Horror in Love

This is a short sample or a chapter I had to create for a Young Adult class during my Undergraduate degree at Kean. I created this about three years ago. I would love any type of feedback. Enjoy!


Rose, hurry up! What’s taking so long?”

I’m trying to pick one, relax yourself.”

Even though I love my twin brother John, he needs to learn patience and that picking out the perfect horror movie takes time. Do you want blood n’ gore? Do you want more of a thriller? Or do you actually want to sleep that night? It takes time and he needs to just calm down.

Hurry up, the guys will be here any minute.

I’m stuck between Nightmare on Elm Street and The Exorcist.”

These two are favorite horror movies of all time, so I’ve seen them enough to know where the scary parts are so I don’t look like a baby in front my brothers’ friends or my own.

I like Nightmare on Elm Street.”

That angel of a voice which sends chills directly down my spine and a big air bubble in throat so I can’t speak or even breathe. I completely forgot that he was coming over. I hope I look cute in my Hello Kitty pajamas. Oh well, he’s probably going to think they are adorable. I hope.

ROSE NOW!”

Shut up John, I’m coming! Hold on!”

Walking up these steps are taking forever, I can start to feel the sweat already dripping from my forehead. Or is it me just being nervous because Mark’s here. Yep, it’s definitely walking up the stairs.

Here John, now hurry up and put the movie on.”

And there goes up the middle finger ladies and gentlemen. But that smirk from Mark is making me sweat even more.

Rose, where are you going?”

I’m going to the bathroom Tiff, come with me! Meg, you too!”

Ahh, I can finally breathe. I can feel my heartbeat in my ears slowly returning to my chest.

Rose, I can’t believe he’s here. Are you going to talk to him?”

Megan said with her dorky smile and her obnoxiously raised eyebrows.

I don’t know, do you think I should?”

Well I’m going to tell you no because he’s your brothers’ friend, however, you’re my best friend and I want to see you happy and I we all know you’ve liked him forever, so talk to him. You really don’t have anything to lose. Well unless he laughs in your face.”

Thanks Tiff, that’s really kind of you.”

Her bitchy smile isn’t as good as mine, but it’s getting close. I need more practice.

Are you ladies almost down now so we watch the movie?”

I seriously don’t know what John’s problem is, but if he needed a tampon, he should’ve just asked.

The amount of eye rolling is making my head hurt, so I find my spot next to Mark, but not so close that it’s obvious that I’m purposely sitting next to him. Tiff and Meg both turn around and give me a wink which is so over exaggerated that Mark notices it and begins to chuckle. Now the heat is rushing to my cheeks. Fuck.

Mark’s warm words whispers in my ear,

you know if you get scared, you can hold on to me.”

I slowly turn my head towards his direction and I can feel his breath on my face. That’s how close we are to each other.

“I’ve seen this movie a million times, so I know when Freddie comes, but if you’re scared, you can hold me.”

I’m totally working that teasing smile thing right now, but Mark doesn’t seem to get it. His smile drops and looks back to the screen right when young Johnny Depp is getting eaten by his bed.

I can see the replay of the last few seconds repeating over and over again in my head and I wish I just went along him, but now he probably thinks I’m a bitch. Well I am his best friend’s twin sister, so of course.

Then something so twisted and completely logical pops into my head. What if Mark actually likes John? We are twins, so we are pretty much the same person just in two different bodies. What if he’s actually gay and doesn’t want to come out to my brother so he’s trying to get with me to hide his love for my brother. I mean it’s the only reasonable explanation. Oh my god, I think I’m going to be sick.

AHH!”

Every single time! The ending will always scare me. I mean know it’s coming, but it still gets me.

So I guess you got scared after all?”

I can’t believe that my childish scream made my entire body transport into Mark’s lap. What do I do? Do I get off of him? Is he mad? I froze from embarrassment. I turned to face him, but I could barely see each other, but eventually I eyes do meet and I can’t help but to stare into those Emerald City eyes. They are by far the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. The longer I stare into those Evergreens, the heat travels up into my cheeks.

I guess I did get scared a little bit.”

I was having trouble breathing.

I’m sorry I jumped into your lap.”

It’s fine. I was hoping you were going to get sacred and get closer.”

Why?”

I saw a little smile forming in the corner of his mouth.

Because I’ve always wanted an excuse to be this close to you.”

