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Poetic, Performative, and, of course, Creative Ana Deumert, University of Cape Town Re-Creating English The Open University 15 March 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Poetic, Performative, and, of course, Creative Ana Deumert, University of Cape Town Re-Creating English The Open University 15 March 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Poetic, Performative, and, of course, Creative Ana Deumert, University of Cape Town Re-Creating English The Open University 15 March 2013

2 Outline The broader, educational context: literacy challenges Theoretical considerations: poetic and performative, creative and transgressive Three case studies ▫An experiment: #sharpsharp ▫A birthday celebration: Facebook ▫A digital novel: Kontax from the margins to the centre

3 Warm-up: literacy challenges “Local and global perspectives on overcoming literacy challenges in South Africa” (L. Hibbert, 2010, International Journal of the Sociology of Language) ▫‘In general, the book-buying population which reads purely for leisure and invests time in reading is a small exclusive minority’ (p. 212) ▫‘While it is generally understood that reading is regarded as a prestigious, highly advantageous cultural activity, it has remained external from the core of identity and is a remote notion, absent from the popular imagination.’ (p ) ▫Mentions: poetry writing, theatre training as examples of positive interventions.

4 But … Does not mention: MXit, Facebook, internet.... that is, reading/writing for social and emotional, as well as creative, purposes.

5 Theoretical considerations I: poetic Roman Jakobsen (Linguistics and Poetics, 1960) ▫‘What makes a verbal message a work of art?’ (p. 350) ▫Focus on form (‘verbal structure’) promotes ‘the palpability of signs’ and ‘deepens the fundamental dichotomy of signs and objects’ (p. 356);  ‘the word is felt as a word and not primarily as a representation of something outside the sign’ (Winner 1987: 269); ▫Messages become ‘double-sensed’ and the poetic opens up the potentiality of language.

6 The autotelic message The poetic is oriented to the message ‘for its own sake’ (i.e. it is autoteletic, self-focusing); Context of Jakobson’s time (and personal associations): futurist poetry.

7 The poetic++ Ron Carter (Language and Creativity, 2004) shows that not only is the poetic common in everyday language, it also serves important social functions; The poetic is thus not merely self-focusing, but can also be phatic and expressive (as well as metalinguistic and connotative).

8 SMS example (South Africa) Mwa tweetie, happy v.nite... h0pe us n0t inlove 2day, but be inl0ve everyday! Mwahugzikissiba (^^,), HAVE A NICE V.NITE SWEETY. Lovies. (sender, male, Afrikaans/English bilingual, mid-20s; addressed to his cousin; 2010)

9 Form and function Creativity involves not only form (poetic), but also function, i.e. language as social action (performance/performativity); The latter was emphasized by Rodney Jones (2010, World Englishes), citing Ludwig Wittgenstein: ▫‘If I had to say what is the main mistake made by philosophers of the present generation … I would say that it is that when language is looked at, what is looked at is a form of words and not the use made of the form of words’ (Lecture on Aesthetics)

10 Theoretical considerations II: performance/performativity Richard Bauman (Verbal Art as Performance 1977) ▫A ‘mode of speaking’ which shows ‘special attention to and heightened awareness of the act of expression’ (‘showing off’ and ‘putting on’; Schechner 2002); ▫Characterized by reflexivity and self-consciousness; ▫The performance is ‘capable of evoking pleasure in the participants’ (i.e. is able to elicit an aesthetic response);  We could argue that the very act of speaking is performance as linguistic evaluation is fundamental to social life (Bloomfield 1927, Literate and Illiterate Speech);  Similarly, the performance scholar Richard Schechner (2002) see performance as a pervasive feature of everyday life (also Goffman 1959, The Presentation of Self).

11 Schechner (2002): performance as social action

12 Performativity Goes back to Austin (1962, How to do Things with Words): performatives are utterances which bring certain states of affairs into being; Developed by Judith Butler (1999, Performativity’s social magic): the doer is constructed through the deed, the speaker is constructed through speaking. Adrian Piper (1988), Cornered. ‘I am black. Now lets deal with this social fact, and me stating it, together’.

13 Performance - performativity Theatrical performance: make-believe (the distinction between real/imagined is clear; the speaker is metaphorically ‘on stage’); Performativity: make-belief (i.e. creates the very social realities that are enacted and blurs the boundary between the real and the imagined).

14 Creativity: transgressive A broad, yet useful definition of creative agency: ‘the ability to choose between following and flounting the rules and norms of behaviour’ (Li Wei, Journal of Pragmatics, 2011: 1224); The aesthetic (as conceptualized by Jakobson) is brought about by norm violations which provide aesthetic pleasure by dis-automatizing perception; ▫‘The essence of poetic language is not ornamentation, but rather this perception-reviving quality’ (Winner 1987: 261).

