Essay #5 Tip Sheet

Essay #5: Critique

Begin by reading:

Your writing task:

Choose one of these essays and write an academic critique. The critique should communicate your understanding of the article's main points and offer an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.

NOTE: Please do not write a critique of both articles. Choose one or the other.

A Red Herring to ignore

I expect at least one or two students to say, "I'm not gay and I'm not transgender, so I can't write this paper." That's a cop-out. For one thing, the topic of this paper is not you or your experiences. For another:

Discussion:

Sullivan

This article was published 18 years ago, at the end of an era when it was illegal to simply be gay. Gay people could lose their jobs merely because they were gay, and many things we take for granted (renting an apartment, visiting a sick spouse in the hospital, or even just walking in the park and holding hands) were unavailable to gay people 20 or 30 years ago. It is difficult to overstate how separated the gay world was from the rest of society.

Sullivan is an interesting character. He was born and raised in Britain, is a practicing Roman Catholic and is a former editor of The New Republic a liberal magazine that focuses on politics, contemporary culture and the arts.

Myers

Pronouns: The English language struggles with the idea of a singular personal pronoun that doesn't make a gender reference. We're sort of stuck with he/him and she/her. "They" is starting to be acceptable, but it's often confusing. Myers self-presents as a male, and the publishers of the article used a masculine pronoun, so "he/him" seems appropriate. Don't panic and overdo things.

Hints for success:

Students often assume that every possible reader is a member of this class and is holding a copy of the assignment. Your audience is larger. Don't fire up your essay with statements that require us to read your mind. Don't begin like this:

This is a great article, and the author's point in paragraph three is really the core of the argument.

Don't keep us in the dark! Open with a quick discussion of the name of the article, who wrote it, and what was its main point.

You will do much better on this paper if you begin with the right question. You are not trying to answer "Is it OK to be gay or to be transgender?" You are trying to answer the question "Did the article succeed in what it aimed to do—and did it aim at doing something worthwhile?

We often ignore titles so we can quickly get into the meat of the reading, but both of these articles have excellent titles that reveal a lot about the content that follows. Don't ignore the title when you are writing your critique.

Sullivan

Don't put words into his mouth. When Sullivan writes, "When I grew up and realized I was gay," you are misrepresenting him when you claim he said, "When I grew up and decided to become gay." He does not represent the process as if it was something he opted for. It wasn't "shall I be gay or straight?" It was more like, "Well this is who I am. How shall I deal with it?"

Past students who have written about this article were totally confused about the law. If Canada decides to legalize something, that decision is not binding on the USA. We are not part of Canada. As a matter of fact, if Massachusetts or Texas make a law, that isn't binding on Ohio either (though things are a little more complex in the USA because we must honor the laws of other states—which is why you can drive a car in Texas using your Ohio driver's license).

One question to ask of Sullivan is whether legalizing gay marriage worked. Did his dream come true in the 18 years since the article was published, or not? Another question to ask is why Sullivan says gay marriage is a conservative idea—and whether he is right about that.

Myers

I found this article in an anthology of essays targeted at college freshmen, but it was first published in a magazine for LGBTQ persons (and that's the version you are reading). One question to ask is whether Myers was "preaching to the choir"—trying to convince people who already agreed with him. Note that there are two things going on in this article: Myers's transgender experience, and Myers's experience as a woman.


The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.

Revised 7/23/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: callen@ashland.edu.