WATANABE Masako Ema
- 名古屋大学大学院教育発達科学研究科紀要. 教育科学 (ISSN:13460307)
- vol.58, no.2, pp.1-13, 2011
Using a structural comparison of the dissertation and the essay (French and American academic writing), this paper attempts to clarify the differences in thought and written expression of these writing structures in the two countries, examining the societal and cultural background that has influenced both styles of writing. In contrast to the dissertation, which has a dialectical three-stage structure of thesis-antithesissynthesis, the essay focuses on the thesis, the author's claims, and supporting evidence. The essay in its simplified structure is likened to the "arrow shot at the target" in a straight line, whereas the dissertation is more of a "bird's eye view" depicting the largest possible structural outline for the theme and the integrating of opposing viewpoints. The two styles clearly have contrasting features, for the essay places importance on creating a firm link between the claim and the grounds, while the dissertation accepts the complexity of the theme and attempts mostly to describe the full picture. The elimination of the antithesis and synthesis from American academic writing is relatively recent, tracing back to the 1960s, when American higher education became rapidly popularized. It was created from the necessity to have a form of academic wiring that could be easily written by students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The American style of essay is designed to work well in a popular democracy. By contrast, the dissertation was introduced at the end of the 19th century as a symbol of the new society and education after the French Revolution. With the arrival of the dissertation, it can be said that the traditional education of France in the classical languages and rhetoric was transformed into a discipline that makes use of dialectics to build up a robust form of personal thought. However, the intellectual tradition descended from Greek and Roman thought remains in the dialectical structure of the dissertation and in the common culture of French literature and philosophy. The French dissertation presupposes that the educated are the successors of the ancients, their raison d'étre based on a cultural superiority inherent in the classics, the knowledge of which inspires a method of thinking that necessitates a comprehensive viewpoint integrating opposing views. The dissertation, then, is the written embodiment of this pedagogical, philosophical perspective. I suggest that this way of thinking could offer a counterpoint to globalism, which imposes a uniform set of rules and viewpoints on everyone.