Oh look, my heart is pounding so hard, my eardrums are about to explode. And the heat is filling my cheeks with fire.

Why’s that?”

His mouth begins to part just a little bit, but not quite enough to speak. My inner self is doing the happy dance and I can’t stop jumping up and down. I can’t believe that it took me to jump into his lap for him to try something. I wish I would’ve jumped into his lap years ago.

He started to stare into my eyes and I can’t help but smile. His eyes start to follow my lips and I part mine just enough for him to get the hint that I want him. Within seconds, I can feel our lips touching and I can’t begin to think, all I know is that my eardrums begin to erupt and a swarm of butterflies invade my stomach.

Minutes go by, I think when I notice that I’m squinting my eyes. Why is it so bright in here? Who turned the lights on?

Both of our eyes bolted opened at the exact same time.

What the fuck Mark?!”

We both jolt up to John’s beaming directly into Mark’s soul as he was slowly killing me. On the other hand, Tiffany and Megan are behind John with the dork smiles on their face with both of their thumbs up.

Voice and Student’s Rights to their Own Texts

For me, the most important part of any writing exercise is that my audience, whether it be in a paper or on stage working out some new material, is that my voice is heard.  The idea of “our voice” is what helps us be heard. Not only what it is we are saying, but also the nuances of the feeling and emotion we want to give off in our piece. Once again, we take a dive with the GOAT Peter Elbow and analyze the academic relevance, and even push back on the idea of voice in writing.  I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see that there seemed to be a considerable amount of push back regarding the idea of voice. I guess it is naive of me to think that our voice should come through in all of the writing we do. Then again, these points of contention seem to be focused mostly on academic writing.  In the reading, Elbow talks about how writing is such a prominent part of everyday life, and we need to use our voices in these practical situations. The best example is in a professional sense when writing an email or some other type of correspondence. Voice is essential for the reader on the other end to pickup the tone and ultimately how you feel about what is being discussed.  I found this very true in my own experience. Writing professional emails has been a part of my repertoire for the past 3 and a half years since I completed my undergrad in finance. One thing I learned that helps immensely in this situation is to use your voice in writing so that the emotion you are feeling comes through. For example, if there is something that you are unhappy about, it is important to make sure the reader on the other end can pickup that you are unhappy.  It is the only way for the issue to get resolved. One of my favorite parts of the article is when Elbow begins to dissect all of the different manners in which we use our voice. He first goes into detail on how we usually fall into this trap where we take an adversarial stance. He describes it as the “Either/Or Battle.” I find myself falling into this whenever my friends and I have a healthy debate. It does not matter what it is we are discussing, we always try and prove ourselves right.  Inversely, we are trying to prove one another wrong (which I seldom am). This rings true throughout most of our daily lives, doesn’t it? We all have a voice we want people to hear, and we will make sure out view is heard and taken seriously, while also poking holes in others opinions and views. It is an interesting way to look at voice, but also find it to be the most poignant. The next is probably the most underutilized sense of voice, and that is compromise. For the reasons Elbow mentions above, we do not like to compromise.  In anything. However, I am aware of the power and the intelligence it takes to compromise. Think about what it is. When we compromise, it is likely viewed as a concession to our point and saying that we have “lost” in this instance. It can be viewed, and this is my own take, as a skill. For one to compromise, one must be aware and intelligent enough to understand that there are many ways at viewing the same things. An almost infinite spectrum for to learn, grow, and understand what it is we are discussing. I’ve always said the most important part of any person is their awareness, and being able to accept contraries and find common ground in a debate or disagreement is vital for ones growth as a person and, in this case, as a writer.  I will never agree with the idea that there are times where your voice should not be made clear in certain types of writing and presenting. Voice is authenticity, and I would rather live in a world of authenticity (good or bad) than one where people need to dumb down there thoughts or views to appeal to another group or person. “They see a debate between right and wrong when it’s really a choice between two lenses or “terministic screens” (to use Kenneth Burke’s term). We need both because each shows us something about language that the other obscures.” This quote from the article definitely because I have a philosophy I try and live by, and it is this idea that there are no such thing as truths, only perspectives. And allowing ourselves to see the value and potential “truth” in a contrary point of view, not only are you allowing yourself to be a more present citizen of the world, you are open to to the understanding that ones voice is a composite of an infinite number of variables that can shape a person in a particular way.  I really loved reading this article as it put some things in perspective, and gives me more confidence than ever to be able to use, and most importantly, never lose my voice. 

