When you are editing a first draft of an essay, what are the steps you take, and why?
Every writer has a different brain, so it is important for writers to develop their own editing process that fits the way they like to think. This is my process, so it is just one example of many different ways to do things. My job as a tutor would be to help writers come up with a process that works for them. First, I re-read the essay and make note of any glaring continuity or clarity issues—things even I don’t understand, because I know those will be hard for others to understand. I fix those things first. Starting big and fixing things in chunks makes it less overwhelming to edit even a very long paper, because it breaks everything down into steps. I also know that if the big things don’t work (like the thesis), then even the best grammar and style won’t fix the essay, so it is important to me to make sure that foundation is really solid before anything else. Then, I edit the essay for structure. I look at the flow of ideas from my thesis to my body paragraphs, and make sure that my argument is continuous and relates to all the parts of my essay. One of the best ways to check this is by making sure my topic sentences clearly advance my argument, and cross-referencing the evidence analysis to the topic sentences. At this point, I move paragraphs around if I feel like the order isn’t serving my argument. This step brings the big thinking and argument-making to the level of the paragraph, which is a microcosm of the larger argument in a more digestible segment. Once I feel like the argument is strong, I go down to the level of the sentences. I check the sentences for order first, and I make sure that their order within each paragraph serves the argument. Then I edit each sentence for grammar, tone, style, and word choice. Doing this step frees me up when I am drafting my essay—I know I don’t have to stress out about word choice because I will come back to it later, so I write much more quickly and courageously. After that, I zoom back out again, and read the whole thing out loud, just to make sure it sounds as good and makes as much sense as it does in my head.
What is the significance of the title of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing?
First of all, it is important to note that with Shakespeare, a lot of analysis is based on personal interpretation, and a lot is colored by research and general knowledge of Renaissance Drama. My answer to these question includes both of these, and may be different from the answer of someone who has an alternate interpretation! Much Ado About Nothing, as is common with Shakespeare comedies, features multiple plot-lines that create confusion and throw a situation that begins in relative stasis into chaos, and then back into stasis again. The chaos in this play is caused by a rumor about Hero that turns out to be false, but causes a lot of damage. With this very literal title, Shakespeare is both commenting on the content of the play, and establishing that the play acts as a commentary on the genre of the comedy. Shakespeare’s meta-commentary is bolstered by the presence of a pun in the title. “Nothing,” in Elizabethan England, was a slang term for female genitalia. The rumor about Hero is slandering her reputation—Don Jon convinces Claudio, Hero’s fiancé, that Hero has been sexually promiscuous. There is, literally, a big to-do about Hero’s private parts, and how she chooses to exercise them. This is emblematic of the masculine anxiety about cuckoldry that is pervasive in Shakespeare’s comedies, but one of the only direct commentaries Shakespeare makes addressing that anxiety. Shakespeare is making a remarkably advanced commentary about male anxiety in Elizabethan Drama—how easy it is to manipulate, and how it has been used unfairly as a means of controlling women.
What is a “woman”? Given the increasing importance and visibility of trans rights, how do trans women and non binary femmes fit into the definition of “woman” as seen through a contemporary feminist perspective?
While sex is about biology—chromosomes, physiology, phenotype—gender is about identity and presentation. Since “woman” is a socially constructed category referring to feminine gender presentation, a woman is someone who identifies as such, whether or not they were assigned “female” at birth. Trans women identify as women, so it is vital, regardless of biology, to respect their gender identity. Modern feminism is unique in its commitment to intersectionality—the idea (coined by civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw) that identities like gender and sexuality intersect with other personal identities such as race and class, to create unique perspectives and relationships to oppression in every individual. From an intersectional perspective, it is particularly important to respect the rights of trans women and non binary folks who claim the label “woman,” because they have struggled with their gender identity in ways that cisgender women have not. Intersectional feminism is about respecting the life experiences of all people, and supporting those who have been historically oppressed.