Words Getting in the The Way: When Voice Determines Content

In “Imitate Me; Don’t Imitate Me,” Richard Boyd takes issue with David Bartholomae’s contention that incoming freshmen must learn to mimic the phrases, diction, and rhetorical gestures of what he or she perceives as the voice of the academy. Boyd is concerned with what exactly is imitated when a student does as Bartholomae asks and builds a text based on the diction, tone, and phraseology of what he or she perceives as the voice of the academy. Robert Brooke and Alice Horning, for example, suggest that it is not the critical ethos that is being mimicked, but the people of the academy themselves: students are not saying new things, they are becoming new people. If this is so, then the concern arises of whether or not they are leaving behind all of the diversity that we as public educators have so vigorously courted in our mission statements and community outreach efforts. Rene’ Girard adds further stakes to the debate, noting that the people who are being mimicked are the same ones who have, in the case of our more socially disenfranchised segments of society, marginalized our students’ communities in the first place. The immediate concern, however, and the one which I would like to address in this article, is that this new authorial self the student affects often says things that are not only insincere, but contradictory to his or her intention as well: our words are getting in their way.

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