The Elbow reading went really well with Brannon and Knobloch’s idea that it can seem that students sometimes do not have rights to their own texts.  It goes hand in hand with what Elbow was trying to convey in the article about voice. A quote I found compelling in this second article, “rhetorically more experienced, technically more expert than their apprentice writers. Oddly, therefore, in classroom writing situations, the reader assumes primary control of the choices that writers make, feeling perfectly free to “correct.””  I think this does a great job of encapsulating what the issue is. Going back a few weeks, we talked about how students are seasoned to write whatever it that their instructor may want them to write. The reader, who is the teacher in this instance, is the judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to interpreting the writing and see if the student was “correct” in their analysis. Going back to the point I made earlier (sorry for all the jumps. I just think these articles work so well together!) what we may find to be truths may simply be our own interpretation of the material.  In an exercise as free and expressive as writing is, it is important that we stay mindful. And don’t get me wrong. I totally understand why teachers need to take these stances, and the duty it serves in being so critical of writing. But, just because something is an acceptable construct in our society does not mean there is another way of thinking about it. The authors continue to talk about how “We must replace our professional but still idiosyncratic models of how writing ought to appear, and put in their place a less authoritarian concern for how student texts make us respond as readers and whether those responses are congruent with the writers’ intentions or not.”  In short, we do not need to be less critical of student writing, but more open to the ideas the student is trying to portray, as long as things can be evidenced and defended. Voice works both ways; saying what we want in a manner in which we want, and the ability to take that dynamic and frame it in a way to understand what the writer is trying to say.  

Reaction to “Students’ Rights to their Own Text” and “Civically Engaged Writing”

Lil Brannon and C.H. Knoblauch talk about the importance of students’ right to a voice in “On Student’s Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response.” Interestingly enough, they associate voice in here with something called “authority”. This is the power (in a sense) that the author or writer holds with their work, as the readers reads and responds to it. The notion that an author (expert writer) writes a piece and the audience who reads it accept it as a credible or respectable thing is enough evidence of such authority. This is because the reader, when reading a piece from the author brings the expectation that the person behind the work must be on expert on the subject, have done some formal type of research, or simply knows what they are talking about. And it is in this sense, that authors are similar to teachers, and readers (the audience) are the students.

Even in the classroom, such form of authority when it comes to writing exists. This idea over writing is one I find myself agreeing with the authors, since I have also experienced first-hand the many factors they talk about in the article, not only as a student of writing but also as an amateur-writer. The problem with this authority, as you might think of it, is that it works a bit different in the classroom. As mentioned in the article, the teachers who hold such authority on writing, have a fixed type of expectations of what writing should look like coming from the students. And their expectations are imposed on the students themselves, in a way that almost discourages the students to write with their own voice.

Bringing my personal experience, I think that authority and voice are connected so deeply that we have to be careful how we use it, depending on the circumstances under which we write. When you are just an author who is writing for an audience, you have the freedom to write with your voice. Fortunately, you won’t across many people telling you how to write, since as an author you already naturally given a sense of respect, trust, and even credibility over the subject or topic you are writing on. This is especially true when writing projects on your own will, and not as a part of a requirement from another person, group, or party. This freedom alone to write how you want and like allows for your voice to come out as a writer. But it is also interesting to say that often times, the tables switch in the role of teaching, even if you are teaching from the perspective of an author. This is possibly (and I say possibly because this is an argument which can go many ways) because a type of platonic discourse already build in the mind of the person teaching.

What supports this idea even more is the fact that “the teacher’s role, it is supposed, is to tell the writers [student writers] how to do a better job than they could do alone, thereby in effect appropriating the writers’ texts” (Brannon, L., and Knoblauch, C.H., 158). And so the students are almost obligated to write for this person in a fashion that limits their own way of expression. And in an extreme case, there will be limitations on the student’s own vocabulary, personal opinion, writing style, syntax, and much more. As writing students we come across so many assignments (especially as high school students or college freshman) that limit our form of expression because of demanding expectations by our teachers or professors. When our writing goes off track from this road, it will be graded and interpreted differently. Often, it will be regarded as poor writing, too informal, and undirected by an academic format (such as formulaic writing). And who is the student to counter the teachers’ authority in the end? There is already a supposed reason you are a student and must follow all guidelines, even at the cost of limiting your freedom of expression when writing.

