THE WEB ESSAY: EXPLORING ARGUMENTS
William Zeigler believes that there are two basic types of essays: the exploratory and the expository. The exploratory essay seeks to prove an idea by turning it over and testing it, while the expository essay tries to prove an idea by pinning it down and establishing its validity. Zeigler describes the exploratory essay as "open" and the expository essay as "closed":
Umberto Eco's discussion of "open" and "closed" works in The Role of the Reader (1979) suggests a theoretical rationale . . . . Some art, Eco observes, deliberately refrains from making an unequivocal statement, but instead presents a large number of possibilities for the audience to arrange or distill. . . . In fiction or drama, this technique consists in creating sufficient complexity and ambiguity to permit a variety of valid interpretations - interpretations which do not exclude, but which complement and inform each other, so that every reader may give a somewhat different 'performance' of the text without violating its integrity. Works which permit such free interpretation Eco calls open works. Although he does not extend the concept to nonfiction prose, it is easy to see that expository composition - writing whose great virtue is to confine the reader to a single, unambiguous line of thought - is closed, in the sense of permitting, ideally, only one valid interpretation. An 'exploratory' essay, on the other hand, is an open work of nonfiction prose. It cultivates ambiguity and complexity to allow more than one reading or response to the work. (462)
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This page was made for Randy Bass' graduate seminar:
The Electronic Kool-Aid Acid Text, or, Text, Knowledge, and Pedagogy in the Electronic Age, Spring 1996.