Language Consciousness Curse

[posted to Spring 1995 English 88 listserv, 4/17/95:]

At the end of a long paper (long because it was on the topic--Howe's 
Dickinson and feminism--that permitted longishness) one student in 88 
wrote the following totally relevant remark:

 Al-I am sorry this paper is so long, but - "who polices questions of
 [paper length]? After having read so much on the language poets, I found 
 this essay difficult to write.  Realizing that my mind works much
 faster than my ability to express its contents, I have become obsessed
 with my own language choices and deliberate over every word that I print
 on a page or type on a screen.  In fact, at this very moment I wonder if
 I am expressing myself with the most effective words possible.  Look what
 you have done to me!  I hope that someday modern technology produces a
 machine where you can attach electrodes to your temples and have your
 brainwaves, your exact thoughts, immediately transcribed onto a computer
 microchip.  That way, I could avoid the obstacle of language. No matter
 how fast my mind races, nor how far - the computer would pick up every
 imaginative (or not-so-imaginative) detail.  Here's hoping....  

I don't know about the "modern technology" part but I do know that 
"becom[ing] obsessed with [our] own language choices" is, in my view, a 
responsible, moral, political project!  Know full well the implications 
(however inevitable) of placing a jar in Tennessee, a flag on the moon, 
saying "Leora" when you "mean" so much more than "l," "e," "o," "r," "a," 
which are arbitrarily accidentally-almost chosen letters. (This last 
point is why I like MacLow's poem-performance of 960 words plus 
letters made from his dead friend's name.)



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Last modified: Wednesday, 18-Jul-2007 16:27:07 EDT