“When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own,” Jacqueline Jones Royster
This academic essay is a revised version of a speech that Royster gave at the Conference for College Composition and Communication in 1995. This conference is a huge gathering of people like me–teachers and researchers who are concerned with the teaching of writing (Royster refers to this as rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies). Keep that audience in mind as you read—she’s talking to other academics in her field. I know that you all are not in this field, so don’t concentrate as much on those moments when she talks about her vision for the field. I want you to concentrate on the personal stories she tells and the arguments she makes about those stories. Focus on the concept of “home-training” and her comments about what happens when someone tries to speak for another person or group. Keep the below leading question in mind, and look for details that seem relevant to that question. I don’t expect you to understand everything about this article, but I do expect you to try. This will be a challenge, but I hope it will be well worth the effort.
- One particularly helpful term:
- Subjectivity – at its simplest, subjectivity refers to the collection of perceptions, experiences, expectations, personal or cultural understanding, and beliefs specific to a person. Think about it as being subjective vs. being objective (though let’s not assume that being objective is necessarily a goal). When you are speaking or writing subjectively, you are speaking from your own experience and based on your own impressions and opinions.
Your reading response will follow the same format that’s on the assignment sheet. Your response should consider some aspect of the leading question, it should include a relevant quote from an outside source, a citation for that outside source, and at least one question that could be used to spark discussion.
- Leading question: How do you tell someone else’s story? How does Royster’s argument influence the way you think about telling someone else’s story in your archival projects?
- Outside source: As you search for an outside source, you might have to take it in a different direction for this reading response. Look up something about Royster. Look up one of the unfamiliar terms, concepts, or people she mentions. Search for an example of a time when someone did or did not tell someone else’s story with care and respect. Bring in information from one of your archival sources to talk about how you will tell that story, etc.
- Discussion question: While I hope some questions will come to mind that will help you and your classmates interpret and apply the ideas from this article, you might also ask a question that will help everyone understand the argument better in the first place. Is there something that confused you or that you didn’t understand? You were probably not the only one who found it confusing—it could be helpful to pose some of those questions to the group!