Tuesday, April 27, 2010

True Literacy

(Reflection/compilation by Michael Dean Benton)

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”--the selection and arrangement of verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs... also decisions of use or not using, humor, sarcasm, irony, and inventive analogies/metaphors, provide clues to the way in which you “see” the world and how you act in it. This writing is a sign 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."

As these words become weighted down with multiple meanings a paradoxical effect take place that causes language-users to assume that these words are stable in their meaning and these assumptions can easily lead to misunderstandings or manipulation:

Words are used as signs, as stand-ins, arbitrary and temporary, even as language reflects (and informs) the shifting values of the peoples whose minds it inhabits and glides through. We have faith in "meaning" the way we might believe in wolverines--putting trust in the occasional reports of others or on the authority of once seeing a pelt. But it is sometimes worth tracking these tricksters back (Snyder, 8)

Snyder, Gary. "The Etiquette of Freedom." The Practice of the Wild. NY: North Point Press, 1990: 3-24.

Related Quotes:

In any case, I consider it to be an urgent task to disengage from concepts that are being deadened by routine use the meaning that they regain both from a re-examination of their history and from a reflexion on their subjective foundations.
That, no doubt, is the teacher’s prime function—the function from which all others proceed, and the one in which the price of experience is best inscribed. If this function is neglected, meaning is obscured in an action whose effects are entirely dependent on meaning, and the rules of psychoanalytic technique, by being reduced to mere recipes, rob the analytic experience of any status as knowledge and even of any criterion of reality. (Lacan, 33)

Burke’s four-part methodology—which he calls indexing—is designed to permit one to locate, describe, analyze, and interpret the four kinds of structure one finds in verbal works. These are structures of identifications, or what goes with what; structures of opposition and polarization, or what versus what; structures of progression, or what follows what; and structures of transformation, or what becomes what. (Rueckert, 235)

True literacy means examining one’s society, not simply manipulating surface features of text. (Schilb, 187)

[The "discourse city" would be] a new logic of ‘collaboration’ … [that] would celebrate four qualities of urban societies: it would allow for differentiation without exclusion; appreciate variety; encourage erotic attraction to novel, strange, and surprising encounters; and value publicity in public spaces … where people stand and sit together, interact or mingle or simply witness one another without becoming a unified community of ‘shared final ends’ (Miller, 285, 299)

Every educational system is a political means of maintaining or modifying the appropriateness of discourses with the knowledge and power they bring with them. (Foucault, 1972: 46)

Relations—thinking about our particular situation in the world map out the various relations that you interact through on a regular basis.
I identify myself in language, but only by losing myself in it like an object. What is realized in my history is not the past definite of what was, since it is no more, or even the present perfect of what has been in what I am, but the future anterior of what I shall have been for what I am in the process of becoming. (Lacan, 86)

What [was] ignored was the possibility that we live in multiple and fragmentary worlds, worlds that overlap, compete, and transform themselves continuously, worlds provided by family, ethnic community, neighborhood, profession, political affiliation, and so on. A more accurate portrayal of the modern condition, and perhaps of the postmodern and premodern conditions as well, would have emphasized the way identity is shaped by the voices of these multiple worlds in which we live, each of us an unstable, occasionally harmonious but more often cacophonous chorus of these voices or—to return to the spatial metaphor—a mosaic or quilt, made up of nits and pieces of past identities that were themselves assemblages of fragments. (Halloran, 114)

[The] American “individual,” rather than being an adventurer, is in reality most often a man or woman whose circle of reality is drawn no larger than family and friends. The individual has little interest, indeed, little energy, outside that circle. The American individual is a passive person, and monotonous space is what a society of passive individuals builds for itself. A bland environment assures people that nothing disturbing or demanding is happening ‘out there.’ You build neutrality in order to legitimate withdrawal. (Sennett, 65)

The expression and site of ideas [Foucault] calls discourse, is for him an active and dialogic, rather than a passive and monologic, process. Any discourse at any given moment in time is structured as much by the assumptions about what constitutes it as a discourse as by the boundaries of language itself. Discourse in a Foucauldian sense, then, combines linguistic utterance, whether spoken or written, with the underlying non-linguistic structures—such as the cultural, social and economic—through which utterances are realized or suppressed. Within education, for example, institutional practices control the access of individuals to various kinds of pedagogic discourse. (Clark, 4)

Clark, Urszula. War Words: Language, History and the Disciplining of English. NY: Esevier, 2001.

Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. translated from the French by A.M. Sheridan Smith. NY: Harper & Row, 1972.

Halloran, Michael S. “Further Thoughts on the End of Rhetoric.” Defining the New Rhetorics. ed. Theresa Enos and Stuart C. Brown. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1993: 109-19.

Lacan, Jacques. “Function and Field of Language.” Ecrits. NY: W.W. Norton, 1977: 30-113.

Miller, Susan. “New Discourse City: An Alternative Model For Collaboration.” Writing With: New Directions in Collaborative Teaching, Learning, and Research. ed. Sally Barr Reagan, et al. Albany: State U of New York P, 1994: 284-99.

Rueckert, William H. Encounters With Kenneth Burke. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1994.

Schilb, John. “Cultural Studies, Postmodernism, and Composition.” Contending With Words: Composition and Rhetoric in a Postmodern Age. ed. Patricia Harkin and John Schilb. NY: MLA, 1991: 173-188.

Sennett, Richard. The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities. NY: Norton, 1990.

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