Makes me think of the traditional Chinese 8-part essay (a.k.a., 8-legged 
essay), which of course had a very different structure, being based on 
different rhetorical and logical principles.  And then there is the French 
dissertation, which has 5 paragraphs, but is also not based on "supporting" 
(note the metaphor) a thesis sentence by inductive logic with empirical 
evidence (typically in the form of examples, which as  Aristotle pointed 
out, are the rhetorical equivalent of inductive reasoning).

I don't know why Jo-Anne's post led me to write that.

Perhaps we could generate a list of the equivalents to the 5-paragraph 
essay in cultures other than anglophone North America.  (The Brits I meet 
at applied linguistics conferences mostly don't even know that 'the 
5-paragraph' essay is.)

I've been told the 5-paragraph essay is a compressed form of the classical 
speech (with exordium, narratio, propositio, and partitio all squeezed into 
the opening paragraph, instances or examples as proofs and the refutatio 
deleted).  I think its primary function is to allow students to write in a 
"well organized and coherent" way by following a memorized format instead 
of by learning how to organize their thoughts and think about their 
readers.  I used to recommend it to students who had to pass an essay 
writing test.

Or one could look at the 5-paragraph essay as an ideological device for 
socializing students into accepting as natural/logical the dominance of 
inductive reasoning and evidence-based proofs of modern technological 
societies.  (Chaim Perelman in the opening chapter of The Realm of Rhetoric 
locates the modern emphasis on evidence over argument in Protestantism as 
well as science.)

Clearly, I've been marking too many essay exams today.


At 03:07 PM 10/26/2005 -0600, you wrote:
>I once heard from a workshop participant (an adult) that he had been 
>taught that each paragraph should have eight paragraphs and each paragraph 
>should have eight sentences! (The five-pa theme supersized??)
>Jo-Anne Andre
>University of Calgary

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