Alcheringa, New Series, 1976, vol.2 no. 2   

Edition Year Editors Pages Download
Volume Two, Issue Two New Series, 1976 Michael Benamou & Jerome Rothenberg 148 PDF, 9 MB
    Editorial Assistant: Paul Kahn
  Contributing Editors: David Antin, Kofi Awoonor, Ulli Beier,
  Stanley Diamond, Charles Doria, Dell Hymes, Harris Lenowitz,
  David P. McAllester, William Mullen, Simon Ortiz, Gary Snyder,
  Nathaniel Tarn

IMAGE 148 OF 148

Talking to Discover

David Antin

I came to Milwaukee prepared to suggest that what is central to all language is discourse, and that there are, if you will permit the solecism, "natural discourse genres" that are common to all cultures using language — and that are not only common but fundamental to the structure of language and to our humanness, our mental capacities and dispositions and the traffic problems of a semiotic. Genres, perhaps, of the sort Dell Hymes has called for an inventory and investigation of in his suggested ethnography of speaking. To paraphrase Hymes, all over the world in a great variety of languages people announce, greet, take leave, invoke, introduce, inquire, request, demand, command, coax, entreat, encourage, beg, answer, name, report, describe, narrate, interpret, analyze, instruct, advise, defer, refuse, apologize, reproach, joke, taunt, insult, praise, discuss, gossip. Among this grab-bag of human language activities are a number of more or less well-defined universal discourse genres, whose expectation structures are the source of all poetic activity. If there is any place that we should look for an ETHNOPOETICS it is here, among these universal genres, where all linquistic invention begins. For by an ETHNOPOETICS I mean Human Poetics. I suppose ethnos = people and therefore ETHNOPOETICS = People's Poetics or the poetics of natural language. So I think it is trivial for a structuralist like Todorov, for one example, to begin to look for the laws underlying narration in the Socially dislocated literary tales of Boccaccio, though they should certainly be reflected there, when with Labov we can find them more completely articulated, with about equal elegance and greater clarity, in the street talk of the children of the black ghettoes of the United States, where story can be seen in the social and discourse context in which narrative normally occurs.