Posted in Writing Theory & Practice

Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries

Jumping right into this article, I dearly beloved Peter Elbow gives us a little background in the history of voice paying a major role in writing. Fun fact: In the 1960’s, a surge of enthusiasm for getting voice into writing was a major thing! But with enthusiastic, there is always bound the nay Sayers, or in this case the critics. So it become a tug of war with what our students genuinely need in their writings.

As I always like to say, history seems to always repeats itself. Way before this had became a topic of discussion, it brings us back to the Greeks!

This conflict about voice in our field echoes a much older conflict about the self in language. The Greek sophists offered, in effect, to help craft any voice for any speech to help win any argument or law case—no matter what kind of self. Plato, in reaction, argued that the power of language derived, to some real extent, from the nature of the rhetor’s self: only a good rhetor can create really good words. To learn to speak or write better, we need also to work on being better persons.

With that said… lets jump into this article!

The Current Situation

As previously talked about in the beginning of my blog, voice in writing has been going on over the centuries, but most recently it has hit a dead wall. People do not take the topic of voice in writing too seriously, and the fact that has been discredited in journals and books goes to show the fact in unfortunately true. But there is hope! It lives in the writing, thoughts, and feels of our students within the classroom. I found this statement in the article both intresting and inspiring.:

“[Jane Danielewicz quotes a comment by one of her students: “I turned down your suggestion for revising just because I thought it took away some of my personal voice in some places” (personal conversation)].”

This quote reminds me of my own doubts when it comes to my writing. I find my own voice to abrasive or unnecessary, so I began to write in passive voice. Fortunately, the more I write, the more I am encouraged to use my true voice within my writings.

As the article continues, voice also plays a role in:

  • Politics
  • Internet (via email)

Even with voice being so vital both in and outside the classrooms, we are ignoring the topic with the writing field? The article goes on to say how critics tend to get tired of a topic that is not in hot discussion. How ironic is that? Topics such as digital media (my growing love!), public wiring, service learning, and even World Englishes (another one of my growing loves!) are more entertaining to argue about.


Within this part of the article, we try to understand what is compressible in this argument of voice. Elbow goes on to refer to Aristotle’s position on voice:

“He’s not saying that rhetors should find a halfway position where they are a little bit good and natural and a little bit clever at disguising. Being only somewhat good and somewhat clever is a formula for mediocrity. My both/and reading of the crux passage is consistent with the kind of thinking that Aristotle uses in various places in his work. He often deals with tricky issues by saying, “in one sense, X; but, in another sense, Y.” That is, he often implies that we can understand a complex topic well only if we can look at it first through one lens and then through a contrary lens.”

As much as I could understand about this portion of the articles, when it comes to voice.

NCte: On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response

Now that we got some enlightenment from Elbow, now we hope into the next article backs up Elbow’s article on that importance and relationship of voice in young writers. In the first two pages, we start of by addressing the voice in writing when it comes to experienced writers. The fact the we assume they know as much about the topic they are writing about as we know, or even better. We give them a chance to get their point across we retain their voice of authority.

“Writers in fact depend on readers’ willingness to stay with a text, even a difficult one, without judging it prematurely on the basis of its apparent violation of their own perspectives or impressions of some subject.”

Of course for many of us who have been reading our entire lives, see no fault in this true assumption. But unfortunately, we do not see in the case of our young beautiful writers. We do not see them having the capability to have this type of authority. This writing stigma is built upon the relationship we have between them as student and teacher (I am currently very guilty of this with my 2nd Graders).

“When we consider how writing is taught, however, this normal and dynamic connection between a writer’s authority and the quality of a reader’s attention is altered because of the peculiar relationship between teacher and student.”

Due to teachers feeling that they have this intellectual and experienced authority over the students writing, we try to have a say so over what type of voice the student is trying to have inn their writing. We come in with having the best intentions, but it fall shorts when we let this authority ego take over.


Educator|Mentor|Artist|Aspiring Traveler|Student "Make a difference about something other than yourself." - Toni Morrison "Be the person you needed growing up."

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