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nytimes

Besieged in court, routed in eight states, accused of favoring blacks and Latinos at the expense of Asians and whites, affirmative action — a major legacy of the civil rights era — is once again the subject of uncomfortable scrutiny.

I think “besieged” is a dangling modifier. So i am asking myself where is the subject being modified by “besieged”?

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    It's a verbal phrase and there are three of them. It modifies affirmation action. It is pre-positioned, which is fine. The subject of the sentence is afirmative action. – Lambie Jan 5 '18 at 16:43
  • I have already had two confusing points: could affirmative action besiege in court? Why isn’t there “and” between “states and accused? @Lambie – Bavyan Yaldo Jan 5 '18 at 17:08
  • In a 'painted house' house doesn't paint itself, someone paints it. Past paticiple phases used as adjective imbibe this quality of acted upon— broken glass, shattered dreams and the likes. – Barid Baran Acharya Jan 5 '18 at 17:53
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    You could say "and accused...", but the sentence is fine without "and" as well. The author probably wanted a more dramatic effect. You can similarly style most comma-separated qualifiers for impact. "This country is wealthy, cultured and corrupt," is less dramatic than "this country is wealthy, cultured, corrupt!" The pause added by and might lessen the impact of "corrupt" in some minds. – urnonav Jan 5 '18 at 18:55
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1) This elegant version: Besieged in court, routed in eight states, accused of favoring blacks and Latinos at the expense of Asians and whites, affirmative action — a major legacy of the civil rights era — is once again the subject of uncomfortable scrutiny.

2) Comes from this: Affirmative action (a major legacy of the civil rights era) [which has been] besieged in court, routed in eight states, accused of favoring blacks and Latinos at the expense of Asians and whites is once again the subject of uncomfortable scrutiny.

You can pre-position those three verbal phrases that are predicates in the clause. There are THREE verbal phrases introduced by three different verbs: besieged, routed and accused.

A simpler example: The boy who was attacked by lions is now at home with his parents.

Attacked by lions, the boy is now at home with his parents.

Another: The lady who was charmed by her co-workers, entranced with her boss and filled with hope, drove home at high speed.

Charmed by her co-workers, entranced by her boss and filled with hope, the lady drove home at high speed.

You can shift the predicates to the head of the sentences to avoid using heavy relative clauses.

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The comment above is as good as an explanation— condensed though cryptic but nonetheless crammed with information. Just an elaboration as a side note.

"Affirmative action" is the subject; it is acted upon by three past participle adjectives— besieged, routed and accused. Headed by the V3 forms of verb, these adjective phrases, you may as well call them participle or verbal phrases, properly refer to the subject of the main sentence that follow. They are by no means dangling. You can jolly well call a phrase dangling if doesn't refer to anything that follow coherently.

  • Being a holiday I lay awake in bed. (it)

Of course I am not holiday; it is dangling. In the present example we have to make the verbal phrase relevant by making it absolute. Put " it" before " being". However the one you called dangling isn't as such.

  • Agreed; it's just not English. How would you write this one? — I lay wide awake in bed, but sleep didn't visit me. – Barid Baran Acharya Jan 6 '18 at 5:21
  • To lie awake in bed and not sleep (not ' to lay'). "... in my couch I lie"— Wordsworth, " The daffodils". – Barid Baran Acharya Jan 6 '18 at 17:39

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