E301 The Art Of English Essay

1600 words - 7 pages

TMA 1: Summarise the main points of Mary Bock's 'Telling truths: perspectives on a human rights violation' and evaluate, with reference to other material in the module so far, the extent to which it helps you understand how to identify creativity in everyday language.

Although the narratives that Mary Bock analyses in her article can be said to be anything but 'everyday', given that they are testimonies on the killing of seven people by police officers in apartheid era South Africa, she does succeed in illustrating the use of creativity used in narrative even in examples where we may feel that it is least appropriate; the purpose of the testimonies was hear the unadulterated truth. To ...view middle of the document...

This will mainly be done by evaluating how successfully she relates Labov’s model of narrative structure, but also by looking at what creativity means in this context and how speakers use it, even if on a largely subconscious level.  ok, though you have quite a long introductory part to this essay in relation to the length of your answer as a whole

Mary Bock chose to examine the testimonies given at the 1996 Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing into the deaths of seven anti-apartheid activists in Cape Town at the hands of policemen ten years earlier. The two men, Bateman and Mbelo, were asked to give uncontested narrative accounts of what had happened from their perspectives in order to try to uncover the truth of the incident without distraction. This is an important issue when addressing the essay question, in that the narratives are therefore explicitly not everyday language as they are not being aided in their creativity by the contribution of other speakers. This meant that much of Joan Swann’s analysis of creative language in Chapter One had little relevance for these narratives.  [not sure about that -see PT3 for comment on this] Indeed it demonstrates part of the problem that Bock faces in her analysis – how can we identify creativity in these narratives when their purpose is to uncover one of the Commission’s ‘four notions of truths’ (quoted in Bock p.84), that of personal or narrative truth. Yet, Bock clearly demonstrates in her analysis that both of the men follow Labov’s narrative and also notions of restructuring their identity as discussed by Toolan in Chapter Two. I will begin by looking at Chris Bateman’s narrative and discussing the points raised by Bock regarding these theories, before moving on to Mbelo’s version as she perceives it. 

Bock decides to use a mixture of Gee’s ordering of a narrative into lines and stanzas in that it, ‘reveals the patterns of repetition and contrast which… indicate recurring themes and preoccupations of the narrator.’ I agree that it does highlight the poetic qualities of the narrative, but I am not wholly convinced by the technique. I feel that it disrupts the speech pattern of the speaker to [too?] overtly and we are forced to see what Gee want us to see rather than view the speech more objectively, and I feel that a more straightforward representation of Bateman’s pauses and emphasis may have given a clearer indication of his speech and therefore meaning. However, it is Bock’s choice of using William Labov’s analysis of personal narrative that we can see a common creative process occurring. Labov attests that personal narratives will usually follow a standard structure which contains the elements of orientation, complicating action, evaluation and resolution (in Toolan p. 57); these may also be sandwiched between an abstract and coda.  [I don’t personally mind the use of the stanzas layout, - it is clearly an interpretative method, and seems reasonably transparent to me – as...

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