Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Research: Voice

Question: What do we mean by “voice” in speaking and writing?

Answer/Quote: “In the 21st century, the concept of voice has necessarily been revised and reconsidered by theorists in composition, linguistics and education. It is not a discrete trait that can be easily captured by a number. Nor, we would argue, is it so steeped in mystery that it cannot be divined or addressed, especially by teachers who work with their students to both define and widen the gates of academic discourse. Voice is as complicated as the self it is assumed to evoke and is as socially situated and culturally embedded as the self is understood to be.”

Comment: “Voice” is a slippery concept. At least this study suggests it is as complex as the personality of the people representing themselves in speaking and writing through their “voices.” Of course, this definition of “voice” is for personal representation. What about “voices” that are assumed, therefore, not actually representing the person who speaks or writes?

For example, I can remember speaking before a group that had assembled after lunch. I could tell that they were sleepy. And the first speaker who talked practically put them to sleep. I said to myself, “They’re going to stay awake during my speech.” I was discussing basic topics in the English curriculum. I assumed the “voice” of the curmudgeon, challenging the audience’s failure to make necessary changes in curriculum. My tone was one of sarcasm, the tone of the “gadfly.” When I was finished, the audience was indeed awake. As I was relaxing at the bar afterwards, I had a first-hand view of how the audience reacted to my “voice.” Said a young woman from the audience, “I could spit on you.”

That “voice” during my speech was not mine. That “voice” was assumed. It was not who I was personally, genuinely concerned for people who were not moving as quickly in curriculum as I felt was necessary.

“Voice” is a slippery, complex concept. RayS.

Title: “Voice in the Context of Literacy Studies.”  Melanie Sperling, et al. Reading Research Quarterly (January/ February/ March 2011), pp. 70-84,

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