Don L. F. Nilsen Language Awareness: Attention to Detail



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ENG 312 Language Awareness: Readings for College Writers 10th Edition by Paul Eschholz, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark Bedford/St. Martins, 2009

  • By
  • Don L. F. Nilsen

Language Awareness: Attention to Detail

  • The poet William Carlos Williams said, “Write what’s in front of your nose. It’s good for us to know what is in front of our noses. Not just ‘daisy,’ but how the flower is in the season we are looking at it—The dayseye hugging the earth/in August…brownedged,/green and pointed scales/armor his yellow.”
  • “Learn the names of everything: birds, cheese, tractors, cars, buildings. A writer is all at once everything—an architect, French cook, farmer—and at the same time, a writer is none of these things.”
  • (Goldberg (2009): 5)

1. Coming to an Awareness of Language (39-96)

  • On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X, the Black Muslim leader, was killed. He had developed language skills to elevate himself from a world of thieving, pimping, and drug pushing to become a major force as a Black Muslim leader.
  • He said, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on us.”
  • (Malcolm X [2009]: 41)

Malcolm X’s Epiphany:

  • In slow, ragged handwriting, he copied into his tablet everything in the dictionary, and then read everything back to himself.
  • “Funny thing, from the dictionary’s first page, that ‘aardvark’ springs to my mind. The dictionary had a picture of it, a long-tailed, long-eared, burrowing African mammal, which lives off termites caught by sticking out its tongue as an anteater does for ants.”
  • (Malcolm X [2009]: 43)

Helen Keller’s Epiphany

  • “Helen Keller’s experiences as a deaf and blind child raise a number of questions about the relationship between language and thought, emotions, ideas, and memory.”
  • On March 3, 1887, at the age of six, Helen Keller had an epiphany at the water pump of her home:
  • (Keller (2009): 46-48)

“As the cool stream gushed over one hand she [Annie Sullivan] spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.”

  • “As the cool stream gushed over one hand she [Annie Sullivan] spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.”
  • “I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. The living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”
  • (Keller (2009): 46-48)

David Raymond’s Epiphany

  • 96
  • David Raymond was dyslexic; he couldn’t read or write. His schoolmates called him “dumb,” and his teachers put him with “emotionally disturbed and retarded kids.”
  • But his Middle School and High School teachers had more empathy with David, and started treating him as an individual, with individual problems.
  • (Raymond (2009): 51, 53)

But still David worried about making a living without being able to read. How could he even fill out the application form?

  • 96
  • But still David worried about making a living without being able to read. How could he even fill out the application form?
  • Then David learned about “well-known people who couldn’t read or had other problems and still made it…”
  • “Like Albert Einstein, who didn’t talk until he was 4 and flunked math. Like Leonardo da Vinci, who everyone seems to think had dyslexia.”
  • (Raymond (2009): 51, 53)

Other PowerPoints

  • 96

2. Writers on Writing (97-146) Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream”

  • 96
  • “I have a dream that one day down in Alabama—with its vicious racists, with its governor’s lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification—one day right there in Alabama, little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
  • (King 203 [2009]: 203)

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

  • 96
  • “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
  • And the speech concludes, “From every mountainside let freedom ring.”
  • (King 203 [2009]: 203)

“And when this happens—when we allow freedom to ring—we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. We are free at last!”

  • 96
  • “And when this happens—when we allow freedom to ring—we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. We are free at last!”
  • (King 203 [2009]: 203)
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