Some language needs to be impersonal

I’m gathering and organizing my in- and out-of-class assignments for WR 516 Advanced Composition, to put together in a sketchbook to be turned in to Chris Anderson. They’d gotten out of order and mixed in with my class notes. Anyway, I thought I’d post this paragraph. Chris loved it. And I like it a lot, too. It’s a revision of an in-class freewrite.

Some language needs to be impersonal. Sometimes we need to speak not from our authentic selves (though certainly using our authentic selves), but as a representative of something else. At a funeral, the traditional, liturgical language lifts the mourners to a life bigger. The full and flowery lines bring the mourners comfort and hope. They call up the familiar warmth of weekly worship. The speaker does blend her deepest self with the traditional meanings and speaks them as if they are heavy within her but not from her. She is only carrying them. A light burden. She must somehow stand next to the words and convey them with sincerity, but not behind the words as if they were hers. It’s a sincerity of belief, not a sincerity of personality. There’s probably no analogy with secular speaking. Even in a summary, even though the writer is to convey another person’s thoughts in her own words, she is to get completely out of the way and let the original writer speak. The summarizer writes alongside the writer, but rarely is blended with the writer’s words, either by belief or by warmth. But in liturgical language, the speaker [ran out of material from the original freewrite]…

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One thought on “Some language needs to be impersonal

  1. Hmmm… this reminds me of Michael Warner’s work on publics. He writes that, in part, a public is both personally addressed and impersonally addressed, so perhaps we could say that all public address is both personal (in that someone identifies with it) and impersonal (in that that same person dis-identifies with it).

    Though that’s more in terms of reading/listening than writing/speaking, though, and a bit off topic.

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