Similar to this article on authority and voice, National Writing Project’s article “Civically Engaged Writing Analysis Continuum” talks about development of voice through civic writing. This form of writing is one that is more publicly engaging with the writer writing in many social forms: text, memes, infographics, and through videos. Because this form of writing is not for academia or meant to follow on strict guidelines or rubrics, there is more freedom which naturally results in the supporting of a voice. But the voice developed here is one for a more general audience, although there are cases when a selected audience it the main target. In a sense, this forma of writing helps the development of a public voice, where “the writing employs rhetorical strategies, tone, and style to contribute to civic discourse or influence action…” (Civically Engaged Writing,.., What Are The Attributes of Civic Writing).

Although it might be seen a different form of writing, I think that it is probably the purest form of voice writer can have. Just thinking about it makes it all the more clear. You are writing in this case with the freedom to say what you want and however you want, while keeping in mind your audience, topic, and arguments. What better way of developing and showcasing your voice as a writer than performing civic writing. Because of this idea, I think that it is possible to civic writing to be the best way to develop a voice, in the case you haven’t found it as a writer yet. It might be surprising that some writer still don’t know they own voice. But I didn’t know I had one until I was a sophomore student in college. I imagine this being the case for other writers too, especially amateur writer like myself. It took me hundreds of papers written in different forms, for different type of audiences and classes and even writing outside of school settings, to come close to understanding the concept of having a voice.

Today, I think of my own voice as a selection or rather a collection of words choices, a build vocabulary, syntax, writing style, form of expression, and even my own knowledge and experiences. All of these come together to not only facilitate the way I express myself when writing. This is because in the end, when I write, I am expressing myself (idea, arguments, ect..) through this system of communication, and how I do it is different from how others do it. This is what I have come to learn about my voice, and why it matter for me to have one. I also think it matter for everyone to have one, even if sometimes they are obligated not to, or limited to their voice. Only robots don’t have a voice, and even that is questionable because they too can be given one, even if it is generic.

Citations

Brannon, L., and Knoblauch, C.H. “On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response.” College Composition and Communication, Vol. 33, No. 2, May 1982. 157-166.

“Civically Engaged Writing Analysis Continuum.” National Writing Project. Http://cewac.nwp.org/.

Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries

Jumping right into this article, I dearly beloved Peter Elbow gives us a little background in the history of voice paying a major role in writing. Fun fact: In the 1960’s, a surge of enthusiasm for getting voice into writing was a major thing! But with enthusiastic, there is always bound the nay Sayers, or in this case the critics. So it become a tug of war with what our students genuinely need in their writings.

As I always like to say, history seems to always repeats itself. Way before this had became a topic of discussion, it brings us back to the Greeks!

This conflict about voice in our field echoes a much older conflict about the self in language. The Greek sophists offered, in effect, to help craft any voice for any speech to help win any argument or law case—no matter what kind of self. Plato, in reaction, argued that the power of language derived, to some real extent, from the nature of the rhetor’s self: only a good rhetor can create really good words. To learn to speak or write better, we need also to work on being better persons.

With that said… lets jump into this article!

The Current Situation

As previously talked about in the beginning of my blog, voice in writing has been going on over the centuries, but most recently it has hit a dead wall. People do not take the topic of voice in writing too seriously, and the fact that has been discredited in journals and books goes to show the fact in unfortunately true. But there is hope! It lives in the writing, thoughts, and feels of our students within the classroom. I found this statement in the article both intresting and inspiring.:

“[Jane Danielewicz quotes a comment by one of her students: “I turned down your suggestion for revising just because I thought it took away some of my personal voice in some places” (personal conversation)].”

This quote reminds me of my own doubts when it comes to my writing. I find my own voice to abrasive or unnecessary, so I began to write in passive voice. Fortunately, the more I write, the more I am encouraged to use my true voice within my writings.

As the article continues, voice also plays a role in:

  • Politics
  • Internet (via email)

Even with voice being so vital both in and outside the classrooms, we are ignoring the topic with the writing field? The article goes on to say how critics tend to get tired of a topic that is not in hot discussion. How ironic is that? Topics such as digital media (my growing love!), public wiring, service learning, and even World Englishes (another one of my growing loves!) are more entertaining to argue about.

