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Durham University

Department of Anthropology: Writing Across Boundaries

Narrative, Rhetoric and Representation

The relationship between narrative, representation and rhetoric is an intimate one, and success in writing is significantly dependent on an integration of these three components of  discourse: they constitute in practice the logic, focus and vigour (i.e. the vivication) of a text, and, appropriately unified, are the vehicle that bears its message from the writer to the reader. How they are unified is through active and sentient reflection during the writing process. This does not occur easily. It happens only when the author disburses her/himself of the cognitive notion that communication is the coded delivery of preformulated messages. It is not. A successful act of authorship brings to birth a new being,quite separate from what goes on in the writer's head, which then takes on a life of its own. Narrative, Rhetoric and Representation are its midwives, and they have the ability to carry a work far beyond the Caesarean brutality of setting down mere facts in a memory chronicle. The links below contain some suggestions for exploring these elements of the writer's craft, and for utilising them in the various genres of academic writing; the first analyses, and assesses the functions of, a number of contrasting styles of social science (mainly ethnographic) writing; the second connects to some references about reflection in the writing process; the third slight item has as its precursors those nineteenth century rhymed mnemonics for helping schoolchildren remember their history lessons,or,indeed, any other set of child-unfriendly information. How are the key features it highlights incorporated in your writing, and, more importantly, what do they do?