We live in a world consumed by the compression of thoughts to memes of a few hundred characters or less—messages long enough for a witty rejoinder, insult, or declaration of belief; but lacking substantive structure. Aphorisms masquerade as arguments. Or so it would seem. In fact, the art of writing thesis-driven, evidence-supported, analytical essays is vigorously alive. And the three prize-winning essays presented in this year’s edition of Exposé offer excellent examples of that art.
The strength of these essays—there ability to make clear claims, establish the stakes of those claims, find appropriate evidence to both construct and challenge their arguments, and analyze the evidence—exhibits the thoughtfulness and care of student writers who see the power of argumentation and have worked very hard to transform fleeting thoughts into substantive conclusions. In Rohan Pavuluri’s essay, he argues that in the tricky domain of discouraging hate speech, creating social pressure can trump legal victories; and he illustrates this possibility through a careful analysis of the Sapiro vs. Ford libel lawsuit and the impact of Louis Marshall’s out-of-court settlement between the parties. Hannah McShea argues, in her essay, that the performance artist Wilmer Wilson IV prods us to reconsider how the surface of the body is where an individual’s subjectivity can demand social recognition, even in the face of a history of turning those surfaces into racial markers that objectify. And Mengting Qui compellingly argues FDA rules regarding trans fatty acids need to be much more exact to avoid the manipulation of serving sizes and rounding requirements that allow foods with clinically significant amount of such fats to claim they are trans fat free.
The diversity of these essays—one in legal history, one in art history, and one in science-related policy—suggest the expanding range of Expos courses and the preceptors teaching those classes. Today the diversity of disciplines from which Expos preceptors hail is broader than ever before, and the writing produced in Expos classes reflects that growing breadth.
In honor of this growing disciplinary diversity, we are introducing a new essay award this year: the Science Writing Prize. Too often, strong writing is narrowly associated with the humanities, but good writing happens across the academic spectrum. We want to celebrate writing in science related fields that may go unrecognized because of the genres of writing done in these fields that differ in their subject matter and style from those engaging the arts and humanities.
We also want to honor the creative writing being produced by Harvard freshmen, and as in years past, we are publishing the winner of the Ecker Short Story Prize for Freshman.
Finally, we’d like to thank all of the hard working preceptors in the Harvard Writing Program who have mentored student writers and shared with us the best work their students have produced. And we thank the curious and insightful students whose work we’ve had the privilege to read.