Do We Write Essays In Present Tense

Do We Write Essays In Present Tense-29
We should pause to offer a little pity to Jay Mc Inerney.

We should pause to offer a little pity to Jay Mc Inerney.

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Hensher went so far as to write an op-ed—in the present tense—complaining the present tense was “everywhere, like Japanese Knotweed.” His complaint is at least among the most generous I’ve come across—it acknowledges some historical examples of the present tense like Dickens’s , as well as that it is used in both English lyric poetry and the vernacular, as well as in journalism and screenplay treatments.

Phillip Pullman did much the same, his op-ed citing the verb tense’s use in also, as well as, occasionally, in Jane Eyre.

He insists the present tense was rarely used before that year, and is better left that way.

Gass then adds, re: women, “And they hand me a list of a hundred authors each named Ann (or Anne).” And of course, includes a dig at Jay Mc Inerney’s .

Related: what seems to be the writer hanging back and not judging, because there is no time for that if something appears to be happening in the instant.

The writer, for better or for worse, is always present in the material (whether you want to call the writer an invisible—or sometimes quite visible—character, or not) but can appear to be just casually noticing what is unfolding, how things are proceeding.

He would seem to be aiming at writers like Colette, Anais Nin, Jean Rhys or Marguerite Duras (I’ll let you all decide which Anns he means).

But at least part of the popularity of the present tense in 1987 must have come from the work of men also—in particular, writers like Updike, his Rabbit novels all written in the present tense—beginning in 1960—and bestsellers.

James Salter’s present tense novel of erotic obsession, , was published in 1967. And one of my favorite examples includes Gass—who never mentions anything in his essay of his experience of writing his own, much beloved story, “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country,” written in the present tense in 1967—and which was and still is so widely taught, it easily has done as much to spread the use of the present tense as anything else anyone published in the 20 century.

He is oddly sure to fault writing teachers in programs for the spread of the tense, but he also says they are not teaching it—he believes the students are teaching it to each other, not the professors, and blames the professors for this.


Comments Do We Write Essays In Present Tense

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