Compromise

Within this part of the article, we try to understand what is compressible in this argument of voice. Elbow goes on to refer to Aristotle’s position on voice:

“He’s not saying that rhetors should find a halfway position where they are a little bit good and natural and a little bit clever at disguising. Being only somewhat good and somewhat clever is a formula for mediocrity. My both/and reading of the crux passage is consistent with the kind of thinking that Aristotle uses in various places in his work. He often deals with tricky issues by saying, “in one sense, X; but, in another sense, Y.” That is, he often implies that we can understand a complex topic well only if we can look at it first through one lens and then through a contrary lens.”

As much as I could understand about this portion of the articles, when it comes to voice.

NCte: On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response

Now that we got some enlightenment from Elbow, now we hope into the next article backs up Elbow’s article on that importance and relationship of voice in young writers. In the first two pages, we start of by addressing the voice in writing when it comes to experienced writers. The fact the we assume they know as much about the topic they are writing about as we know, or even better. We give them a chance to get their point across we retain their voice of authority.

“Writers in fact depend on readers’ willingness to stay with a text, even a difficult one, without judging it prematurely on the basis of its apparent violation of their own perspectives or impressions of some subject.”

Of course for many of us who have been reading our entire lives, see no fault in this true assumption. But unfortunately, we do not see in the case of our young beautiful writers. We do not see them having the capability to have this type of authority. This writing stigma is built upon the relationship we have between them as student and teacher (I am currently very guilty of this with my 2nd Graders).

“When we consider how writing is taught, however, this normal and dynamic connection between a writer’s authority and the quality of a reader’s attention is altered because of the peculiar relationship between teacher and student.”

Due to teachers feeling that they have this intellectual and experienced authority over the students writing, we try to have a say so over what type of voice the student is trying to have inn their writing. We come in with having the best intentions, but it fall shorts when we let this authority ego take over.

Voice and Authority in Writing

Image result for voice in writing

Although Elbow argues for voice he accepts a “both/and” form of thinking and not a “either/or” attitude and he suggests that people on opposites handle the stalemate they find themselves in by embracing contraries.

Starting in the 1960s a surge of enthusiasm for getting voice into writing exploded. The idea was that voice is an important dimension in texts and anyone with a real voice could write with power. People began to think that voice is the true self and it represents rhetoric power, which meant that the goal of teaching should be to develop a student’s self. While individuals were embracing this notion of voice in writing, there were some who wanted to denounce this idea. The skeptics on the opposite side argued that voice was a misleading metaphor that was written by our culture and socially constructed and what we mistake for a self is actually a subject position that changes. Like Elbow, I find myself arguing a both/and attitude. I agree that our culture is does give us a voice. However, I believe that each person’s experiences, how they are impacted, and how they choose to respond to this shared culture will be different. These differences will then be reflected in their writing and speaking, which gives each person a unique voice and self. I also believe that there should be a balance of voice. There will be times when one writing calls for more use of voice than another form, and I think a person needs to understand and know how to use voice accordingly.

The conversation surrounding voice turned into the Greek Sophists Vs. Plato with Aristotle finding himself in the middle. The Greek Sophists offered to help craft peoples voices for any type of speeches in order to win an argument or case. Plato on the other hand argued that the power of language comes from the nature of the speaker’s self and if you became a better person you could naturally become a better writer/speaker. Amidst these arguments, Aristotle found himself in the middle of both positions. He sided with Plato in his belief that good people do make good speakers. But Aristotle also agreed with the Greek Sophists that anyone could be taught to be a skilled speaker and if one was a skilled rhetoric they could fool individuals into thinking they have a good “self.” I’m not sure if developing a good “self” will be all it takes to become a good writer and speaker, I believe some sort of teaching needs to be involved. I do agree that the more sincere an individual is then the better speaker/writer they will be. I also agree with Aristotle when he says that skilled individuals can fake it.

Amherst college had an interesting way in discussing the differing viewpoints of voice. On on hand participants scorned sincerity and believed that the text gave no window on the self of the writer. Participants on the opposite side saw voice as the central operative dimension in a text and even developed ears for the different nuances of voice, called ear training. What stood out to me the most was their idea that self was continually made and re-made by language and not a reflection of the historical self or author. I see the point that is being made because how we write now is totally different than the way Shakespeare wrote did during his time, but a person could study his language and choose to write in that manner. The writing being produced does not 100 percent reflect the writer’s self because it would not be in their typical language. It’s like what Aristotle said, a skilled person could fake it. However, I think that even by “faking” it a person’s true self will shine through the ideas and style being discussed.

