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Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writingby Peter Elbow
Synopses & Reviews
Since the publication of his groundbreaking books Writing Without Teachers and Writing with Power, Peter Elbow has revolutionized the way we think about writing. As a theorist, teacher, and uncommonly engaging writer himself, he has long championed our innate ability to write effectively.
Now, in Vernacular Eloquence, Elbow turns his attention to the role of the spoken word in writing. He begins by questioning the basic cultural assumption that speaking and writing are two very different, incompatible modes of expression, and that we should keep them separate. The book explores the many linguistic and rhetorical virtues of speech--spontaneity, naturalness of expression, fluidity of thought--to show that many of these virtues can usefully be brought to writing. Elbow suggests that we begin the writing process by "speaking" our words onto the page, letting the words and ideas flow without struggling to be "correct." Speaking can help us at the later stages of writing, too, as we read drafts aloud and then revise until the language feels right in the mouth and sounds right in the ear. The result is stronger, clearer, more natural writing that avoids the stilted, worried-over quality that so often alienates (and bores) the reader. Elbow connects these practices to a larger theoretical discussion of literacy in our culture, arguing that our rules for correct writing make it harder than necessary to write well. In particular, our culture's conception of proper writing devalues the human voice, the body, and the linguistic power of people without privilege.
Written with Elbow's customary verve and insight, Vernacular Eloquence shows how to bring the pleasures we all enjoy in speaking to the all-too-often needlessly arduous task of writing.
Personal writing can be risky for anyone, but for military veterans, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress, sharing stories can trigger painful and disturbing flashbacks. Writing is also risky for the ego. It is one thing to write a military story, especially one based on authentic experiences; it is quite another to muster the courage to share that story with others for critique and feedback.
Award-winning journalist and author Tracy Crow presents a roadmap for writing an authentic, persuasive military story. Drawing from her personal experiences and those of other veteran writers, and from the insights of noteworthy writing and teaching professionals, On Point is the guide Crow wishes sheandrsquo;d had when she first began writing about her military experience. No previous writing guide specifically addresses the unique challenges and rewards facing soldiers who want to craft their military story with courage and candor.
Since the publication of his groundbreaking books Writing Without Teachers and Writing with Power, Peter Elbow has revolutionized how people think about writing. Now, in Vernacular Eloquence, he makes a vital new contribution to both practice and theory. The core idea is simple: we can enlist virtues from the language activity most people find easiest-speaking-for the language activity most people find hardest-writing. Speech, with its spontaneity, naturalness of expression, and fluidity of thought, has many overlooked linguistic and rhetorical merits. Through several easy to employ techniques, writers can marshal this "wisdom of the tongue" to produce stronger, clearer, more natural writing.
This simple idea, it turns out, has deep repercussions. Our culture of literacy, Elbow argues, functions as though it were a plot against the spoken voice, the human body, vernacular language, and those without privilege-making it harder than necessary to write with comfort or power. Giving speech a central role in writing overturns many empty preconceptions. It causes readers to think critically about the relationship between speech, writing, and our notion of literacy. Developing the political implications behind Elbow's previous books, Vernacular Eloquence makes a compelling case that strengthening writing and democratizing it go hand in hand.
About the Author
Peter Elbow is Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and former director of its Writing Program. He is the author of Writing Without Teachers, Writing With Power, Embracing Contraries, and Everyone Can Write.
Table of Contents
PART ONE. What's Best in Speaking And Writing?
Introduction: Defining "Speech" and "Writing"
1. Speech and Writing as They Are Used: The Role of Culture
2. What's Good about Writing
3. Speaking as a Process: What Can It Offer Writing?
4. Speech as a Product: Eight Virtues in Careless Spoken Language that Careful Writing Needs
5. Intonation: A Virtue for Writing Found at the Root of Everyday Speech
6. Can We Really Have the Best of Both Worlds?
PART TWO. A Role for the Tongue During the Early Stages of Writing: Treating Speech as Writing
Introduction: More Defining
7. What is Speaking Onto the Page and How Does Freewriting Teach it?
8. Where Else Do We See Unplanned Speaking onto the Page?
9. Objections to Speaking onto the Page--And Responses
10. The Need for Care: Unplanned Speaking onto the Page is Never Enough
PART THREE. A Role for the Tongue During Late Revising: Reading Aloud and Treating Writing as Speech
11. Revising by Reading Aloud. What the Mouth and the Ear Know
12. How Does Revising by Reading Aloud Actually Work?
13. Punctuation: Living with Two Traditions
14. Good Enough Punctuation by Reading Aloud and Listening
15. How Speech Can Improve Organization in Writing: Form as Energy
16. Summary Chapter: The Benefits of Speaking onto the Page and Reading Aloud
PART FOUR. Vernacular Literacy
Introduction: Dante and Vulgar Eloquence
17. Our Present Culture of Proper Literacy and How It Tries To Exclude Speech
18. A New Culture of Vernacular Literacy is on the Horizon
Appendix I. How Freewriting Went from Dangerous to No Big Deal in the Composition and Rhetoric Community
Appendix II. A list of Publications Written in Nonprestige Nonstandard Versions of English
Appendix III. A List of Published Works by Peter Elbow
What Our Readers Are Saying
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