網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

say. It is a good half of the whole truth. The only remedies that we can see for the incomplete condition of things are, either more time for English courses, so that the technique of writing may be mastered, yet not at the expense of the student's larger life, or a closer fusing of creative work with analytic, so that technical terms will always name concrete inventions of the student himself.

Such thoughts as these have dictated the plan of the present book. It consists of two parts, one of which discusses composition in general, the other the kinds of composition. The study of the structure of the long composition is placed before the study of any part of the theme, and before the study of narration, description, and exposition. This is done because too much must not be taken for granted, even in the case of students who have finished an elementary work, and because by the end of the first high school year students are mature enough, even though previously untrained in the art of structure, to face the question of handling their thought in some quantity. Every effort has been made to render this study of structure as practical as possible.

E.g. A First Manual of Composition.

1

However analytic the principles involved, they are stated one at a time, illustrated by three kinds of examples — narrative, descriptive, expository — and applied in oral and written exercises. The development and the unity of the outline are considered with regard to the laws of time, space, generalization, cause and effect, and contrast. The same laws are then applied to the development and the unity of the paragraph and of the sentence. The use of the three kinds of illustration narrative, descriptive, expository - is kept up throughout all these chapters, even that on the sentence, for such words as unity denote different things in different kinds of writing, and denote little except when the concrete example is at hand. So long as the meaning of every principle is grasped in the concrete, there is no danger that sharp analysis will grow mechanical.

Another device is introduced which, as experience has shown, will materially strengthen the student's grasp of theory. It provides for applying every principle to the student's own work, on a scale small enough to permit thoroughness. Teachers know that many pupils who do intelligently the work of some admirable series of exercises still "go to pieces" in

their own writing. In Part First of this book the construction and progressive revision of five long themes is suggested. As soon as each new principle has been illustrated, and has been applied in the exercises, the student attempts to embody it in his five themes, which have been built up according to the laws of structure out of very different kinds of material. This is not creative work, but certainly it can be made constructive work of a most concrete sort.1 If it is thoroughly done, the principles that apply to writing in general will really be understood, and may thenceforth be permitted to become less consciously operative. Such revision will not be necessary in the work of Part Second.

On the completion of Part First, the five long themes, now perfected even in diction to the utmost of the student's critical ability, are laid aside, and attention is turned to the kinds of composition. The pupil now writes more freely, on a variety of topics, with much regard to the sense elements. The kind of topics and their grouping are shown in the table of con

1 Why this expenditure of critical energy may be constructive and pleasurable rather than destructive and tedious I have tried to explain to the student on pages 33–35.

tents. With certain warnings and restrictions, models are freely set. It is poor pedagogy to fear or to despise the instinct of imitation, in which creative work always begins. Models should be brief but numerous, illustrating one principle at a time. The more interesting they are; the deeper they appeal to the student's hunger for ideals; the farther they stand from the status of corpora vilia — why, the more

– , delightful and effective they will be in their influence. It is suggested that the themes produced in the course of studying Part Second should be criticized far less with regard to structure than with regard to the effects produced. Is the theme interesting? Does it stir the sense of pity, or indignation, or humor, at which it was aimed? Are the things described well chosen, beautiful in themselves, vividly presented? Does the exposition really explain ? Does the argument really convince or persuade? There is no principle of literature which may not be brought into play in these themes, providing always that the student is kept to the range of his own experience. This provision regarded, time will show that the college instructor, so far from regretting that the candidate for entrance attempted work in the types of composition, will be grateful that an elementary sense of literary effect has been born in that student. It will be elementary enough at best.

The author recommends that the entire book be studied in the order of presentation. It will provide about two hundred and fifty recitations, although the “ Exercises” are only one hundred and fifty in number. When time does not permit, or when an instructor, approving the plan in general, finds the proportion of parts unadapted to the needs of his class, various omissions can easily be made. The five long themes can be omitted, or they can be retained and made the only written exercises of Part First. It

It may be that some teachers will give Part First as a whole, while omitting Part Second from want of time. Even a fourth possibility remains, that of reading Part First through aloud, but of writing only the exercises of Part Second. It is indeed strongly urged that every page used shall be read aloud in class. The American boy is not a good reader in any sense of the word ; his newspaper habits and the overcrowded condition of schools conspire to make his infrequent oral

« 上一頁繼續 »