Persona fineness

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The Second Self
   Closely related to the concept of discourse community is the
    concept of persona (Latin, “mask”)
   A term from ancient Roman theater when actors wore large
    masks to show which role they had assumed
   Term now (since ca. 1732) applied to the “role” or “character”
    a writer assumes when undertaking to write a piece of
   It is understood that when you write a piece of text, you are
    “acting” or “playing a part”
   Do you understand what part you are to play?
Style and Tone: Common Definitions
   Style
       Diction (word choice)
       Syntax (sentence structure)
            Individual sentences
            Collective sentences
       Measured in terms of relative complexity or
        “elevation” (e.g., low, medium, high)
       Measured in terms of aesthetics (elegance,
        clarity, beauty, fineness)
Style and Tone: Common Definitions
   Tone
       An aural term; in written discourse, tone can be difficult to
        “hear” for less proficient readers—it requires practice
       Actual: “particular quality, pitch, modulation, or inflexion
        of the voice expressing or indicating affirmation,
        interrogation, hesitation, decision, or some feeling or
        emotion; vocal expression” (OED)
       Recorded: “A particular style in discourse or writing,
        which expresses the person’s sentiment or reveals his
        character; also spec. in literary criticism, an author’s
        attitude to his subject matter or audience; the distinctive
        mood created by this” (OED)
Style and Tone: “Merely Verbal”?
 “Style” is sometimes broadly used to cover
 whatever gives us a sense, from word to word
 and line to line, that the author sees more deeply
 and judges more profoundly than his presented
 characters [or “sources”]. But though style is one
 of our main sources of insight into the author’s
 norms, in carrying such strong overtones of the
 merely verbal the word excludes our sense of the
 author’s skill in his choice of character and
 episode and scene and idea [or, “source and
 instance and situation and argument”].
Style and Tone: “Merely Verbal”?
 “Tone” is similarly used to refer to the implicit
 evaluation which the author manages to convey
 behind his explicit presentation, but it almost
 inevitably suggests again something limited to the
 merely verbal; some aspects of the implied author
 may be inferred through tonal variations, but his
 major qualities will depend also on the hard facts
 of action and character in the tale that is told [or,
 “the facts of examples and sources in the
 argument that is made”].
 —Wayne C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961)
   In this class and in publishing your material,
    creating a persona comes solely through the
    written discourse
   In written text, it can come from no other place
   As you write your paper, and as you adhere to the
    expectations of the academic discourse
    community, you will also be writing yourself into
    the role of the academic (the scholar, the expert,
   Among the many things I will be looking for in the last
    paper, persona will be among them
   Although the “merely verbal” aspect of persona falls
    under the relatively “minor” revision issue of style (and
    tone), it is still hugely important in research contexts
   Scholars want not only information, but the whole
    scholarly package
       Does this expert know how to present him- or herself as a
        confident expert on the subject?
       Has the person acquired the discourse?
       Have arguments been fashioned according to community
       Persona is tied to credibility
Two Permissible Kinds of Persona
Detached, unemotional persona
 Acceptable because a scholar is, above all else, a puzzle-solver
  and an assessor of problems
 Scholars seek solutions for how to view given issues, how to
  contextualize one item for consideration in light of other, related
  items or items not hitherto understood together, and to uncover
  previously undetected/unconsidered relationships
 To meet the demands of the scholar's task, it is understood that the
  scholar be, above all, cool-headed and able to survey the issue
  from a removed (albeit limited) vantage point
 Scholar “looks on” while putting pieces together
 Rhetorically establishes distance from the subject and gives the
  illusion of objectivity
Two Permissible Kinds of Persona
Involved persona
 The “it seems to me” of the involved persona allows scholar to take a
   somewhat different rhetorical attitude toward the subject
 Scholar makes explicit acknowledgement of a couple of things:
     1.   his or her personal involvement in the academic undertaking (shown by the first-
          person pronoun “me”) and
     2.   tentative nature of scholarly conclusions (shown by “seems”)
   Humility: logical discourse predicated upon probable and provisional (i.e.,
    what works for now) knowledge
   Admits possibility of other, valid viewpoints on a subject of controversy
   The “me” in the statement assumes the presence of others in the
   In “it seems to me” is encoded the entire provisional understanding of
    scholarly knowledge and the continued need to re-examine issues which
    concern the community
Questions to Ask Yourself
   How does your tone sound? Confident, arrogant,
    angry, sarcastic, ironic, unsure, insouciant, etc.?
   Are your sentences appropriate to the subject
    matter (complex subject matter requires complex
    sentence structure) and varied so as to avoid
   Do you wield your diction well? Are signs of
    thesaurus usage all-too evident, or are the words
    fitting and work within the paper?
Questions to Ask Yourself
   Are my sources credible?
   Are my arguments relevant/have they been
    made relevant?
   Have my examples been judiciously
   Do I give the impression that I know better
    than the sources I choose to use?
   A persona is a mask
   As such, it is worn, assumed
   Persona is a synecdoche for an entire role
   Persona is the result of
       Diction
       Sentence structure
       Implied attitude toward subject and audience
       Arguments
       Examples
       Sources, etc.
Personae, like roles in a play,
should always be the result of
careful, deliberate work and

They should be crafted.
The Illusion of Composition
 “To give the image and sense of certain things” is
 always half the problem. But to give it with
 intensity, to make the imagined picture of reality
 glow with more than a dim light, requires the
 artist’s finest compositional powers. And, since
 any sense of composition or selection falsifies life,
 all fiction requires an elaborate rhetoric of
 —Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction
The Illusion of Composition
   Detecting com-position—lit., “placing
    together”—seeing the mortar from the
    brick, reveals constructed-ness and not
    “life,” rhetoric, not “reality”
   Yet at the same time, “reality” is not
    recognizable except through discourse—
    rhetoric is reality-interpreted
   Reality is a construction, a fiction

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