The current situation found voices to be alive in classrooms as students began to think about, talk about and believe in their own voices. During this situation voice is also discussed in terms of politics and on social media. Voice in social media is a perfect tie-in to civic writing. Social media has given a people a platform to have a voice and share that voice across the internet. And while civic writing can be used for academic purposes, it is important to not that it can also be used in public spaces like on social media. Using civic writing on social media is important because social media causes us to forget the humans that sit on the other side of a computer or phone and it becomes easier to say rash and hurtful things. Civic media teaches us how to use our voice in a professional manner, whether it be for academic or non-academic purposes.

Reasons for Attending Voice in Text:

  • Attention to voice helps rhetorical effectiveness.
  • The metaphor of “voice” helps students improve their writing.
  • Thinking in terms of voice can help people enjoy writing more.
  • Attention to voice can help with reading.

Reasons for Not Attending Voice in Text:

  • Ignoring voice is necessary for good reading.
  • Ignoring voice is necessary for teaching writing.
  • Avoidance of voice is a powerful tool for a writer.
  • “Voice” is too vague a metaphor to be useful.
  • The notion of “voice in writing” does harm in our culture.

Voice and authority work hand in hand because I think by taking away a student’s voice is taking away their rights and authority over their work. When we read a text we do not question the author because we believe that they have written everything the way it is for a reason and the more we know about a writer’s skill, the less we will question and the more authority they have as the writer. The role of the writer having the authority is switched in schools and the teacher assumes the authority. I know that students haven’t developed a certain skill set to not have their work questioned and to assume all authority, but I do think teachers should take in mind the rights a student has to their texts. As teachers when we see something wrong to us in a student’s paper we don’t ask any questions we just mark it up and tell the student to fix it. During conferences with my students I’ve taken the time (and I think I should do this more) to ask students why they chose to write something a certain way, and this is similar to a questioning method discussed in the essay. But asking them this helps me understand their thought path and instead of telling them that no you’re completely wrong, I could help them keep their original idea but edit it to make it stronger or better. I think that it is useful for students to feel like not only do they have a voice in their work, but their voice is respected. How can teachers teach students to use voice in their writings but when they grade it everything is wrong? Essentially you are telling that student that their voice does not deserve to be heard, or that they do not have the “right” voice.

I see the issue with this, and Brannon and Knoblauch also saw this issue and understood that students and teachers needed to find some middle ground so they suggested some questions to help:

  • What did the writer intend to do?
  • What has the writing actually said?
  • How has the writing done what it is supposed to do?

This method works and I think its a better solution than to ignore voice because its better for teaching. This way teachers could begin to learn how teach students how to better develop their voice and start to give back some of their authority over their work.

Blog #8

Often in academic writing the author choses a viewpoint and a polarized argument with which to methodically defend that viewpoint.  Peter Elbow does not do this in his article Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries.  In his article, Peter Elbow expounds upon the fact that as a pedagogue he is an advocate of integrating techniques into the learning environment that focus on the inculcation of voice in student writing and heightening an awareness of isolating the text from the voice in order to extrapolate meaning solely from the words and structure.  He stresses that there is no contradiction in advocating for two seemingly contradictory areas of focus when the dimension of time is brought into the discussion: He states, “It’s easy to pay attention and also not pay attention – at two different points in time.  We don’t have to read or write the same all of the time” (183). 

The Greek sophists believed that language could be crafted by any voice to help win an argument or a law case.  Plato argued that the power of language derived from the nature of the rhetors self.  “Aristotle refused this either/or conflict” (169).  He wrote that “We believe good men more fully and more readily than others” (Rhetoric 1356a) while also recognizing that a good craftsman could convince listeners of their position.  Peter Elbow recognizes that “good men do have an advantage and… genuine naturalness is persuasive” (169).  Therefore, a successful persuasive writer benefits from knowing themselves, developing voice and understanding rhetorical tools.

