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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