Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Quotes)
Quote with Introductory Phrases
In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois states, “One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder” ().
These are the qualities of the above excerpt.
1) The introductory phrases provide a location from which the student retrieves the quote: a book titled The Souls of Black Folk.
2) We know the speaker of the words within the quotation marks: Du Bois. He is the only speaker. There is no other indication of another speaker.
3) The student has not changed the words within the quotation marks. We know this because there isn’t present the application of an ellipsis. These words represent an exact replica of the words in the actual reference source, Du Bois’s book.
4) The incorporation of the quote conforms to normal grammar standards for presenting reported speech.
5) The introductory group phrases and the quote itself are both in the present tense.
What happens if we change the verbs to past tense verbs?
In “The Souls of Black Folk,” Du Bois stated, “One ever felt his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone kept it from being torn asunder” ().
You can see how much of a difference a few changes can make to a quote. The simple past tense is a verb tense that defines the state of something as completely finished. A simple past tense verb stops at a specific time in the past and it is not ongoing; the verb does not travel into the present. Only the past knows of the verb and the verb stays there, in the past. If someone wants to use the verb in the present, he or she would have to create a new meaning for the verb, with a new sentence.
Of course, we can’t take something considered complete and finished and change its status simultaneously or consecutively. In other words, if you are the last person at the end of the line, unless someone opens the line up again, no one can physically come behind you. Once an authority figure decides not to take any more people and closes the line, the line doesn’t continue on past the decision. Therefore, as you incorporate quotes into your analysis, make a decision. Do you want the verb to be complete in and of itself, or do you want the verb to leave the past and go into the present (i.e. present perfect and present perfect progressive)?
In the previous quote, the changing of the verbs to past tense has changed the quote’s meaning drastically. However, the new quote, as positioned in the past, isn’t entirely inaccurate. Du Bois states these words in 1903, at the turn of the twentieth century. He doesn’t state these words today. However, for literary works, the general consensus among citation manuals, particularly MLA, arts and letters majors, and university departments, is we can apply the concept of “literary present.”
What this means is it doesn’t matter if the author of a literary work is dead or alive, or when the author first wrote the work, when referring to the author and his or her work we always apply the “literary present” to the quote and to our incorporation. Therefore, our introductory phrases must also begin in “literary present.”
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Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.