Lil Brannon and C. H. Knoblauch convey an approach to encouraging the development of student voice in their article On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response.  In his article, Peter Elbow offers reasons for attending to voice.  Brannon and Knoblauch recognize that if teachers allow their Ideal Texts “to dictate choices that properly belong to writers” (159) control is taken from the student in a way that is detrimental to the student developing further voice, logic, and deeper thinking.  Instead they recommend consulting the “student writer about what he or she wanted to say before suggesting how he or she ought to say it” (161).  They suggest that this approach shifts the focus from a teachers Ideal Text to one which leads both the teacher and student to decreasing “the disparity between what the writer wanted to communicate and what the choices residing in the text actually cause the readers to understand” (161). 

In order to achieve the objective of having the student thoroughly think through their own writing, Brannon and Knoblauch recommend:

  • Students compose drafts in which they also write out their intentions in a large column to the right of the text itself.
  • Multiple-draft assignments are permitted by the teacher to allow for the development of the writer’s choices and intentions in their communication.
  • Teachers should utilize several different teaching formats including one-to-one conferences, peer-group collaborations and comments on student essays.
  • Students and teachers need to share their different perceptions.  One way this can be achieved is by having both answer the following questions and then compare their notes:
    • What did the writer intend to do?
    • What has the writing actually said?
    • How has the writing done what it is supposed to do?
  • Formal evaluation should take place after the student has decided that their writing is finished.
  • Evaluation should be based on the plausibility of the writer’s choices regarding the needs and expectations of the intended audience.

All three authors, Brannon, Knoblauch, and Elbow acknowledge that developing voice is essential for the evolving writer. In his article Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries, Peter Elbow lists the advantages of integrating the development of voice in writing into the classroom structure.

  • When pros “has voice” the words are more effective at carrying meaning.
  • Attention to voice helps rhetorical effectiveness.
  • The metaphor of “voice” helps students improve their writing.
  • Thinking in terms of voice can help people enjoy writing more.
  • Attention to voice can help with reading.
  • Voice links to the self of the writer.  It can result in writing that is more sincere and integrates resonance.

In addition to arguing for allocating a significant amount of learning time to developing student voice in writing, Peter Elbow argues for allocating time to ignoring voice as well.  He believes that this practice helps students to read critically by pushing away the persuasive elements that are conveyed through the voice of the writer.  He states that this gives students the opportunity to discern “the cognitive, logical, (and) semantic meaning itself” (180).  Analytic abilities evolve with this practice.  Reading in this manner informs the writing process because students learn to focus on pure message and logic when called upon to do so.  For example, in scholarly work “objectivity and impersonality are sometimes worth aiming toward” (182).

Peter Elbow notes that “voice is also alive in politics” (171).  This is an arena where the ability to discern the motivations behind voice as well as analyze the cognitive, logical, and semantic message is essential. These skills are not only necessary to be an informed citizen, but also to actively participate in democratic changes.  The National Writing Project (2018) developed Civically Engaged Writing Analysis Continuum (available at https://cewac.nwp.org/ ).  This project has been developed to teach students how to write so that they can be actively engaged in the civic process and advocate for social change now or in the future.  The rubric contained in the website provides standards to guide students and teachers into creating a fruitful project: The complete rubric can be found at  https://cewac.nwp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/CEWAC_2.0.pdf .  The rubric provides standards in the following categories: 1. Employs a public voice; 2. Advocates civic engagement or action; 3. Argues a position based on reasoning and evidence; 4. And, employs a structure to support a position.  It is within this context that the formula that Aristotle prescribed, a developed skill in conveying voice and being adept with the conventions of writing, should culminate in persuasion leading to social change. 

Where does voice belong?

It’s getting to a point where any week I get to read a Peter Elbow article turns out to be a good week. We’ve been lauding voice these past weeks unanimously, so it was interesting to read someone who took the approach that voice needs to be considered in some moderation, or at least taken simultaneously with not-voiced writing as well. But the Brannon & Knoblauch article was also enjoyable for bringing up a consequence of the teacher-reader model which students find themselves in which I had not considered before. But more on that later!

Elbow introduces voice vis-à-vis Greek sophistry (classic Elbow) as something to do with the “self in language”. It may seem on the surface that “voice” and “the self” are interchangeable in this context but it seems more to me that voice is the effect of the self more than that they are entirely like constructs. As he points out, the self is the amount of goodness or power that the rhetor/writer has in the piece, whereas voice turns out to be an umbrella term for too much and as such can mean little.