15 Overall orientation: a ‘linguistics of particularity’ (B. Johnstone 2000) ▫‘[S]ociety has its patterns, its set ways of doing things … while the individual has his method of handling those particular patterns of society, giving them just enough twist to make them his and no one else’s’ (Edward Sapir, Language and Personality,1927) ▫The ‘minute and sympathetic study of individual behaviour... in a state of society’ (Edward Sapir, Why cultural anthropology needs the psychiatrist, 1938).

16 Data Set 1 An experiment: #sharpsharp

17 What happens if … You connect five young people to a chat programme (MiRC) and leave them alone for two hours? What happens? They talk! ▫Loved it, absolutely loved it, oh my goodness, the best two hours I’ve had in the past four weeks! It was fun! I was so much like, chat is one of the best things for me, randomly fabulous, there we go! Everything was just fab by itself [...] the interaction was, wow, just the different personalities! (interview data)

18 ParticipantChatTranslation 1 Engen ndikuthanda ngoku Ndingekakwazi... Engen I love you now even though I don’t know you Engen kutheni ungandifuniEngen why don’t you want me 3 am a petrol station, not human at al 4 Nam kaloku I'll be your petrol! I too then 5 waze wa ADVANCE man!!!!! a ptrol station that can chat!!!! you are so ADVANCED man!!!!! 6 Bechari where r u? 7 Im here my darling 8 Andifuni wena thou, where is me petrol station I don’t want you though 9 Wat What

19 ParticipantChatTranslation 10 Undivile ANDIKUFUNI!You heard me I DON’T WANT YOU! 11 Ziya n Bechari...ur love hate relationship is astounding...so entertaining it needs 2b on tv. 12 uPHI u my sweet and Darling Engen? wHERE are you 13 Ziya 14 Mwah 15 Wena funa meenaYou want me 16 bechari control ur self 17 bECHARI KUDALA NDISITHI ANDIKUFUNI..Let me try it in Chinese ChING, CHONG, CHU, CHU, CHU! bECHARI I’VE BEEN SAYING FOR A WHILE THAT I DON’T WANT YOU.

20 A twist: when I was black and male ‘Finding out that Engen was a white woman was the cherry on top. That was so... brilliant. I was like ‘what’? No way! Engen just was so masculine to me - BLACK! And there she comes along... oh no, you did it!’ (interview extract)

21 A minimalist performance: make- believe or make-belief? molo molweni Yha molo - who are u? HI engen. molo nawe kunjani hi hi Sharp engen joe sharp sharp soos die naam van die praat kamer wats up uphi Hayi bo why is everthing abt engen nw all of a sunday?

22 Data Set 2 A birthday celebration: Facebook

23 Happy birthday on Facebook An important social performance; An opportunity in which publicly to display one’s linguistic creativity and originality. Central to FB ‘culture’  Not sure about 21st century protocol. If I wish someone Happy Birthday on Facebook am I still obligated to call them? (Tweet 20/11/2010)  It's my brother's birthday today. THANK YOU FACEBOOK, FOR LETTING ME KNOW. (Tweet, 20/11/2010)  Websites such as: ‘How to make a Facebook birthday wish stand out’; ‘7 more creative ways to wish someone Happy Birthday on Facebook’;

24 The birthday girl Bilingual: isiXhosa-English Lives in the Eastern Cape; 19 years old Status activity ▫233 statuses in the last 324 days (daily average 0.72) ▫228 statuses posted from mobile (98%) ▫total number of words: 4064

25 The birthday party 134 postings, 1934 words happy (17 different spellings)birthday (22 different spellings) happy, hapy, hapi, hempie, hApPi, hapee, HAppY, haaaaaaaaapppppy, haa, happi, hApPy,hppi, eppy, happ, hpy, HaPpi Birthday, birthdae, bday, bdae, bdAy, born day, vday, brn dae, Be$dae, befday, befdae, b-day, bdaE, B-, bEef-dAy, best day, b.dae, b.day, burfday HBD

26 Conventions and creativity b’day2BDAY1birthday26 b-day6bEe-dAy1BIRTHDAY5 bdae10befdae1borndae1 bdaE1befday2bornday2 bday34birfdae1burfday1 bdAy1birthdae1be$dae1 vday1brn dae1B1

27 Example postings Hapi bday ntömbazana (‘girl’, correct spelling ntombazana) mini emandi kuwe (‘a nice day to you’) hapi brn dae swti ♥ HaPpi Be$dae swts ♥....paRt¥ lyK a rock¤ stAr. Mchana yayaz mos (‘mate you know of course’, correct spelling uyayazi)..hapi bdae ntwana yam (‘my boy’)

28 Hapi bdae gurl hope u have a fun filled day wit divaness yessir mwah my gurl Budi...chomz...vriend! Uyayazi mos htin big 19 aint a lyti...u knw wat we need 2 do. Hapi bday mchana i knw ur gna hav a TRIPL DISTILD DAY! Xoxo luv u lotz lyk vodka shotz! Contrasting voices and identities

29 Creating personae – guys and gals (+female/soft): pwincess, ntombazana, dear, love, swty/swti/swts, hun/hunny, gal/gurl, sis, ntwana, nana, sana, ntombi, babe (+male/tough): mtase, chomi/tshomi, bra, guy, kwedin, buddy, mchana, mate (+female/tough): biatch/bitch, whore (neutral): friend/vriendin/fwnd

30 Data Set 3 A digital novel: Kontax

31 M4lit – an action-research project The m4Lit was an educational intervention which consisted of publishing a mobile novel titled Kontax in English and isiXhosa, and monitoring the uptake of the story by readers; ▫Author: Sam Wilson, ▫Translation: Nkululeko Mabandla.

