October 25, 2012

The Heteroglossia Effect: Public Secrets

Sharon Daniel's "Public Secrets" is a hypertextual essay that pulls several voices- political theorists, the author's narrative, and inmates of the prison- together to articulate an educated critique behind the philosophy of prison. The concept behind pitting several voices to exist and conflict with one another in a novel is called heteroglosia, and is one that was put in place by Mikhail Bakhtin, who believed these voices interact and conflict with one another to express the intentions of the author. Daniel channels this power (which originates in the novel) in her essay in a more obvious way by shaping her essay within an interactive medium in which the user/reader browses excerpted quotes on the screen (in the form of text boxes), guiding oneself through the essay. Although there is a general guideline in the form of three sections Daniel is critiquing, the essay is mostly self-operative and allows the user to listen to the various voices being presented as s/he pleases. This gives the essay a sense of truth because it doesn't appear to be manipulating the words to persuade the reader to agree with the author.

Most essays carefully interject quotes to add emphasis/authority to their claims. This essay is still persuading the reader - the excerpts laid on screen contain the most powerful statements made within the transcript - but it comes off as a "here are the facts" essay instead of a persuasive critique of the judicial system.

The idea behind heteroglossia is that the power in the novel is located in the narratives that coexist and conflict with one another. Daniel takes this theory to another level by virtually stripping the essay of a true narrative and instead allowing the voices to do the work for her. You don't need to read a 10 page essay about the dangers of the prison system when Daniel has gathered all of the voices into one interactive page and simply let them talk, let them interact, let them exist. Simply by existing and talking, the voices interact to form a powerful statement for Daniel: the judicial system and resulting terms of imprisonment have done a lot more harm than good to both the prisoners and society.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.