One of the things about Elbow that I’ve enjoyed thus far is that he often seems to seek to elevate conversations through point-counterpoint arguments which he constructs. In this case he, on the one hand, acknowledges the staying power of voice and, on the other hand, says that the criticisms against it are not functioning to force the idea of voice to meet the challenge ideologically. He does not seek a concession between the deletion of voice in writing and the total acceptance of it, but instead a strong sense of both of those things simultaneously.

Later on he makes a point about looking through two different “lenses”. As I understood him to mean, I believe he was saying that there can be no mutual exclusivity in claims that text should either be seen through a lens of voice or a lens without voice, because both are rhetorical lenses anyway; and insofar as both are rhetorical lenses then the trick should not be to choose either a personal or mechanistic way of viewing text, but both – strongly – at the same time. Elbow is taking the time to exemplify why voice can be helpful and why it can be harmful, but is distancing himself from claiming that it should be anything but both.

Another thing I enjoyed about what Elbow was doing was that he was expanding on the very concept of voice. In my own way, when talking about music, I use the term “progressive rock” but it’s a blanket term. It really encompasses so much that it ends up meaning almost nothing. There are so many sub-genres of prog that I choose the colloquial (and even then, “progressive rock” is not as well-known as, say, “classic rock” which means even less) term when discussing it. But I take the knowledge of what lies below the surface with me in all of those conversations. Elbow here is attempting to elucidate on that colloquialism called “voice” by saying there is much more to voice than just… “voice”. His passage on “Resonance” is particularly interesting. I suppose that people who try to put a voice into their writing, myself included, have a tendency to come off as canned and unnatural. Resonance, then, is what happens when one writes oneself into a piece unintentionally, perhaps even at the expense of the work, but it comes off as a shining moment of clarity into a longer-term sense of self which can (and should, as Elbow points out) be pointed out tot he author.

But Elbow then goes on to give reasons why voice should be avoided, or at least not overly relied upon. He warns that to say voice is good writing is certainly something to avoid. He claims that “voice” is seen similarly to one’s “individuality” and that it can be preyed upon when people seek to “sell” you modes of individuality so to speak. But I actually think that one of his most interesting counterpoints to voice is his comment on the historical stigmatizing of certain groups. He says that pseudonyms are a means of erasing voice, for in the case of women there were times and places that that “feminine voice” would have necessarily diminished the work and not uplifted it. It is interesting to consider that, since voice is social, that the social context could hurt the text.

I loved his ending to this article. He invokes Paul Ricoeur in saying that we can “remain in the suspense of the text” when we view it in the vacuum of the silence it literally represents, but then “lift the suspense and fulfill the text in speech” when we choose to live in the voice of the author in communicating with it. That is what I find so engaging about the bit of “both/and” business which Elbow presents; that there does not have to be, nor should there be, a mutual exclusivity in reading text between voicelessness and voice. Here we may choose to converse with the author once we understand the text, as it is right to do.

Speaking of conversing with the text and author in tandem, the Brannon article! I’ve run on quite a bit here about Elbow, and not to diminish this text by not discussing it as fully, but I’ll keep my fanboy-ing to a minimum this time. Apropos our conversation about my article last week, the topic of power in the relationship between exercise and the one exercising is on the mind. Here it was brought up again in a familiar form: that of the student-teacher relationship. What is clear enough after all these weeks is that the typical relationship between teacher and student where writing is involved is apparent enough in that it is imbalanced. The teacher holds and enormous amount of power over the student and, intentionally or unintentionally, uses that power destructively. But here it is given a new perspective which I had not considered: that because of the academic setting, a student who undeniably is nubile as a writer (hopefully) compared with the teacher is having the agency of their words commandeered. It makes the process less impactful for the student; less enjoyable for the student; less fair for the student.

It again opens up the notion of revision. If there is revision there is discussion. If there is discussion there is understanding, both for the student and for the educator. I liked the example of a possible method in the self-annotating which was given later in the article. Oftentimes when presented with my own words I feel the need to explain them. But then, why did I write them? The idea is then that, I had not revised my words correctly to be able to have them speak for themselves, and annotating my own self would solve this. A textual conversation with a professor or a school teacher, aside from being somewhat novel, would be of great benefit time-wise on the part of the educator because it takes the guessing and assuming out of the assessing, and also of great value for the student because they can see how one might interpret their words when interpretation of the words is the goal.

Looking back, that’s a lot of words. Here’s one of my patented Calvin & Hobbes comics to end on a lighter note: