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5.5: Classification Compositions

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    Division and Classification

    When we are young, we learn what to call a dog. At some point after we understand this concept, we may see a cow out of the window when driving through the countryside and declare, with churlish enthusiasm, "dog!" Our parents may rush to correct us, informing us that there are reasons that we categorize this type of animal this way and a dog another: a cow has hooves; a dog, paws. Now a cat traipses by, and, seeing no hooves, you demonstrate your knowledge to your parents: "dog!" Your parents may try to explain the differences between cats and dogs to you, but biologically speaking, you have not yet learned the real reason dogs and cats are different species, divided by one simple fact, which is the two different categories, or classes, of creature cannot make viable hybrid offspring, similar to the liger (lion plus tiger) or the mule (donkey plus horse).

    If we divide a creature into its parts, we find that there are ways to classify all of us together: all of us have warm blood, glands, tissues, muscles, bone. Not so for the fly amanita or the tardigrade. Interestingly, however, if you divide us deeper and find that we are cellular matter, you can see that we and our waterbear cousins are comprised of atoms, linking us all under the classification of atomic matter. (Apparently there's also antimatter.)

    In other words, the more we analyze a concept, idea, or thing, the more accurately we can place it into a category, and we love to understand the world by grouping, or classifying, what we see, read, hear, and think: it's comforting to build and populate communities.

    Sentence-Level Classification

    As discussed previously in this chapter, English only has four varieties of sentence that can possibly exist: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. However, you can also say classify English sentences using a different set of four categories: declarative, exclamatory, interrogative, and imperative. Think statements, exclamations or interjections, questions, and commands. The quality of judgment on what constitutes a differentiation among sentence types in English has shifted. In sentences that seek to display classification, you will have little room to indicate your reasoning (unless you make a compound, complex, or compound-complex sentence). The first step to making any sort of grouping is to think about your reasoning for making the group, but do be aware that diction comes into play here, too: word choice is important when labeling, or classifying. Consider consulting a guide like U.C. Berkeley's Equity Fluent Leader Glossary of Key Terms as a resource to help guide your phrasing so you avoid triggering or offensive language.

    Classification and Division

    Classification, division, and definition writing are all entangled, logically. In order to classify or divide, naming is involved. Naming requires defining. So whenever you sit to think about developing your prompt into a thesis and then essay (or whatever order you write that in), consider these simple steps:

    1. Brainstorm and define any terms related to your prompt.
    2. Draw connections between these terms and see if you can fit them into categories.
    3. If you can, you may wish to develop a thesis that classifies.
    4. Now, develop two or more sets of criteria that define these categories and think of plenty of examples that exhibit these features.

    In the example essay below, you will find the author, Kate Reggev, appears to be defining cottagecore, she is also displaying that defining works by naming criteria and establishing divisions to give meaning to unique expressions: when does cottagecore become hygge (or are they the same thing?), and do you have to employ fungi when decorating or living a cottagecore lifestyle--is it just an aesthetic? Is it soft living and floral patterns? To classify, we must divide, and to divide, we must define.

    Example Classification Essay: "What Exactly Is Cottagecore and How Did It Get So Popular?" by Kate Reggev

    About the Author

    Kate Reggev has written for all of the prestigious architectural periodicals, labeling (classifying) herself as an "architectural historian and preservationist," rooted in New York. She keeps a respectable veil of anonymity on the web, but her website provides links to her prolific, engaging writing. This piece exemplifies her clever writing choices, especially as it concerns development over several topical areas.

    Questions for Discussion

    1. What images or ideas can you add to Reggev's description of cottagecore?
    2. Can you think of or list another aesthetic movement, recent or past, that you've learned about in another setting?
    3. What would happen if you combined cottagecore with another aesthetic movement of your choosing?
    4. What criteria would you use to assess whether something is cottagecore or not?