Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chapter 3- Language and Literature as Equipment for Living

Throughout this essay, Tilly Warnock makes a continuous comparison between writing and life. In the opening prologue, titled "A Revisionary View of Writing," she lays base for this claim, stating, "...most people I know live rough-draft lives. We write our lives and our lives rewrite us..." In this way, the messiness and unpredictability of day-to-day life can be seen as a metaphor for the working rough draft. She goes on to explain, "Some days, our writing takes the upward way...but at any moment writing takes the downward way, which may lead to revision and rebirth, that is, until the negative sets in again." I find I can easily replace the term writing with lives in the latter statement, as I believe many of us can.

This metaphor is carried throughout, as Warnock continues to make insightful points about the importance of revisionary work both in writing and life. As an example, she points to growing up in the south during segregation to then later learning that racism is in fact immoral and illegal. This is a perfect example of a case where life need revision. She writes, "While life, time, history, race, class, gender and subjectivity were always up for grabs, though seldom acknowledged to be, we were taught explicitly in school what was true, once and for all and forever." The ability to transcend these "truths" through writing is arguably what it means to live as part of a growing society. Warnock's examples of intersections of language and life and don't end there. In part three, titled "Revised Lives," she introduces the idea of the humane goal of life to all get along better, another case where revisionary writing is key. She includes the terms "strategies for coping" and "equipment for living" to come to terms, not war, with each other and ourselves. Language functions as said strategies and equipment. In this way, Warnock refers back to the idea of writing as healing. She cites several women in this section who, in order to avoid living the narratives laid out for them, rewrote their own lives. "...writing and reading, by expanding our experiences and repertoire of strategies, can provide additional possibilities from which we may choose in order to live and act effectively in specific contexts." This reminds me of the stories of women who had overcome their eating disorders that I read during my recovery. To see someone else in the same place as me, transcend their believed "truths" about food and body image played a large part in me learning to do the same.

We are the stories we tell ourselves. This is something I've come to believe through years of using (and abusing) language in order to create the realities in which I've lived. In a world full of peace and war, miracles and tragedies, we often have more of a choice than we (esp. as privileged students of academia) realize in the lives we choose to lead. It can be easy to tell ourselves one-sided stories, to reread the same narrative over and over again in our lives. But that gets us no where, just as writing the same story over and over again will never grow our writing.

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