Language and Power

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					E.W. Kemble, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1932



LANGUAGE AND POWER
Mark Twain’s Writing
Mark Twain’s Language
The difference between the right word and the almost right
word is the difference between lightning and the lightning
bug.
                                                  ~Mark Twain


Language in writing: Should authors be able to use any words they choose? Why or
why not?
Censorship?: Is it okay for someone else to change an author’s original words?
Meaning: How does changing the words change the meaning of a story?
  What is Vernacular?

You feel mighty free en easy en comfortable on a raf’.
                                          ~Huck, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn



     Vernacular = common language; how people actually speak; slang
     Everyday language: What are some examples of vernacular we use today?
     Authenticity: Does using vernacular make the characters seem more realistic?
  Why or why not?
Huck Finn and the “N-Word”
Huck Finn and the “N-Word” Documentary

 Controversy: Why was the language considered
controversial in the 1800s? How about today? Have
the reasons changed?
 Twain and censorship: Are publishers censoring
Twain’s book? Is this acceptable? Explain.
 Choosing different words: Is slave less offensive
than the n-word? Why or why not?
Huck and Jim’s Friendship
Jim won’t ever forgit you, Huck; you’s de bes fren’
Jim’s ever had; en you’s de only fren’ ole Jim’s got
now.
                                     ~Jim, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn



   Huck and Jim: How does Twain’s use of the “n-word” affect how
we see their friendship?
   The “n-word”: Is Huck conscious of the word’s damaging effect
when he uses it?
Sanitizing Twain


 Context: Is context important when studying the
  language of the characters?
 Powerful language: Are some words too

  powerful to write or speak?
 Authority: Where do words derive their power?

  Can a word’s meaning change over time?
Wrap-Up
   One of the first things you learn as a young
    writer is ‘don’t say darn if you really mean
    damn’… if you change even one word, you
    break the magic of the spell we work so hard to
    weave.
                                         ~ Pearl Cleage

   Questions? Thoughts?

				
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