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#7 - Weaken

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Complete Question Explanation
(See the complete passage discussion here: viewtopic.php?t=14202)

The correct answer choice is (D)

In the final paragraph of the passage, the author says that the authors of the autobiographies
discussed chose to redefine the boundaries of the autobiography rather than conform to existing
norms. This question asks for the choice that would most weaken this claim.

Answer choice (A): This choice would have no effect on the author’s claims in the final paragraph,
because the author does not claim that chronological prose distinguished any of the autobiographical
collections discussed in the passage.

Answer choice (B): The author makes no reference to critical acclaim, so this choice would not
undermine the author’s claims in the final paragraph.

Answer choice (C): The fact that many autobiographies were written without the innovations
found in the examples discussed would have no effect on the claims made by the author in the final

Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice; if, as this choice provides, it were
discovered that the autobiographies discussed in the passage were actually preceded by several 19th
century autobiographies characterized by mixed structure and multiple authors, then the examples in
the passage would not actually have represented revolutionary departures.

Answer choice (E): This choice provides information about nonautobiographical collections, which
would have no effect on the author’s claims about the autobiography genre and how it was redefined
by the authors discussed in the passage.
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Can you explain the rationale for D being the correct answer? I think it's because if there were unknown autobiographies already published doing what Latina autobiographies "revolutionized" it turns out what they did wasn't so revolutionary.

Thank you!
Luke Haqq
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Happy to offer some clarity as to why (D) is the right answer. I think that PowerScore has a great discussion of how to attack causal weaken questions. If you have the Full-Length course books, one place to look for this information is on page 3-7, "How to Attach a Causal Conclusion." PowerScore suggests 5 ways to weaken a causal relationship (and provides a discussion of each of these in the course books):

    1. Find an alternate cause

    2. Show the cause occurring, without the effect

    3. Show the effect occurring, without the cause

    4. Show that causal relationship is reversed

    5. Attack the data used to support the causal claim

The causal relationship in this question focuses on lines 50-55 of the passage, and the right answer does (1)--it weakens by finding an alternative cause. That part of the passage claims that Latina biographies (which used a mixed-genre structure and multiple authorship) "revolutionized the genre of autobiography," and the question asks you to weaken that assertion. Answer choice (D) weakens that because it suggests an alternative cause--that is, it suggests that mixed genre/multiple authors was actually a feature found in unknown nineteenth-century authors, that predated the Latina biographies of the 1980s. If that were true, it would weaken the passage's casual conclusion that it was the Latina biographies that revolutionized the autobiography genre--it would weaken it by suggesting an alternative cause.

Hope that helps!
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Thank you for the explanation provided above. However, I still struggle to accept D as the right answer. D mentions that 19 century autobiographies with mixed structure and multiple authorship were "generally unknown" to the 20 century critics. If they were unknown, then the Latina authors' works would still be viewed as revolutionary as they would be the first KNOWN works to use mixed structure and multiple authorship. This would actually strengthen the author's claim in lines 50-55, thereby making answer D incorrect.
If anyone is able to show the error of my reasoning please help me out. Thanks!
Claire Horan
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Hi Strongam,

Be careful about generalizing/paraphrasing a reading passage too vaguely.

The author claims "...these writers have revolutionized the genre of autobiography, redrawing the boundaries..." That is very different from your paraphrase, which was about whether writers would be viewed as revolutionaries. How the authors are viewed is not relevant to the author's claim that they redrew the boundaries that existed at the time they were writing.

Answer choice (D) says that the 19th-century autobiographies are "generally unknown" among contemporary critics, but they were part of the genre, so these Latina authors didn't revolutionize the genre/redraw the boundaries.

The LSAT is all about very nuanced differences in language, so remember to avoid making unwarranted assumptions and straying too far from the specific language used in a passage.
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Hi there,

I'm wondering if someone can explain the rationale a little more behind why the answer is not B? I see that the author did not talk about critical acclaim here, but because it's a weaken question, and because the stem says "if true", why can't the answer bring in new information not discussed in the passage? I was thinking the statement that few critically acclaimed books written by Latina authors have been autobiographical and multi-genre (as answer choice B states) would refute the claim of the author that "these writers have revolutionized the autobiographical genre" (lines 51-52).

I see why D is correct but I am having trouble definitively ruling out B - if someone could help me with my reasoning that would be great!
James Finch
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Hi Sarah,

The issue with (B) is that it brings in a new qualifier: critical acclaim. Do we know if the author of the passage cares about critical acclaim, or whether that would affect the "revolutionary" effect the subjects of the passage had. We don't, so we can't effectively use (B) to weaken the lines in question without relying upon another assumption, that "revolutionary" works will always be followed by "critically acclaimed" imitators that build upon the earlier revolutionary works.

Hope this clears things up!