Activity Thirtyfour The writers place in personal and academic writing

Read the following three passages and check them against the list of 'personal' and 'academic' features in the table above. Answer the questions below about each of them.

• Does the passage tell us anything about the writer?

• Where does the information come from?

• Does the writer present any of her own opinions?

Remember that we are asking you to think about these passages in order to think about what you are doing when you write yourself.

Passage 1

When I was 9 years old my parents split up and I went to live with my mother and new stepfather. My brother stayed at home with my father. This split-up of the family was very painful to me at the time because it was as though I had lost my father and my brother and our family home all at once. I think it made me less confident than I had been.

(Carol, a postgraduate student)

Passage 2

However, it should also be clear that it is not easy for women to survive as heads of single-parent families. Female-headed households face a situation of relative social isolation. Especially in the early stages of the domestic cycle, single-parent women must both work for money and do all the domestic chores. This leaves no time to establish and extend relationships. Indeed, it is often difficult for them to maintain relationships with kin. There is the money problem too. Female-headed households, since they are very poor, do not have material resources to get involved in social exchange. Esperanza's case is illustrative of this point.

Passage 3

Briefly, the family politics were as follows: Elizabeth Barrett was the eldest of eleven children living with her parents at 'Hope End' in Ledbury, Herefordshire. As a small child her precocious talent was recognized and rewarded by her father. In her diary she wrote: 'In my sixth year for some lines on virtue which I had penned with great care I received from Papa a ten shilling note enclosed in a letter which was addressed to the Poet Laureat [sic] of Hope End'. Encouraged by paternal approval she continued to turn out masses of apprentice stuff, generally rehashes of works by male authors, such as her 'Battle of Marathon' in imitation of Pope. Of all her siblings, she was closest to her brother Edward, nicknamed Bro', born in 1807, one year after Elizabeth. They all spent their time together -climbing, fishing, horseriding, organizing plays and picnics. She shared Bro's tutor, Mr McSwiney, and learned Greek with him. But when Bro' left for Charterhouse Mr McSwiney left too. On the last page of the diary there is a striking sense of an ungendered Paradise Lost: 'My past days now appear as a bright star glimmering far, faraway and I feel almost agony to turn from it for ever!' She plotted that when she was grown-up she would 'wear men's clothes and live on a Greek island, the sea melting into turquoise all around it'.

The day Bro' left for school at the age of 13, Elizabeth realized that there was an inescapable difference between being a clever boy and being a clever girl. She was literally 'left behind' at what now seemed the aptly named 'Hope End'. Figuratively she was afraid of being left behind intellectually and was consumed with envy of the previously beloved brother.

(Hirsch 1995: 120)

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