all she wrote

In Talkin and Testifyin, Geneva Smitherman makes two primary arguments. First, Smitherman claims that Black English is an amalgamation of West African languages and American English, with many of the roots of black “style,” tradition, and interaction based in carryovers from African culture.

How it was then

I don't know what I was expecting from Smitherman's text. Maybe it's because of the structure of all of the previous texts we've read so far, but this one felt different. It's the first time the text doesn't immediately start from the author's perspective. Not that this is a bad thing by any means. I just find it interesting that, until now, we've been pretty much reading auto/biographies of one sort or another. Looking at the cultural context of the development of Black English is an interesting perspective to take. In a sense, it allows for a space where the language tells its own story.

Smitherman is One Baaaad Mothaf-----, Hush Yo’ Mouf!

Believe it or not, (and I know that I’ve been a pretty harsh critic of Black English in our past discussions), I actually enjoyed Smitherman’s text. But probably not for the reasons you think. Yes, she did an excellent job of defining and describing Black English, and yes, I am convinced that it is actually a language that has more than a little merit in American culture. However, what struck me more than anything was how “dated” the text felt. No doubt Smitherman recognized the fluid and ever changing nature of language and says so more than once in her text.

Talkin' and Testifyin'

To say Smitherman goes into tremendous detail discussing the rules of BVE and contextualizing those rules historically would be redundant. It is the crux of the book. Smitherman’s project shows that BVE is a dialect as much as SWE. The questions I have relate to how to bring this into the classroom. I think we’re at a much different place than K-12 teachers in our ability to address such questions, particularly with the attacks on teacher agency and curricula going on around the country.

Black English

I wrote the following paragraph a while back to describe the poor black neighborhood where my father grew up:

On Silence and Learning

To be quite honest, I was a little worried when I started this text: I knew that Black English would play a large part, I knew I'd find out a bit more about Gilyard than I really wanted to know, and I'm not sure I'm buying the idea that there is such a thing a "Black Community" in which all Black folk learn to speak the same language, play the same games, and where the choices are always of the either or variety. Now that I've finished the text, I'm probably more dismayed than I was when I started. We can talk about this in class.

where do we go from here?

So, we've been talking about autobiography and narrative as research and theoretical tools, right? And in general, I'm very firmly on the side of arguing: 1.) Everything we can make sense of has a narrative, whether created by the producer or the audience--it's just a question of whether it's deliberate and chosen, or subconscious and unintentional; and 2.) Autobiographical information--the acknowledgment of subjectivity and positionality--can be an act of resistance against the "traditional" presentation of academic discourse as objective.

At times harrowing, insightful at others

I think one of the reasons I have a problem with autobiography/personal narrative is the fact that the word "I" forces me into the perspective of the author. I get very uncomfortable during those scenes where Gilyard is being beaten by his mother, he's getting sliced in the face by his sister, etc. But one thing that I noticed was the more unconscious portion of the narrative where he theorizes in hindsight; particularly where he talks about telling his white classmates to call him "Raymond" instead of "Keith". "The point was to have a plot. To keep a part of myself I could trust.

Gilyard, Critical Pedagogy, and ENGL 106

One of the passages for Voices of the Self that sticks with me:
“The older teachers (“chronic” teachers in Levy’s terms) firmly believed that ‘control must precede education’ (p. 25). They spent the majority of their time and energy as teachers attempting to master the technology of control, a system of devices including bribery, work routines, and even physical violence. In actuality, for the chronic teacher, control did not simply precede education, but was education itself” (63).

Structuring Selves Against and With the Other: Keith Gilyard & Language Identity as Self

…In performing a role the individual must see to it
that the impressions of him are conveyed in the
situation are compatible with role-appropriate
personal qualities effectively imputed to him…

A self, then, virtually awaits the individual
entering a position…

Each individual will, therefore, have several
selves, providing us with the interesting
problem of how these selves are related.

Erving Goffman, “Role Distance”
Two Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction

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