Re: Lovers and Fools and Seething Brains

nvas for mapping and presenting myself and my (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 19:35:53 -0600

On Mon, 24 Mar 1997, Cynthia Haynes wrote:

> On Mon, 24 Mar 1997, Kevin Davis wrote:

> > A couple years ago I was flamed big time on this list for a couple of comments I
> > posted. And you know, no one ever asked me what my intentions were. No one
> > ever said "Is that what you meant?" Nope, everyone just raged my case because
> > what mattered was their interpretation of my intentions. And you know, they
> > were right to do that. Because while they got my intentions all wrong, that was
> > my fault for being a bad writer, not their fault for misinterpreting.
> >
> > Maybe that's not what Tish meant, but it's what I took her to mean. Lovers of
> > language who are fools as rhetoricians.

> That's too bad that you weren't asked what you meant. I have taken
> pains today to explain what I meant regardless of whether anyone asked.
> And in some cases, my responses have been an attempt to keep the
> conversation lend credence to points well taken, to
> perspectives shared and opinions offered. Some responses to me have made
> assumptions about what I meant that I felt needed to be questioned.
> Perhaps that makes me the fool in your eyes. But I don't think that what
> the audience perceives is *always* what is.

You know, this illustrates one of the features of email writing that's
both promising and cool, but at the same time a bit scary. On the one
hand, since it's writing, it forces one to be explicit and to take a
conversational turn and fit it into a package that may not be neat, but
that has to be more organized and developed than the usual spoken
conversational turn. Then, if the meaning is still unclear, the audience
has the opportunity to ask for clarification, so it's potentially
speech-like in providing participants a chance to construct a discourse
together. At least a jointly constructed discourse is one way of
viewing a conversation. I think the part that scares me a bit,
though, is that people can get sucked into the text and reach the point
where the person who wrote it gets abstracted out, hence flames rather
than requests for clarification. So, do flames erupt because some people
have written badly or because others are inept conversationalists?

Sara Kimball



The Margin: