Tuesday, March 12, 2013
What Does the Text Say to You?
"Your weight has gone up." Such a simple statement, and yet how often have other women (or men) heard or read these words and felt their heart sink. An odd way to begin this blog I suppose; but as I reflect on my recently completed readings regarding the power of Discourse (with a capital D) in relation to the written word, I cannot help but consider how one's Discourse could potentially change the feeling behind what seems to be such a simple statement. For me this statement can evoke emotions of frustration or perhaps even disappointment. Yet for another, would it mean the same? When I step back from these words and consider instead what it may mean for a woman that is expecting a child, or even someone that has struggled to put on weight, or even still what about those outside of my own Discourse or culture that place value or even status on the "healthiness" of a person's weight? But if this example seems a bit off base, consider instead the reference Janks makes to a speech given by then President Bush. In this speech, Bush had originally chosen to reference the countries of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the 'axis of hatred'. A powerful choice of words indeed, but not nearly as emotive as the amended 'axis of evil' (pg 98). Without truly considering it at first, those three words can cause me to immediately begin to envision images of evil (war, angry men, scared women and children, bombs). It's amazing how much my experience with the word can automatically begin to associate feelings and pictures with the points of reference. But stepping back from it now, I can't help but wonder if there were others that also heard his speech that felt a different emotion or association? Did the word evil evoke even more powerful and dark emotional images, or lesser? Or did the meaning behind the word instead conjure images of powerful people? I may be going a bit too far with such a reflection, but I can't help but share these thoughts with my fellow bloggers/classmates as I consider the power of a wider lens. A lens that provides meaning around, behind, and outside of the text. And what about when we actually remove the voice from behind the text? Surely the tone of voice chosen and nonverbal signals can intensify the speaker/writer's persuasion of the listener. Janks even provides several instances of the influence that a picture can lend to the words on a page. But when we remove all of these influences, can the words still persuade? Janks lends the perspective that words can perhaps be just as powerful on their own. I for one can relate to her mention of a writer revising and rearranging text until it is "just right". Changing the design until the words on the page seem to take on a life of their own; painting pictures and feelings of what the writer feels and sees until he or she is so certain in their message and the words carefully chosen to convey it that, from their perspective, it becomes a truly powerful tool. However it is indeed a tool that has been created based on their perspective....a perspective that can prove persuading and perhaps even disguising. I wonder how often I have fallen victim to the power of a single story? Believing with conviction of the truth that it held. I think about this as I remember a Ted Talk Dr. Muth shared during an earlier class, The danger of a single story. In this fantastic talk by Chimamanda Adichie, she shares her own experiences with stories that have been slanted with the writer's or speaker's perception of the truth. She asks us to consider that when it is the only truth that we take in, the danger that single story can lend to our understanding and view of the world around us. I reflect now on my own perceptions of the world and how often I take things at face value. I wonder, as I begin to widen my own personal lens, how will text look to me tomorrow?