Friday, October 15, 2010

Voicing Concerns...

As a reader, I often look for work that gives off a unique voice. Good writers, I believe, have a fresh way of saying things, and from their work, you get the feeling that it is genuine and reflects their values.

As a teacher, I find myself commenting on student work, "Great work! I can really hear the real so-and-so coming through." I hate it when students sound like they are writing solely to appease a professor. I like it when I see a spark of their personality come through on the page.

The problem is that in this post-modern world, where we have begun to accept Cultural Relativisism as the basis for truth, is really possible for someone to have an "authentic voice" when it comes to writing? Since the role of the person is always changing in reaction to the forces around her/him (authority positions, venues, curent events, etc.), as are the writing situations (class, work, Facebook, etc.), is there really one unified voice, unified presence, or unified self that can truly come across in writing? If I'm shifting how I write for one audience as opposed to another, does that mean I'm changing my voice, that I have many voices, or that voice does not exist?

Furthermore, if this is what I believe, than how can I ask students to develop a voice as writer? Can I judge their work based on the voice they present? And as a writer, should I be striving to develop my own "voice"?

On the flipside, if I accepted that there was no such thing as authentic voice, would it be ethical for me to teach students that the only thing that really matters is the constructed self/voice? Isn't that giving my students the right to lie or to get to the end, regardless of the means?

1 comment:

tara said...

I have not started any reading yet on all these articles about author, authenticity and voice, so I hardly feel qualified to comment. Except for the fact that I've sensed authenticity ... it's one of those things that I know it when I see it, but I have an awful lot of trouble defining.

That feels like a cop out, and I hope I have a better answer at the end of the semester. Why do I feel like I'll have exactly the same answer?

I saw Jude Law's Hamlet last year and I saw a production of it in Philadelphia that year too. Now, I would swear to you that at the end of this play, Jude Law actually died. Seriously. The man was dead. I saw him die. That was how real it felt. In the Philly production, you know what, I can't actually remember the ending at all. I remember a vague sense of relief that I could leave. It was just dreadful. I suppose I could unpack this more ... but it was the first example that came to mind. I still don't know how to define it ... I just know it when I see it.