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March 3, 2010

"All of the big shots sit on the steps of St. Patrick's, watching the show go by."

In Peter Elbow’s section of Writing Materials: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age, although from what I understood of his article, he sided with writing as a better and stronger force, I have to continue to agree with a claim I made early in the semester by saying that oral is greater than written communication. Within Elbow’s writing he sets up a perfect argument against himself and in favor of oral communication.

On page 137, “Precisely because speech is nothing but temporary crowding in air molecules, we can never revise it.”

Although I do agree that oral communication is not able to be as lasting as writing can be, I have to disagree when Elbow takes this statement from Roland Barthes to hold against orality. Because, yes, speech is only for a moment and yes, we can never fully revise it once we say something, but I think that is one of the reasons about what makes it so powerful, more powerful than writing anyway. Once you say something, it’s done, it’s out there and the reaction will eventually come out too because of it. With the spoken word, we have the power to say what we mean without a censor and let it be as it is.

On page 138, “Perhaps we fall into the assumption that speech is ephemeral because we live in a blabbing culture.”

I think this statement holds true. I think that people don’t consider how wonderful speech is because it’s so common and everyone does it at some point in some form. But not everyone can be a writer. That’s also true, but not everyone can make people think differently or act differently with their spoken words. A true speaker can however and does which is another reason why speech is so powerful.

Also, Elbow even mentions at the top of page 139 how writers are hesitant and they can stop and think about what they are writing, they can look up what they are going to discuss and they can proofread before letting their work out into the world. Well not only by that time is the written material probably out of date, but also, where is the meaning and the power in something you waited with before it was perfect? With oral communication, we are able to say what we mean right then in the moment without the worry of what people are going to think because they are forming their thoughts on our words as we say them. Written text makes you hesitant and makes you think twice before letting out your feelings it makes you hide behind your words instead of using your words to empower you. (Which is kind of like the idea had about the use of PowerPoint.) But on the other hand, speech puts and keeps you in the moment and makes your words powerful and meaningful. They might be lost eventually, but the hold a greater impact with each time you are reminded of them.

2 Comments

Chelsea, you make the argument that speech's power lies in that a good speaker can "empower" themselves with what they say while a writer hesitates, but what about the individuals who write famous speeches? Important figures throughout time have had to write speeches comprised of words that would change an audience once they had heard it. One of the most famous being Abraham Lincoln and his "Gettysburg Address." Had Lincoln not taken a slight "hesitation" in writing out his speech, would it have had the same impact on people as it did and continues to have? Improvised arguments may rely on well thought speaking in the moment and writing on much revision, but is there not some credence for meshing both forms in some manner? After all, students would not still be studying the "Gettysburg Address" had someone not written it down, allowing it to still impact us today.

Maddie, you make a good point, but let’s take a look at what I would consider to be an even more memorable speech. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Although I have heard that he got part of the idea for the speech from a white woman, he still, strayed from what he had written down in front of him and gave an impromptu ending to his speech, an ending which is what the speech is remembered for. So yes, although writing a speech out helps before presenting it…which part do people really remember? Dr. King stopped giving his prepared speech and just let the words flow, creating one of the most memorable and not to mention, not written down in front of him, speech that we have ever heard and probably for many generations after us will ever hear and one of the main reasons that speech was so powerful, is because of the words he said in the moment, not the words he had written down.

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