Student Assigned Rhetorical Analysis of Paper Written While Drunk

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EVANSTON – Northwestern English professor Shelby Anderson debuted a joint policy between the NU English Department and the Evanston Police Department last Thursday. Students who turn in essays they clearly wrote while intoxicated must now analyze their paper’s diction, syntax, structure, and tone in the context of their drinking.

The first person to be affected by the policy is Weinberg sophomore Daniel O’Connor, the author of a “totally incoherent” paper on the short story “Araby” from James Joyce’s Dubliners.

Anderson reportedly held O’Connor’s paper out at arms’ length and addressed the boy in front of a puzzled and amused class: “Distance yourself from authorship of this as far as possible. Let it go. This paper was now written by not you. By some other creature, perhaps not of this earth. The author’s gender is now neutral. You will refer to it in the third person, simply as… ‘O’Connor.’”

Alone on his musty bed, O’Connor concentrated on an empty beer mug, imagining a warm golden ale filling it to the brim. Eventually, this mental conjuring warmed his body, and he was able to comprehend a full 47% of his assignment.

He then belched very loudly and experienced a vivid flash of the true nature of his life: a cruelly repetitive series of slaps in the face. He seethed at the thought of next week being the same as the last: the alcohol no better, the people no warmer, the women no more attainable. And he saw himself as a pouchy-cheeked man-child, standing alone on a barren hilltop.

Shaking, he faced the blank word processing document. He refused to roll over and give up. Dammit, he had written fifteen college application essays. Moreover, nine or ten of them had been about alcohol. He knew he could pull this off.

O’Connor toiled all night, eventually producing a five-page response analysis. Some excerpts are included below:

—At this point in the paper, Grey Goose takes control of the keyboard, referring to the lovesick protagonist’s imagination as a ‘cabana,’ and giving the unfortunate impression that O’Connor couldn’t give half a shit.

—O’Connor expertly employs a host of misfiring synapses in this rambling discourse
on Irish paralysis. Specifically, massive alliteration of ‘s’ and an abrupt shift in tone halfway through to what feels like pleading convey a muddled sense of the protagonist’s disillusionment with the tawdry bazaar, while providing a surprisingly accurate account of O’Connor’s own Saturday night.

Upon reading the paper, Professor Anderson called it “insightful, in a harrowing, go-puke-your-guts-out-in-a-toilet kind of way.” He paused to reflect, before adding, “While he may not be the next Joyce, I think the boy’s come a long way in addressing his literary problems from an alcoholic perspective – something every great [BURP] um, scholar, must do.”

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