
Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.
I’ve known Bob Rumson for years. And I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it!
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she’s to blame for their lot in life. And you go on television and you call her a whore.
Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, ’cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.
I’ve loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer. And I lost the other ’cause I was so busy keeping my job, I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now.
Tomorrow morning the White House is sending a bill to Congress for it’s consideration. It’s White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a twenty percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming. The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I’m throwing it out. I’m throwing it out and writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and hand guns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.
We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people. And if you want to talk about character, Bob, you’d better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I’ll show up. This a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up.”
One thing I’ve come to realize, as a theater certificate student just starting to think about independent work, is that even creative projects have a motive. There has to be a justification for putting on this play, in this place, at this time, and in this unique way. Rarely does the performance itself present the motive so explicitly as does Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton. In “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, Angelica raps about the musical’s eponymous lead: “Every other founding father’s story gets told/Every other founding father gets to grow old.” In one couplet, she justifies the musical biography of Alexander Hamilton, a founding father whose historical life has failed to capture the public’s imagination, despite the enormous political and economic legacy he left behind. In other words, Hamilton just “doesn’t get enough credit for all the credit he gave us.”
—Annabel Barry ’19
He took our country from bankruptcy to prosperity.
I hate to admit it, but he doesn’t get enough credit for all the credit he gave us.
WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Who tells your story?
Every other founding father’s story gets told.
Every other founding father gets to grow old.
But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?
In a Tortoiseshell: Sam’s paper contains a strong example of motive and the steps one must take to establish the importance of a paper’s line of inquiry. Considering sustainability as service, this passage demonstrates the logical progression of motive from global problems to more localized, solvable issues. From this progression of “macro” to “micro” motive, we gain a greater sense of the paper’s scope and relevance to the larger issues at hand.