September 16, 2012

Give the audience what they want or need??

When we left class Friday I was honestly pretty amazed at the class’s responses to the two different articles on Sojourner Truth. I did not understand why most of the student’s thought it was in Gage’s benefit to please his audience by writing an article that made Sojourner appear as this stereotypical black slave. Instead of agreeing with or appreciating Campbell’s efforts in making the article a more accurate account of Sojourner’s character and her tone and style during that period in time.

I believe that most people would agree with me when I say when dealing with a political historical event or symbol such as Sojourner and her speech I want as close as I can get to the truth. Actually when being told any piece of information no matter how meaningless I would rather the truth than a false statement or persona for that matter.

Gage made Sojourner seem as this illiterate black woman. I understand our class as an audience felt it in some way the grammar linked them with the past, but it was never a reality. I am sure Sojourner being a prominent black woman in history would be unsatisfied with how she was being portrayed in this article. Then or now no one wants to come off as something they were or are not especially if it puts them in an even more negative light. I actually did a presentation on Sojourner Truth in elementary school, and it leaned more towards Gage’s idea of her than Campbell’s. Until Campbell’s article I always pictured her to sound the way she did in Gage’s piece. I felt mislead when I found out she was a women of opposite dialect.

As Elementary school kid I could see why I was so focused on her being a slave, and trying to portray her as what I though black slaves sounded like during that time.  But I am no longer a ten-year-old girl trying to please my teacher with a silly presentation. I have matured and realized when dealing with historical issues I want the truth. I want to know how it really was not what I thought it was like. By making things seem as though they are not we may be putting too much value on some things and too little value on others. For example when people read about how racism is today are they going to assume it could not exist because slavery has been over for some time now, and it is “said” we have equal rights? I think so even though, racism is still a rather large issue today, and women continue to only making $.77 to a man’s $1.00

For reasons as I stated earlier I strongly believe that it is better to hear how situations really occurred than fabrications that make us feel like we can relate more to the story. Honestly it is being more connected to a lie, and benefits no one. So this is why I preferred Campbell’s article, and appreciated him being as authentic as he could.


Nicola Wood said...

I completely agree with this! I found it misleading and confusing that Gage would choose to portray Truth as more illiterate and lower down in society than she actually was. I suppose that he thought that more people would be able to relate to her if they thought she was African-American, but I still don't think that justifies creating a fictive piece of writing out of an important piece of history.

anaistamayo said...

I agree with you about not liking Gage's piece, because when I found out it was essentially fiction, it bothered me a lot that he was giving her a sound that she didn't actually have. And, actually, I only liked Campbell's a bit more, because it was the same fiction, just without the made up vernacular. The Gage interpretation was the one I was familiar with, and I felt tricked when I found out Truth had a Dutch accent but was portrayed in this sort of stereotypical slave vernacular. It's not surprising that Gage did so, but that doesn't just make it okay.

Stephen Craun said...

I do agree with the view that gage's characterization of Sojourner Truth's as that of an uneducated slave is a misrepresentation of her actual character.
However,I think that we should keep in mind that Gage's version of the dialect is a work of fiction, and thus we should not attempt to take it out of context. The claim could easily be made that Gage is guilty of having racially biased beliefs which translate into his works of fiction, but i believe that his motivation for composing his interpretation of Truth's words is representative of the effects of the historical epistime upon current conscious thought. If we accept Foucault's theory of the epistime, then we must accept that the entire focus by which we can interpret and understand something is limited to constraints of our current period of existance, whether it be by cultural, social, religious,or scientific norms which largely dictate the way we perceive the world around us. We also use the epistime in historical context, as in to classify periods in history based upon the socioeconomic, political, and religious tendancies of the period in question. My point to this is that Truth was a member of an epistime where literacy and education were coveted by the white slaveowners, and she stood in stark defiance of this reality, which has been immortalized in the fabric of rhetoical practice. It is the role of an author of fiction to create a vivid world of imagery and characters who posess the depth of personality necessary to form a connection with the reader, which is what i propose that Gage is attempting to do. Perhaps Gage is at fault for interpreting Truth's speech as being spoken by an illiterate woman, but in doing so he is only forming a representation of the epistime of the time, as he and the rest of us are limited to interpreting the nature of this historical period. Gage's fault in accurately representing Truth's speech may be seen as the failure of the author of fiction to realistically portray a fictional character based on an actual person, due to his adherence to the epistime presented for the time period. A vast majority of slaves were indeed illiterate, so can't it be assumed that Truth might have altered her venacular or the method in which she delivered her speech in order to more adequately connect with her audience? My main point to all of this is that Gage's personification of Truth in her speech as being illiterate could a result of his own adherence to the epistime of the period, or constructed from a fictional perception of the epistime in order to appeal to a perceived audience and their perceived knowledge regarding the epistime.

Jessica Weaver said...

In the earlier class, we had a big discussion about Gage's fictional piece and while we might not agree with the feeling of being lied to or even being tricked but have you ever thought that it made his piece, in even the slightest way, more persuasive? Speaking in a certain vernacular does allow for authenticity within a piece; the delivery chosen by the author was important because Truth then stood out as a representation of her time. If that was how the author chose to portray Truth, why argue when you can analyze? We all might not agree with it but I believe it made Gage's piece much more intriguing.

tyreekminor said...

I think we would all agree that by our account, currently in the academy, that Gage's misleading replication of Truth's speech is immoral and should be done away with, but consider our perspective. Those who do not study history, the classics, rhetorical theory and so on, typically would much rather hear a less authentic account of a slave speech because that better meets their expectations. It was beneficial for Gage to write Truth's speech in the manner he did because it better met the general populations expectations rather than a few intelligent people in the academy.

Have you considered that maybe, by his possibly biased account, that that really is how he heard Truth? That his experience with her speech was altered by his incoming biases? I think the idea of author function and audience interpretation would play a role in such a thing..

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