November 25, 2012

Gates "Writing Race"

I am mostly interested in what Gates wrote on page 11, “Hegel, echoing Hume and Kant, claimed that Africans had no history, because they had developed no systems of writing and had not mastered the art of writing in European languages.” It seems to me that these writers Gates has mentioned are dismissing oral tradition entirely, which just kind of offends me. Even though literature has preserved so much, we still tell each other stories from memory (plays, bedtime stories, children sharing ghost stories). As far as uniting people goes, I think oral tradition makes much more of an impact that written tradition does. Anyways, onto the rest of the essay…

On page 12 Gates writes, “Black writing, especially the literature of the slave, served not to obliterate the difference of race; rather, the inscription of the black voice in Western literatures has preserved those very cultural differences to be repeated, imitated, and revised in separate Western literary tradition, a tradition of black difference.”

This stood out to me because in another one of my classes we talked about how terministic screens are used to form connections and create an us/them separation. So even though these pieces have been written with the intention of “obliterat[ing] the difference of race” they have actually managed to create a bigger sense of discord by making the differences so glaringly obvious. Again I see McCloud’s theory in play here too, of only being able to empathize with abstract characters. The more concrete traits something has, the more it is seen by the reader as being disconnected from them.


A Cycene said...

That's interesting that you bring up the fact of oral stories being passed on from generation to generation. I do think oral traditions are very important, however, I think when these theorists were saying that the black culture 'had no history', I think they were speaking in context of hard written history. After all, if you've ever played the game 'telephone', it's a game where the person at one end of a group says a phrase and the goal is to say the same phrase word for word til the end. In many cases the phrase comes out completely different than what was original, so imagine trying to record history by word of mouth!

In terms of bringing up terministic screens and filters to black and white literature, I think this is also another way of creating genres because the language usage can be used and altered according to who is writing.

Zach van Dijk said...

I absolutely agree with your assessment of the oral/written tradition; history should not be measured or rated based on the form of tradition a culture creates. I feel a portion of Gates' discussion deals with the language surrounding racism, how we create racial distinctions in speech and writing (the terministic screens that imply or create racial dichotomy). I don't really feel it is the writing itself that creates racial tension/assumptions, rather it is reader reception that colors our response(s).
I feel for the most part writing has no color: it is only the assumptions we make and the implications we experience through language that create racial issues.

Post a Comment

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