Writing Exercises 11-14
Nouns as Appositives:
So far you have been experimenting with verbs in equative clauses and in short sentences, with noun fragments, and with nouns in lists. Both verbs and nouns control the rhythm and the movement of short paragraphs--speeding them up, slowing them down, and bringing them to a halt.
In Exercises 6-10, we used nouns to build impressions of an event or a person. In the following sentence, however, notice how the expanded noun catalogue presents the information in a different format:
He was unpredictable, at times a sly mischief-maker, at other times a cruel tyrant, a rascal playing with dangerous arrows, and a beatific divinity, a dispenser as well as a healer of wounds. (Louis Untermeyer)
Untermeyer uses what are called appositives: the placing of words or phrases in a series such that the latter help to explain the former and they have the same grammatical construction. Their purpose is to redirect and to reorganize the reader's attention as you shift your own perspective as a writer and add new emphases. In terms of film, you could consider this technique a circling pan around a single object.
The appositive can be used to open or to close your argument, to generalize or to specify, to qualify or to confirm. It does this in two ways:
1) Reiteration--adding new information to the original base clause through repetition and accumulation.
This was the generation whose girls dramatized themselves as flappers, the generation that corrupted its elders and eventually overreached itself less through lack of morals than through lack of taste. (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
2) Synonymy--qualifying the abstract noun or pronoun in the original base clause by adding specific details.
A truly Byronic figure, he was strikingly handsome and flamboyantly reckless, an aristocrat who lampooned his class, a physically handicapped and psychologically maimed youth who triumphed over every disadvantage, an audacious rebel who loved liberty and could not refuse a folly, a dreamer courting disaster, an irresistible lover, and an irresponsibly shocking genius. (Louis Untermeyer)
Untermeyer's sentence opens with an inverted appositive, but it is essentially a simple base clause (“he was…”) followed by a series of 6 appositives incorporating more material to define the pronoun he. But where do appositives come from? How are they created?
He was [A] truly Byronic figure.
He was strikingly handsome and flamboyantly reckless.
He was an aristocrat who lampooned his class.
He was a physically handicapped and psychologically maimed youth who loved liberty and could not refuse a folly.
He was a dreamer courting disaster.
He was an irrestible lover.
[and] He was an irresponsibly shocking genius.
More importantly, the appositive can be created not only from nouns but from verbs and from adverbs.
He has surrounded himself from the penalties of his own folly.
He has enclosed himself from the penalties of his own folly.
He has insulated himself from the penalties of his own folly.
He has surrounded himself, enclosed himself, insulated himself from the penalties of his own folly. (William Faulkner)
The church was not very far away.
The church was four blocks up Lenox Avenue.
The church was on a corner not far from the hospital.
The church was not very far away, four blocks up Lenox Avenue, on a corner not far from the hospital. (James Baldwin)
Write 1 brief paragraph in imitation of the Fitzgerald example listed under “Reiteration.’ Use the repetition of a key word or phrase in a series of appositives to add new data to the original base clause. Underline the key word/phrase you repeat. Catalogue the original sentences that you used before you combined them.
Write 1 brief paragraph in imitation of the Untermeyer example listed under “Synonymy.” Catalogue your series of individual sentences and then combine them into a single paragraph by using appositives to add specific details.
Write 1 sentence in imitation of the Faulkner example. Use verbs as appositives. Catalogue the original component sentences that you used before you combined them.
Write 1 sentence in imitation of the Baldwin example. Use adverbs as appositives. Catalogue the original component sentences that you used before you combined them.
Compiled by Jesse Easley and modified by Christine Pense after Virginia Tufte’s Grammar as Style workbook.