October 26, 2012

Bakhtin Reflected in Public Secrets

Bakhtin describes describes heteroglossia as a "special type of double-voiced discourse," which is exactly what is going on in "Public Secrets" (Bakhtin, 324). The first voice in this text is society's perception of what prisons are like. The beginning sequence makes it sound like prisons are carefully designed to look a certain way from the outside so that society feels safe. The three million dollar razor wire fence, metal detector, and gun tower may seem a little over the top for a seemingly calm women's prison, but civilians driving past will feel comforted seeing it. The "uncannily suburban, perfectly manicured, lawn complete with a rose-lined path and built in sprinkler system" are there solely to make outsiders feel like the inside of the prison also looks that way. However, the prisoners tell a very different story. The women report not getting sufficient cleaning products to clean their living areas, chipped paint, and treeless, grassless yards. Most of the prisoners interviewed said that they had the same nasty conceptions of prisons as the rest of society until they got to the women's prison, saw that there were women who were being punished for finally fighting back after a life of repression, and saw how disrespectful and unnecessarily crude the staff is to the women.

8 comments:

A Cycene said...

So basically, the heteroglossia that you noticed most prevalently was the difference between the views that the inside and outside saw. I didn't really think about that at first, but it's an interesting observation. Instead of the heteroglossia being among the different voices of the prisoners, Daniels makes the heteroglossia between the insiders of the prison and the outsiders, thus comes the difference between the rose-lined path for the visitors, and the cold bleak walls for the insiders. Do you think that was an effective format of heteroglossia to make an established difference between the people who can come and go versus the ones who have to stay? If so, what part of that made it successful for you?

Michelle Macchio said...

I would like to build upon your application of Bakhtin's term heteroglossia to "Public Secrets". I believe the voice of Daniel herself, more so than the voice of society's perception of prisons, is the first voice in the text. Her voice is one of criticism for the prison system, from an outsider's perspective looking in. Because she is simultaneously an outsider and a critic, she in on common ground with the public, whom this text is intended to reach and have an impact on, she is "one of them". This allows her to grab the attention and respect of her audience and enables her to perform her rhetorical act of exposure with little resistance. The second voice (although actually several voices), then, as you said, is that of the women in the prison, telling their stories. Because the audience already identifies with the first voice, it becomes easier for them to identify with the second. The women in the prison become real human beings, rather than animalistic criminals who deserve whatever punishment they get. This interrelation of voices creates a layered account of the situation and allows the audience an abundance of perspectives to consider.

Adam Schwartz said...

I didn't even think of the different views of prison from people on the outside to the prisoners themselves as being the heteroglossia of this project. To answer the question in A Cyene's comment, I think that telling the stories of the prisoners who come and go and the one's who are stuck there was a very effective heterogossia. The stories have a different tone and some of the voices of the prisoners that have to stay give off the feeling of hopelessness, even if they finally have an avenue to present their displeasure with the ways they have been treated in prison.

Zach van Dijk said...

I like your discussion of the psychology behind the physical institution; from the outside, the magnitude of a prison comforts the civilian, whereas from the inside, prison walls represent an oppression via variant facets. There is a duality of meaning going on that is only acknowledged through projects like Daniel's (or actual experiences with the institution).

My question is, do you think Daniel's project is too leading? I feel the testimony provided...tries to hard (if that makes sense).

tag12 said...

I personally do think it was a successful form of heteroglossia because in order to inform an audience that has never had the opportunity to get a glimpse inside prison life, Daniel made sure she made the stories relatable to the typical civilian. She related to us in the beginning sequence, where she described what we would be able to see driving past a prison. Next, she moves to the inside perspectives where the prisoners acknowledged that they had the same perceptions about prison before they got there. There was also an emotional tug when one of the prisoners was talking about how long it has been since she had seen her kids and how tough it was not being allowed to comfort them when she was being arrested. The mention of family reminds the audience that the prisoners are real people too; they're not monsters.

James Lannon said...

I like what you pointed out here, the differing perspectives between inside and outside views on the prison system were actually not what I had originally noticed as making the text an example of heteroglossia. However, I now feel that this is the case. What I had pointed out was the fact that each of the prisoners individuals accounts was a single voice which, after Daniel's categorized and arranged them on the webtext, made up the whole. So instead do you believe that all of the prisoners individual accounts make up one perspective (that of the inside) or can their accounts represent more than just that? Are all of the prisoners the same, do they all think the same way?

Zack Morris said...

I understand that when you read something that tells you that the prison is constructed in a way to make the public feels safe, it makes sense. The over exaggerated fences and guard towers, sure it may seem excessive and it may imply the notion that it just looks like that to keep the public feeling safe but in truth, its there for a reason.Inside prisons people escape, people (both guards and prisoners) are beaten and stabbed to death, drugs are bought and sold its a violent and dangerous community within those walls and to tell you the truth I like the 3 million dollar razor wire. Its not to just make me feel safe, its to keep me safe.

John Smith said...

This case of heteroglossia is not the same as what Bakhtin discusses. While yes, there are clearly multiple voices, as made obvious by the black and white binaries throughout the whole of the presentation, these voices don't really perform together, as in a novel. Daniel is simply recording interviews, and in that way (while she does still have final say about what makes its appearance in the project) is not emulating voice, she is using the real thing. This way of using heteroglossia in effect, hides the author presence a little more, and allows Daniel, when she wants to, input her own writing in a way that is clearly recognizable and distinct from the "voice" of the prisoner.

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