Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dissolve the Intellectual Iorn Curtain: Use "They Say; I Say"

 They Say I Say "What's Motivating the Writer"

Hey fellow students! Did you ever wish you could find a magic statement to make all that obscure and complex academic writing easy to understand? Did you ever wish you could utter some phrase akin to abracadabra to make all those complex sentences and three syllable words just disappear? How can you translate all that stuffy intellectual mumbo jumbo into plain old English? Well, Graff and Birkenstein have the solution for you: “They say; I say!” That’s right! After reading the text, if you use the words “they say” to pinpoint the argument the author is responding to and use “I say” to summarize the author’s response to that argument, voila! You can actually understand what you are reading! Let’s use Sontag’s “The Imagination of Disaster” as a case study to see this genius idea in action.

“It is fantasy served out in large rations by the popular arts, which allows most people to cope with these two specters…unremitting banality and inconceivable terror.” (316)

Say what?! Relax, breathe, repeat. Let’s re-interpret that sentence using “They say; I say!”

They say: “Hey Sontag! Did you see that new sci-fi movie this weekend? Everyone is raving about it! Sci-fi is so awesome!”

I say [Sontag]: "Well, the only reason sci-fi is so popular is because it helps us escape from the boredom of our daily lives and calms our fears about the world around us.”

So, Sontag is making an argument for why sci-fi is such a popular film genre. It's exciting and helps us deal with realities in the world we do not want to face. That’s easy to get. Let’s continue.

“Science fiction films are one of the most accomplished of popular art forms and can give a great deal of pleasure to sophisticated film addicts. Part of the pleasure…comes from…complicity with the abhorrent…the films perpetuate clichés about identity, volition, power, knowledge, happiness, social consensus, guilt [and] responsibility.” (317)

Wait, what is she saying now?! Let’s try “They say; I say!” again!

They say:  "Sontag, are you calling me stupid just because I like sci-fi films? I have a double degree in biochemistry and nuclear physics, was captain of the chess team in high school and was almost smart enough to get into Mensa! How dare you question my intelligence?!"

I say [Sontag]: "Relax, I wasn’t calling you stupid! I know smart, sophisticated people like you can love sci-fi and that doesn’t make them dumb.  I mean, I like sci-fi too. What I meant was, morally they are bad for society. Before you disagree with me, just think of all the horrible stereotypes sci-films embrace just to give us a good time. We should be breaking stereotypes not eating popcorn while applauding them."

Now I get it. Sontag is saying loving sci-fi does not mean you have a limited intelligence or that you have poor taste in films. Even she likes some sci-fi films. It’s just that by loving sci-fi we may be unconsciously agreeing with the stereotypes repeated in these films, even if we would consciously disagree with those same stereotypes in our everyday lives. It's kind of how I never realized how sexist sci-fi films can be until after I watched the video, "Evil Demon Seductress."

Wow! That only took a few minutes to do! Now I am going to use “They say; I say,” to summarize the entire article! I wonder how people understood Shakespeare before “They say, I say” came along…


  1. I love this!!! I'm going to use this method in some of my readings.

  2. Oh my godddd. I just wanna say that this is so well written so thought out and was just an absolutely great blog post ! I agree with everything you wrote and certainly used this to help me understand our assignment a lot more. GREAT STUFF

  3. Wow this is so nice, can you teach me how to do my writing like yours

  4. Watch out, everyone! Dawn's going for the Blog of the Week hat trick!

  5. Thanks...The funny thing is the less seriously you take the whole blogging thing, the easier it is to write ;-)

  6. Why are your post always so freaking good?!?!?!?!?!? Ill pay you to do mine( Just broke)