What is fiction?

Here is a psychological (not literary) definition of fiction:

…But fiction is not empirical truth. It is simulation that runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers. In any simulation coherence truths have priority over correspondences. Moreover, in the simulations of fiction, personal truths can be explored that allow readers to experience emotions — their own emotions — and understand aspects of them that are obscure, in relation to contexts in which the emotions arise. [color added]

Why Fiction May Be Twice as True as Fact by Keith Oatley

Huddleston and Pullum on auxiliary verbs

A passage from Huddleston and Pullum’s A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar:*

“There is a very important distinction between a small class of auxiliary verbs and the rest, called lexical verbs. The auxiliary verbs have a number of special propertiesOne is that they can sometimes precede the subject. This occurs in interrogatives:

a. Can you speak French ? b. * Speak you French?

a. Can you speak French ?   b. * Speak you French?

Although [b] is ungrammatical, there is a way of forming an interrogative corresponding to the clause You speak French: the auxiliary verb do is added, so the interrogative clause has an extra word: Do you speak French ?

Auxiliaries are usually followed (perhaps not immediately) by another verb, as can and do in the foregoing examples are followed by speak. Notice also It will rain; They are working in Paris; She has gone home. The words will, are, and has are all auxiliary verbs.”

[The color blue, used for emphasis, does not appear in the original.]

23 auxiliary verbs
Huddleston, Rodney and Pullum, Geoffrey K. A Student’s Introduction to
English Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

“Reading literature makes us smarter and nicer”

Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels. A 2010 study by Mar found a similar result in young children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their “theory of mind,” or mental model of other people’s intentions.


Recent research in cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience has demonstrated that deep reading — slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity — is a distinctive experience, different in kind from the mere decoding of words….

[i]mmersion [in a story or novel] is supported by the way the brain handles language rich in detail, allusion and metaphor: by creating a mental representation that draws on the same brain regions that would be active if the scene were unfolding in real life. The emotional situations and moral dilemmas that are the stuff of literature are also vigorous exercise for the brain, propelling us inside the heads of fictional characters and even, studies suggest, increasing our real-life capacity for empathy. [emphasis added]

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer
“Deep reading” is vigorous exercise from the brain and increases our real-life capacity for empathy
By Annie Murphy Paul | June 3, 2013

3 steps, 3 appointments at the Center for Academic Excellence

From the Writing Center:

“We encourage students to come to the Learning Center at three different stages:

  • the brainstorming stage, when we talk about the assignment and help the student create a thesis with three subtopics; the student should leave with an outline in hand.
  • the intermediate stage, when the student has a completed a first draft of the essay; and
  • the proofreading stage, when the student has made corrections and just wants to make sure there aren’t any grammatical errors.”

CONTACT INFO (Dobbs Ferry campus):

Website Center for Academic Excellence
Writing Center Online Calendar
(You can make appointments either through the online calendar or by telephone.)
Location Library Learning Commons – Main Hall

CONTACT INFO (all campuses):

Campus Building & Room Appointments by
Appointments by
Online Calendar
Bronx Library Learning Commons – Third Floor 718-678-8906 Bronx Appointment
Dobbs Ferry Library Learning Commons – Main Hall 914-674-7402 Dobbs Ferry
Appointment Calendar
Manhattan Library Learning Commons – Room 640 212-615-3349 Manhattan Appointment
Yorktown Heights Room 213A 914-455-2143 Yorktown Heights
Appointment Calendar
Online tutoring Online Contact Professor Steven Witte at switte@mercy.edu
if appointment slots are booked.
Appointment calendar for
Online Tutoring

Class packets | Fall 2013

Wendy Ward on the topic sentence and the thesis statement

Below is a terrifically succinct statement, written by a professor at Miami-Dade Community College, of the approach English 109 takes to topic sentences and thesis statements:

The Topic Sentence and the Thesis Statement

Both involve main ideas.

A topic sentence contains the main idea of a paragraph.

A thesis statement contains the main idea of an essay.

In this class, your thesis statement will be the last sentence in your introductory paragraph (your first paragraph). It will contain a plan of development, the two* points you want to advance in the body/supporting paragraphs. These points will be mentioned in the same order that you will mention them in the body paragraphs and will have a structure that follows parallelism.

Each body/supporting paragraph will contain a topic sentence, which will be the first sentence in each paragraph.


*In your English classes at Mercy, you will need 3 points, not 2.

The Topic Sentence and the Thesis Statement
Wendy Ward

Speaking as a writer, I can tell you there is a reason so many beginning composition courses teach this form.

The reason: this very simple, highly structured form works for your reader.

When you place a 3-part thesis statement at the end of your first paragraph, and a topic sentence at the beginning of each “body paragraph,” you help your reader (me!) stay with you.

The 5-paragraph essay may be especially useful for beginners, who have yet to master the skill of writing clear essays on complex topics. However, I love the form myself, and I am no beginner. I  wish someone had taught me how to write a 5-paragraph essay when I was young.

Today, I think of a paper’s thesis and topic-sentence set as its X-1-2-3, after William J. Kerrigan’s terrific book Writing to the Point.

My friend Robyne and I used an X-1-2-3 structure in this article for the River Journal.

The 5-paragraph X-1-2-3 form is infinitely malleable. You can expand it, contract it, stand it on its head or make it do somersaults if you like. Master it, and it will not fail you.

By the way, Professor Ward makes excellent use of parallelism and word repetition to get her point across:

A topic sentence contains the main idea of a paragraph.

A thesis statement contains the main idea of an essay.

One-to-one help with all reading and writing assignments in all classes
……..at the Writing Center