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Writing About Speech

jhunter's picture

Though Anna Deavere Smith raises many interesting points, I couldn't reconcile myself with her simultaneous celebration of the beauty in imperfect language and the poetic, sometimes over-written words I held in my hands.  I think the greatest issue was, as she admits, trying to explain a piece that is about dialogue on the silent, static, monochromatic world of the page.  I don't know if I'm reading too much, some pun intended, into her introduction, but the dissonance bothers me.  Her descriptions of the interviews and audience's reactions to her play don't make me feel anything.  And maybe this proves her point about the transformative nature not of words themselves but of what happens when words are spoken.

Despite this struggle with her words, I did find much of Smith's piece thought-provoking, particularly her exploration of the hesitation to mimic actually serving as an insult.  She raises many interesting questions, many more than would be productive to share in this space.  If I ignore your difference, do I ignore you?  If I fail to speak about how I see and hear you, or if I sanitize my speech in efforts to be 'politically correct,' am I effectively transforming you into me?  Is this a form of verbal genocide--the murder of the language of an oppressed group?  And, if I fail to speak about my own experience, am I truly myself?