Revisiting Racialized Voice: African American Ethos in Language and Literature

By David G. Holmes | Go to book overview

6
The Rhetoric of Black Voice: Implications for Composition Pedagogy

THE METAPHOR “BLACK V O I C E , ” WHETHER APPLIED to a journalist, a novelist, or a student writer, is based on two elusive ideas: voice and race. Hence, any concrete conclusions about the nature and function of black voice are questionable at best. Without this metaphor, however, one can appropriate a distorted view of both the material import and rhetorical efficacy of African American writing and culture. Ideally, alternative paradigms for black voice should acknowledge race as both abstract and rhetorically indispensable.

On the whole, rhetoric and composition scholars must become and remain more intentional in complicating the link between race and writing. Otherwise the field of composition studies can inadvertently reify the validity of racial boundaries codified from the 1870s through the 1920s and, theoretically by some, inverted during the 1960s. Granted, some rhetoric composition scholars, like Darsie Bowden, have noted that the late 1960s through the 1970s marked a pivotal point in the etymology of written voice, one in which the metaphor was broadened to include composition students. Indeed, in The Mythology of Voice, Bowden claims that prior to the 1960s, voice literally signified oral presentation (dating back to classical rhetoric) and figuratively signified authorial stance in traditional literary narrative. Bowden substantiates this claim by pinpointing a correlation between the sociopolitical challenges fos

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