32 Publishing Kontax Published over a period of 21 days – one chapter per day –on a dedicated mobi-site (kontax.mobi; now disestablished); The mobi-site combined two modes: textual and visual.

33 A mini-Facebook-cum-fanzine The mobi-site aimed to encourage the development of a participatory reading culture; an affinity space (Gee 2005); ▫Every week prizes (free airtime/ phone credit) were awarded for the ‘best’ chapter comment; ▫Users also had the opportunity to enter a writing competition (for a possible sequel to Kontax); ▫Registered site users were able to create a profile page (similar to Facebook); ▫No chat function and all communication was asynchronous.

34 Framing the site in an educational ‘key’: no fan-fiction  Story prompts: ▫Chapter 3: Do you think your friends hook up too easily at parties? ▫Chapter 4: When should you fight? When should you go? ▫Chapter 7: Why doesn’t anyone know Adelle? Genre of socially responsible teenage novels; ▫Single parent households, HIV/Aids, teachers engaging in illegal business activities, xenophobia, strip clubs as potential employers for young girls; ▫Content similar to the ‘life orientation’ curriculum at school.

35 Diary’s confessions it was 07.n0v.2009 at 08:30 pm.me and my 4 frndz,khanyi,veve,sihle,evelo.g0 0ut 2 ths kwl club could eyethu, we got the wow th club is ful house,khany bough j and b,n evel0 bough me c0ca n ch!ps bcz i dnt drink alc0h0l.kwl me n evelo we g0 n dance,swt sandinly i fil like go out 2 th t0ilet,owk kwl i got th do my thng.whn em about 2 wash my hands fil a tingle sensati0n across my waste.wow its a gal nt jst any gal beautiful 0ne,like any man w0uld l0ve 2 hv her,she is wearing a skiny jean,penis sh0es,long hair,caty eyes.shz standing beh!nd me n we cn see each 0ther 0n th mirror -i said h!,she said i hav been wtchng u,n its nt yr first time u c0me hear at eyethu,i said n0 its nt,why :bcz i love yr style,th way u talk,yr dreadlocks,i said ow is it,i thought th at tht m0ment tht ths gal is a femme lesbian.i turn around she kiss me.n i didnt push lyk say st0p,she kiss me and i kiss her back

36 Mobile micro-narratives: intimacy Larissa Hjorth (forthc.): ‘stories that follow the economy of mobile media – compressed, condensed, intimate, fleeting, and often have a feeling of immediacy in mode of delivery and address’ Intimacy is a key term: ▫Mobile technologies are intimate technologies; ▫Such narratives create intimate publics (Berlant 2011) which unsettle the traditional distinction between public and private/domestic; ▫Transgressive nature of intimacy in public spaces (‘the personal is the political’).

37 Sugar’s story: content not form The story line: ▫girl meets boy and falls in love; ▫boy cheats on her, breaks her heart and she attempts suicide; ▫girl recovers, but decides to abstain from boys. She turns her affection and intimate behaviour towards women in order to protect herself from further harm:  Intombi itshintshele kwicala lokuba yitomboy, wathandana namanye amantombazana kuba ecinga ukuba ukhuselekile ekwenzeni lonto. (‘The girl changed and became a tomboy, and started dating other girls because she thought by so doing she was protected.’)

38 Policing: the story competition ‘[T]he messaging in it was not appropriate for the foundation’ ( , 2 February 2010); Order had to be maintained and norms of ‘youth- appropriate’ content upheld.

39 from the margins to the centre The three Ps (poetic, performance/performativity, phatic) were long considered marginal to the ‘real business’ of linguistics; Similarly, norms and conventions (the ‘social’, patterned aspects of language) have dominated linguistic thinking; transgressions and idiosyncrasies have been outside of mainstream (socio)linguistic theory; ‘Internet linguistics’ (Crystal 2011) has the potential to contribute to (socio)linguistic theory (and thus to our understanding of the nature of ‘language’).

40 And what about creativity? As artistic modes both the poetic and the performative are linked to ‘the creative/transgressive’; They reflect the general ‘literariness’ of everyday language (Carter 2004) and suggest that as linguists we might benefit from reading outside of our discipline – about art and theatre, poetry and the novel – in order to understand how speakers push the boundaries and play with the expected, every moment, every hour, every day, on-line and off-line.


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