Yep. This is how to start an essay.

Foucault disconcerts. In a number of ways perhaps. But the way I want to examine is this.

This is how the Canadian political philosopher, Charles Taylor, starts his 1996 essay, Freedom and Truth.

I read it in the early noughties and it’s stuck with me as the most compelling opening to what it is actually a hard, specialist academic paper.

The opening draws you in. He doesn’t need to say it. He could just say, in this paper I will examine. But he instead pushes the reader to discover which particular element of Foucault’s disconcerting work will be under analysis.

And it’s clever, too, because in fact the essay is a fairly conventional critique of Foucault’s unconventional way of writing  about history and philosophy. This opener makes you think that this will be a sympathetic reading of Foucault – in a Foucault-esque style – before Taylor lays bare the extent of his criticisms.

And, more than anything, as an opening, it’s playful. It plays with sentence structure. Particularly academic sentence structure. And makes you feel that what will follow will be novel, interesting, and maybe even fun.


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