the response essay

I re-read Kari Weil’s “Shameless Freedom” much more carefully. The editor from  JAC (Journal of Advanced Composition) also sent me the guidelines for a response essay. Here’s what a response essay needs to do:

  • “thoughtfully engage in the issues raised by the article”
  • “seek to extend and develop our thinking”
  • offer a sufficient summary of the article so readers understand the original article without having had to read it

My essay needs to be 10-20 pages long and is due 30 Nov. Gulp. There’s another really cool part of the response essay description, and it speaks to what we discussed about argumentative essays — that the purpose of such essays is to discover differing opinions and find some consensus. Here’s what the editor’s letter says: “I am not especially interested in publishing agonistic, ‘point–counterpoint’ arguments that leave us in the impasse of opposing views. This is not to say that you should not express your views in strong terms or clearly state a different, even opposing position. Response essays are a way that JAC “keeps the conversation going.'”

So what conversation am I keeping going? Controversy about the ending of J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace or the value of animal life, human and non-human? Both. The essay is about both, and my response needs to deal with both. Right now, I’m stuck in that agonistic place, focusing on each instance where I disagree or agree with Weil. I can add more nuance to the reading of the novel. But I pretty much agree with her final reading. This morning, I’m thinking I’ll never get the essay done, and I have nothing important to say. Ah, yes. Welcome to the wonderful world of writing!


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