Marisa Milanese, Editor
Download this note

One of the course goals of the Arts and Sciences Writing Program is to craft “substantive, motivated, balanced arguments.” By “motivated,” we mean that our students’ essays should address what Kate L. Turabian calls an essential “gap in knowledge or understanding,” something that provides an occasion for the essay that is more meaningful than its due date. Rather than supplying our students such motivation with a direct prompt, we encourage them to locate the gaps that motivate them. The nine essays in the third issue of WR were selected from more than 350 submissions. What distinguishes them is ambition, eloquence, and a motivation manifest in both writer and writing.

Nearly 7,000 Boston University undergraduates take a Writing Program course each year, and the essays here represent the impressive work our students produce on often unfamiliar subjects. They reflect the increasing diversity of topics that our courses cover, from public health to documentary film to technological innovations. In addition, our three prize-winning essays demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of our students’ interests and projects. Krissy King considers the relationship between olfaction and consciousness in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Sean Manton argues that Dissociative Identity Disorder—once called Multiple Personality Disorder—has both neurobiological and neurodevelopmental origins. And Laura Brubaker draws on Soviet history and film theory to explore the influences underlying Elem Klimov’s war film Come and See.

For the first time in WR, we are including instructor forewords that describe the broader context and specific strengths of each essay. We want not only to recognize our instructors for their successes, but also to show the diverse ways that they participate in the formation of motivated arguments. With expertise and patience, our instructors help to shape claims that are informed and balanced, far removed from Stephen Colbert’s rhetorical strategy: “I can’t prove it, but I can say it.”

Intellectually and rhetorically, these essays engage their readers, and, as every writer knows, that is no simple achievement. To sustain our interest over the course of ten to fifteen pages requires both an argument worthy of such attention and a writer commensurate to the challenge. Representing the best efforts of this year’s Writing Program courses, these authors successfully motivate us to think about their work long after we have finished reading.