Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Defining Community; Conceptual Awareness; Textual Positions; H.L. Goodall

(reflective-teaching notes)

We had some great questions about the term "community" when discussing Lippard's essay (and in your responses) and I thought I would just throw in an 'official' definition from Webster's online dictionary(which should be considered as just one of many definitions) of "community" ... we will be contesting and exploring this term throughout the semester (especially in the 3rd unit) ... thanks to those who attempted to tackle/discuss Lippard's challenging and problematic text.

Remember a word like community, democracy, home, love, place, freedom, identity, etc... does not have just 'one' meaning and there are continuous struggles over what they do mean... this is why, in your writing, you want to define and contextualize complex (problematic/contested) words/concepts/ideas.


Main Entry: com·mu·ni·ty
Pronunciation: k&-'myü-n&-tE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -ties
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English comunete, from Middle French comuneté, from Latin communitat-, communitas, from communis
Date: 14th century
1 : a unified body of individuals: as a : STATE, COMMONWEALTH b : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself (the problems of a large community) c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location d : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society (a community of retired persons) e : a group linked by a common policy f : a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests (the international community) g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society (the academic community)
2 : society at large
3 a : joint ownership or participation (community of goods) b : common character : LIKENESS (community of interests) c : social activity : FELLOWSHIP d : a social state or condition


Words/concepts are defined through the context of their usage and their relation to/interaction with other words/concepts.

According to H.L. Goodall our "textual positions”—“language choices you make to represent what you see” (134)--the selection and arrangement of verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs—also decisions of use or not using, humor, sarcasm, irony, and inventive analogies/metaphors. Provides clues to the way in which you “see” the world and how you act in it. How you use adjectives, adverbs and the level of emotional intensity are all signs of what you have lived through (experiences) and helps others to relate to you and your positions (or not).

Goodall, H.L. Writing the New Ethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.

Furthermore, these words/concepts go through a process of social accretion in which the more they are used the more meanings attach themselves to our usage of these words/concepts.

Allan Irving and Ken Moffatt in their essay Intoxicated Midnight and Carnival Classrooms: The Professor as Poet state that:

"Dialogue in Bakhtin's view is more than just two people talking; the more a word is used in our speech the more contexts and nuances it gathers and the word's meanings proliferate with each encounter. Our utterances (another of Bakhtin's words) do not forget but rather carry fragments from all our previous speech acts as well as the significance from the current context and this includes even forms of intonation. All utterances are double-voiced, bringing meanings with them, perhaps trailing them, but spoken into the here and now into the ongoing dialogues of our lives. 'Every word,' Bakhtin wrote, 'gives off the scent of a profession, a genre, a current, a party, a particular work, a particular person, a generation, an era, a day, and an hour. Every word smells of the context and contexts in which it has lived its intense social life'"

Goodall, H.L. “Voice, Reflexivity, and Character: The Construction of Identities in Texts.” Writing the New Ethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press, 2000: 131-141.

The main questions of this text are laid out in the first paragraph of the excerpt:

Who are you?
Who are you when you write?
Who are you in your writing? What are the differences, if any? If there are differences, are they ones that matter? To the work? To your audience? To those whom you’ve studied? To you? (Goodall, 131)

The rest of the excerpt is then a response to these beginning questions. What are some of the conclusions that Goodall comes to in this essay?

Read the second chapter out loud—powerful, loaded, confusing... needs to be explained and unpacked ... bring definitions of major terms in the first sentence in that second paragraph.


Persona: (1909, Latin) 1: a character assumed by an author in a written work 2a: an individual’s social facade or front that [esp. psychoanalytic theory] reflects the role in life that the individual is playing. 2b: the personality that a person (as an actor or politician) projects in public.

Ethnography: (1834, French) the study and systematic recording of human cultures; also: a descriptive work produced from such research.

Self: (13th century) noun: 1a: the entire person of an individual. 1b: the realization or embodiment of an abstraction. 2: an individual’s typical character or behavior. 3: the union of elements (as body, emotions, thoughts and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person. 4: personal interest or advantage. 5: material that is part of an individual organism.

Voice: (14th century) 4a: wish, choice, or opinion openly or formally expressed. 4b: right of expression; also, influential power (she has a voice in the matter)

Narrative: (1566) noun: 3: the representation in art of an event or story; also: an example of such a representation. [see story] Story: (Latin, 13c, historia) 1. archaic: history. 2a: an account of incidents or events. 2b: a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question. 4: a widely circulated rumor. 5: LIE; FALSEHOOD.

Character: (14 century) [1: the word character originally refers to the process of engraving, writing, symbol-making. 2: then the meaning of the word shifts to that of representing or portraying, especially in an imagistic sense 3: a feature used to separate distinguishable things into categories 4: the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation 5 REPUTATION]

Rhetoric: (14th century): 1: the art of speaking or writing effectively [2: the principles and rules of composition] also see, discourse. Discourse: (14th century): 1: archaic the capacity of orderly thought or procedure 2: verbal interchange of ideas, CONVERSATION 3a: a formal and orderly and usually extended expression of thought on a subject 3b: connected speech or writing 4: social familiarity [relates to the rules of ~ ]

Ethos: (1851, Greek) the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution.

