Re: to read or not to read... (fwd)

Stephen Newmann (
Sun, 23 Mar 1997 20:15:16 -0600

I sent this at 8 a.m. but it appears to have been mis placed somewhere
between here and wcenter. Here it is again. If it shows up yet another
time I appologize and urge you to ignore it.....

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 23 Mar 1997 08:08:47 -0500 (EST)
From: Stephen Newmann <>
To: Multiple recipients of list <>
Subject: Re: to read or not to read...

Cynthia, I have not seen the Branagh version of Hamlet. Nonetheless, I
think your comparison of this film to the current concerns with conference
presentations is awkward. Two elements you have left out of the
comparison are beauty and motivation. Shakespeare's language is beautiful
enough that even the uninitiated are moved to listen to it and to "work"
at understanding it. You imply that it is ok for conference presenters to
put the effort of making their ideas understood onto the audience. I
don't think that is a reasonable expectation. I can read the professional
journals for free--they circulate in our department regularly and we carry
them in our library. But I have to pay big bucks to attend a conference.
I expect to "enjoy" the presentations I attend. I can read a journal
article at "leisure" taking time to look up difficult language and to
think about it as I "work" at understanding the ideas offered. I have no
opportunity to do that when a "paper is read" at a conference. The forum
of the conference is nothing like the forum of the journal. One type of
presentation is appropriate to the journal but is inappropriate to the
conference presentation. I don't think it matters how versed the audience
is in the technical language of the field. I have watched foreign films
in languages I do not know and have reveled in the beauty of the sounds of
the words and phrases. I have never seen the beauty of words like
hegemony, and problematize. Words like "Four score and seven years
ago..." conjur all sorts of imagery that can be useful in augmenting an
idea, saving the speaker lots of need to "create" a scene. I doubt
"hegemony", or many other technical terms, do that. I think the
conference is the place to "test" ideas and the best way to do that is to
put those ideas forth in as straight forward a manner as one can--in
language that is clear and that does not raise the side issues of speakers
motives. I'm not suggesting that ideas be "dumbed down" to the level of
the least prepared of the members of an audience. I think conference
presenters might profit from a semester of public speaking which includes
a little audience analysis.
| Stephen Newmann |
| Department of Rhetoric & Writing VOICE: (301) 447-5367 |
| Mount Saint Mary's College E-MAIL: NEWMANN@MSMARY.EDU |
| Emmitsburg, Maryland USA 21727-7799 |


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