In his essay “Structure and Form in Non-Narrative Prose,” Richard Larson explains what he sees as the three categories of paragraph theory: paragraphs (1) as expanded sentences, governed by comparable syntactical forces; (2) as self-contained units of writing with their own unique principles; and (3) as parts of the overall discourse, informed by the strategies a writer chooses for the overall piece.Reading this passage, my reaction is: Interesting!
And: Help is on its way.
Any one of these theories of the paragraph sounds as if it might be very useful to me in teaching college freshmen how to write a 5-paragraph English paper.
Unfortunately, Larson is not findable on Google, and there's no more to be learned from Lunsford, who buries Larson and his ilk in her next paragraph:
Today, partially as a result of the poststructuralist and feminist critique, scholars are challenging conventional paragraph norms. In Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, V. N. Volosinov notes that “to say that a paragraph is supposed to consist of a complete thought amounts to absolutely nothing.” Beginning with this provocative insight, Kay Halasek’s book A Pedagogy of Possibility [the Amazon results, not the book] shows the ways in which composition textbooks have traditionally taught the paragraph in strictly traditional ways, as unified, coherent, and tightly linear. But Halasek works to redefine the paragraph as dialogic, as a negotiation among writer, audience, subject, and other textual elements that surround it. Most important, Halasek insists, is for instructors of writing to understand that the process of producing “unified,” “cohesive” paragraphs calls for ignoring, erasing, or otherwise smoothing out a diversity of discourses and voices. Thus teaching students to be aware of this process not only illuminates a great deal about how “good” paragraphs get constructed but also introduces them to a philosophy of language that is not based on current traditional positivism or objectivism.Even if I agreed with the sentiments expressed in this paragraph, which I don't, the words "to say that a paragraph is supposed to consist of a complete thought amounts to absolutely nothing" tells me absolutely nothing about what to do in class next Tuesday.
Then there's this:
Today theorists are questioning the ideologies surrounding practices of quotation. An early critique of such practices appears in the work of Bakhtin and Volosinov, who question the ways in which quotation perpetuates a view of language as the property of a radically unique individual rather than as a set of socially constructed systems.and this:
Volosinov, Valentin N. “Exposition of the Problem of Reported Speech.” Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1973. Here Volosinov mounts a powerful critique of quotation practices, revealing the ways they are inevitably embedded in ideology.The Everyday Writer costs $57.99 on Amazon.