The Introduction

A title can get folks in the door, but the introduction is the place where we forge that crucial connection between author and audience. To quote the infamous Prufrock: “Then how should I begin? And what shall I presume?”

The intro moves (the plural is crucial there) you craft for your Proposal might change as your project grows, but it’s important to start thinking strategically about our intros from the start. We might think of introduction strategies along two broad lines: what we might say, and how we will say it. Let’s start with the content, the stuff, of the introduction. What are the options here?

  • Strategic Summary: summarize the chosen text in light of your conversation. This is something almost all of us will have to do as our readers can’t be assumed to have read our chosen text.
  • Introduce a Scene from the book: engage the text; offer a close-reading preview; focus on a character; perform a moment of analysis
  • Historical / Biographical Background: establish some historical background for the text or biographical background for the author; offer a brief anecdote relating to these
  • Signal Contemporary Resonance: preview the concluding “so what” moves by relating the issues you discuss to our present political, social, cultural context. Ask yourself: how does the text relate to the world we live in?
  • Conceptual / Literary Background: define key terms that drive your conversation and argument—the idea pastoral, the concept of agency, the idea of universalism, certain key psychological ideas, the genre of dystopian literature

These strategies all reflect the substance—the content or “what” of the intro. But we must also think of style–the “how”–as well. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few writerly strategies you might consider here:

  • Address: you might use first person, second person, or narrate an anecdote from a third person perspective, for example.
  • Interrogative mode: you might raise a few provocative questions to keep the intro moving forward.
  • Imperative mode: you might ask the reader to imagine a specific scene or consider a specific idea.
  • Subjunctive Mode: you might  open up the realm of the possible, the wished for, what might be the case. You might ask: what would happen if….

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