Choosing a Form of Narrative

The following four philosophies come from Richard Fulkerson's article entitled "Four Philosophies of Composition." They explain the four different perspectives from which a composition can be understood or read.

When choosing which form of narrative best reflects your audience and your goals, consider the following perspectives of composition.

Please keep in mind:
Different readers will read your narrative with different philosophies on writing and composition.
Which philosophy of writing will your audience most likely have or prefer?
Which of the four philosophies best reflects your goals and needs for the project?

Philosophy #1: Expressive
This type of writing emphasizes the writer and illustrates a process of self-discovery. An expressive reader values a composition in which he or she is able to see a personal experience of the narrator and identifies with the individual's growth or change, a common human experience.

Philosophy #2: Mimetic
This type of writing emphasizes a correspondence and relationship with reality. It involves logical reasoning and the analysis of a present situation or event with an emphasis on research. A mimetic reader believes that good writing comes from good thinking and evaluating.

Philosophy #3: Rhetorical
This type of writing emphasizes the effect on the reader. Called textbook writers, rhetorical writers relate back to classical rhetoric and writing styles and techniques that have been established by great minds of the past. A rhetorical reader likes to read historical references and ties to a present event or situation.

Philosophy #4: Formalist
This type of writing emphasizes the traits internal to the work or requirements of a specific task. It stresses the importance of fulfilling all of the focus areas or standards defined by the academic community, including such areas as grammar and sentence structure. A formalistic reader wants to find precise form and a clear grasp of the required elements of composition.

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