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Essential tool for high school teachers and professors
on October 27, 2010
Barnet's _Short Guide_ is an essential tool for pedagogy, useful to any high school teacher or professor teaching an introductory Art History course to students with little or no experience writing about art. As a teacher, it's been so long since I began writing about art that I don't remember the things that I struggled with, and what exactly put me on course to proper art historical writing. So, I purchased the latest edition of Barnet's guide, which I remembered was particularly helpful to me in high school (AP Art History), and rereading it has been like reaquainting myself with a long lost friend who I didn't realize was so brilliant and articulate!
If you are in doubt, simply read the 'Sample Critical Essay' and its analysis on pgs. 14-21. The sample essay is written around high school or junior college level, and provides numerous opportunities to point out successes in the argumentation and revisions that may be made. The explications of what an evaluation, analysis, and thesis statement are, which follow, are clear and concise - full of quotable phrases explaining the sometimes-difficult concepts to students in an approachable manner. At the end of the section to which I refer, there is 'a note on outlining', giving students guidance on how to lay out an outline before writing, and failing that, how to outline their essays after they have written them. The guidance given will facilitate students composition of strong topic sentences and rearrangement of paragraphs as necessary to construct a sound argument.
I haven't had a chance to reread any of the other sections in the text, but the book has already merited its price. It's a soft-back of high-common printing quality (slightly glossy pages) that should prove durable enough (if the teacher doesn't opt instead to remove the binding in order to facilitate photocopying passages as I have done with Stokstad's text, another superior work surveying the history of art).
Sylvan Barnet's _Short Guide_ is an essential reference, and can prove a worthwhile supplementary book to require high school students to purchase, despite the over-pricing. For college students, possessing the manual is a must, and it will prove useful for the professor to require readings from sections of the text to be discussed in class.
I'll be working with my students on writing with Barnet's aid next week, and you'd highly benefit from securing this book as well!