(dictionary source: Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition)

Now go through the rest of the second paragraph.

Writerly and Readerly Construct?

Writerly Construct—pages 132-134

... character emerges from the prose intersection of three “positionings” or ways of discovering—and revealing—the influences that shape who you are and what you think about, value, and are prone to believe and do (Goodall, 132).

1) Fixed positions
2) Subjective positions
3) Textual Positions

Page 132—“fixed positions”—personal facts that might influence how you see things, e.g. age, gender, class, race, nationality—factors that don’t change during your writing—often taken for granted.

Page 133—“subjective positions”—“life history and personal experiences” that also have an effect on our research. Usually derived from deeply felt lived experiences because they recall self-defining moments, decisions or turning points in the development of identity/persona. Example, Birth, death, divorce, natural disasters, war, violence, love or illness.

Page 134—“textual positions”—“language choices you make to represent what you see” … selection and arrangement of verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs—also decisions of use or not using, humor, sarcasm, irony, and inventive analogies/metaphors. Provides clues to the way in which you “see” the world and how you act in it. How you use adjectives, adverbs and the level of emotional intensity are all signs of what you have lived through (experiences) and helps others to relate to you and your positions (or not).

Page 134—“reflexivity”—begins with asking yourself the same questions that guide your own analysis.

Page 134—reader/writer dialogue—The writer tells the story, the reader interprets it, they communicate back and forth and the story is co-constructed by the reader and the writer. The reader basically compares themselves with the story and the characters/writers experiences/views.

Readerly Construct:

On page 134: “texts don’t belong to writers, they belong to readers”

Need of writers to be aware of possible interpretations of their words—careful construction of sentences, paragraphs—contextualization of information, mappings of broader connections and references—development of dialogic and dialectic relationships with the reader—awareness of intended audience’s experience/worldview.

“And that doesn’t even get close to the influence that you, the reader, have on what is happening between us, on this page, now (Goodall, 141).”

Stuart Hall’s Three Ways of Reading an Encoded Textual Message:
• dominant (or 'hegemonic') reading: the reader fully shares the text's code and accepts and reproduces the preferred reading (a reading which may not have been the result of any conscious intention on the part of the author(s)) - in such a stance the code seems 'natural' and 'transparent';
• negotiated reading: the reader partly shares the text's code and broadly accepts the preferred reading, but sometimes resists and modifies it in a way which reflects their own position, experiences and interests (local and personal conditions may be seen as exceptions to the general rule) - this position involves contradictions;
• oppositional ('counter-hegemonic') reading: the reader, whose social situation places them in a directly oppositional relation to the dominant code, understands the preferred reading but does not share the text's code and rejects this reading, bringing to bear an alternative frame of reference (radical, feminist etc.) (e.g. when watching a television broadcast produced on behalf of a political party they normally vote against).

Take a look at Mikhail Bakhtin’s quote on page 140 ... what does this say about our notion of the individual construction of meaning and gathering of knowledge—especially in the sense of creating a writerly persona. What do you think of Goodall’s statement that “Voice, like consciousness, is derivative”?

The soul of good writing:

... the “soul” of good writing is the deployment of a writer’s “coming to know” perspective on selves, contexts, and others. It is the substance—both argumentative and poetic—out of which we create, constitute, and live meaningfully within the stories of our lives. (Goodall, 137)


... the process of personally and academically reflecting on lived experiences in ways that reveal the deep connections between the writer and her or his subject. To be “reflexive” means to turn back on our self the lens through which we are interpreting the world. It “implies a shift in our understanding of data and its collection—something that is accomplished through detachment, internal dialogue, and constant (and intensive) scrutiny of ‘what I know’ and ‘how I know it’” (Goodall, 137)

“Reflexivity begins with asking yourself the same questions that guide your analysis and interpretation of others. These questions should be though of as navigation instruments, because asking them puts you on a particular language highway wherein the route itself is defined by words that otherwise might not have ever been spoken. (Goodall, 141-142)


A very important statement by Goodall is when he says that “there are no truly original voices” (141). What is disturbing about that statement? What is encouraging? So then, what does it mean when someone says that a writer has an original voice?

“When says ‘hers is an original voice,” what they usually mean is ‘here is someone who is writing in—filling in—a vital gap between all that I have read and lived through, and the result is something that speaks to me in a way that no other voice ever has.’ In many ways, this sentiment is very much like meeting someone you are suddenly and strongly attracted to, in whose shared conversation you find new meaning, in whose voice, in whose questions, you find a path to answers you are searching for. The voice of the other in this relationship is “original” because it speaks to your heart, because you haven’t heard it before, and because you closely identify with it. (141)

“Originality in writing, as in all relationships, is never a solo act (Goodall, 141)”

You might have your students approach their course readings by analyzing how authors' construct their authorial character/rhetorical ethos (writerly construct, using Goodall's hints). Also encourage them to be reflective about how they are responding to the readings—what in their experience/background shapes the way they respond to the essays (readerly construct).

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