In a Tortoiseshell: In his paper for Anthropologies of Climate and Change, Liam Seeley argues that we can rethink our relationship to our changing climate by focusing on how it interacts with our lungs. Climate is not fully external to us, as air enters our bodies with each breath we take. Liam treats the lungs as a metaphor for the functioning of climate on a larger scale; the lungs offer a microcosm of the social and political facets of climate change. His essay has a particularly powerful narrative, driven by stories about how the lungs live in—and are damaged by—the world. Liam’s treatment of narrative is essential to his motive, thesis, and scholarly conversation. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: In his paper for Aesthetics and Film, David Veldran discusses immoral fictional characters and their potential benefits for improving our moral intuitions. He weaves together a complex scholarly motive, which allows him to clearly demonstrate the necessity of his original argument, “aufheben.”
In a Tortoiseshell: In this excerpt, Will conducts a careful close reading to analyze the chronological ending of David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas. He begins by selectively choosing pieces of evidence from the novel, creating a strong foundation for his analysis. Importantly, this analysis goes beyond merely interpreting individual pieces of evidence; it is grounded in a surprising and compelling argument about his source. Continue reading
The theme for this year’s issue of Tortoise, narrative, emerged from a section of our previous issue. Last spring, we defined narrative as that “certain something which makes it easier for a reader to follow the author’s argument from point A to point B.” In this issue, we hope to draw and build on this definition of narrative in scholarly writing.
Through the excerpts (as well as one full-length feature piece) that we have chosen for publication, we consider the stories we tell and the way we tell them in academic writing. How does good storytelling help us to craft a compelling argument? What role can “creative” techniques such as metaphor, setting, and imagery play in our academic writing? And reciprocally, how do the lexicon terms present themselves in creative writing?
Most of our pieces explore the role of storytelling in scholarly writing. Across papers from a wide range of contexts and disciplines — from writing seminar papers to a Comparative Literature JP to a close reading paper for the East Asian Humanities Sequence — we examine the narrative techniques that these authors employ to strengthen their use of lexicon terms. What happens when a writer conveys their motive through a vivid anecdote? Can we think of orienting as a kind of worldbuilding?
Although Tortoise typically publishes academic writing, in this issue we have chosen to include an Unconventional Genre section. This section features three pieces that fall outside what we might think of as traditional scholarly writing: a short story, a speech, and a museum exhibition statement. How do these more explicitly narrative-driven genres draw on conventions of academic writing in order to tell a story?
We hope that you will enjoy this unconventional issue of Tortoise and join us in exploring the intersections of scholarly and creative writing!
— Meigan Clark, ’22
In any piece of writing—academic or otherwise—orienting information is not a mere prelude to what follows. Providing just the right amount of context is crucial if the reader is to understand the argument. Both pieces in this section contain strong examples of narrative that rely on orienting for their emotional and argumentative impact. Akhila Bandlora’s paper orients readers in the theoretical literature surrounding racialized bodies to add to the reader’s “understanding of Black pain.” In her commentary, editor Diane Yang emphasizes Bandlora’s skillful differentiation of an array of scholarly sources. Similarly, in her essay, Meryl Liu provides relevant historical context to orient her argument in the larger narrative surrounding the non-reformist prison abolition movement. According to editor Owen Travis, Liu’s treatment of key terms in her orienting section provides a strong framework for her subsequent analysis.
— Frances Mangina, ’22
Strong motive is generally a prerequisite for a strong argument. When authors respond to a particular puzzle or incongruity in their evidence, they narrow the scope of their argument and also clarify its implications. Papers with compelling motives often tap into broader personal or societal narratives. For example, editor Emily Wu points out that Sam Bisno’s paper builds on an incongruity in a painting by David Hammon to explore the artist’s storytelling and its relationship to the Civil Rights Movement. Ayra Maheshwari’s paper on air pollution in India and the accompanying editor commentary also focus on global motive. Conversely, in her discussion of Willow Dalehite’s paper on Irish music, editor Natalia Zorilla emphasizes the personal narratives that motivate Dalehite’s argument. Both Christina Cho’s and Owen Travis’ editor commentaries (discussing David Veldran’s paper for the Philosophy Department’s Aesthetics and Film Junior Seminar and Anais Mobarak’s paper on Hugo Chávez’s mythologization of Simón Bolívar, respectively) focus on scholarly motive. Despite their scholarly framing, both papers engage with the role of narrative in today’s society: the stories we tell, whether through film or political mythology, affect our ethical interpretation of our surroundings.
— Frances Mangina, ’22
All the papers in this section are unified by their use of close reading, a particularly versatile form of analysis that can offer strong evidence for an author’s argument. Lara Katz’s paper compares the treatment of loneliness and powerlessness in two poems, one by Chinese poet Su Shi and the other by Japanese poet Ono no Komachi. Editor Jasmine Rivers explains how Katz breaks down larger pieces of evidence into close readings on a more manageable scale. William Koloc’s paper on Cloud Atlas is also grounded in close readings of a literary text, in this case a novel rather than poetry. In her commentary, editor Natalia Zorilla focuses on how Koloc combines a series of small-scale close readings to build a cohesive argument. Megan Pan’s paper stands out because it involves close readings of an anime show rather than a written text. Editor Diane Yang discusses how Pan’s close readings overlap with her use of analytic lenses and her development of global motive.
— Frances Mangina, ’22
Starting in college, students are taught to employ the lexicon in the context of traditional academic papers. However, all three pieces in this section combine familiar argumentative methods with the powerful narratives evoked by their creative formats. In her imagined inaugural speech for the (fictional) opening of Princeton University Medical School, Nisha Chandra makes an argument about racial equity in medicine. Editor Alice McGuinness illuminates Chandra’s use of the lexicon, including her treatment of key terms, evidence, and structure. Shirley Chen’s exhibition statement for a hypothetical museum exhibit employs orienting and motive. In her commentary, editor Meigan Clark argues that Chen invites viewers to participate in the exhibition’s argument and scholarly conversation. Finally, editor Joe Himmelfarb discusses how David Smith’s short story “The Quarters” employs motive and methodology.
— Frances Mangina, ’22
In a Tortoiseshell: In this East Asian Humanities paper, Lara Katz juxtaposes two poets’ unique styles of engaging with the themes of loneliness and powerlessness. Through strong evidence choice and masterful close reading skills, Lara analyzes the works’ poetic forms (length, literary devices, voice, etc.) to demonstrate how this juxtaposition reveals more about the texts than if they were considered in isolation. The following excerpt deconstructs the poets’ respective approaches to poetic focus and reader engagement through imagery. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: In the following excerpt, Nisha Chandra uses the conventions of a speech for the imaginary opening of Princeton’s medical school to craft compelling analysis, guided by her definition of key terms.