(just) words

Russel Wiebe, PhD
Felician College

Robert Dornsife, PhD
Creighton University

This essay ends with the snap of a pistol shot reproduced as words. That "snap"--a sound before and after it is representation--asks us to listen to the report of a pistol, to the rasp of a ventilator, to the sound of "(just) words." We have tried to speak of that snap--of the heart, of language, of the impossible burdens of life, death, and poetry--to bring those sounds into the digitized present, to be teachers who listen.

Taking the shooting at Virginia Tech and its aftermath on TV and in our classrooms as one example and the mute suffering of a woman on a ventilator as another, we wonder about the consequences and responsibilities of asking our students to write from "what they know." Our essay explores the consolations and constraints of words as writing, as speech, and as art.

"(just) words" finds a theme in the idea of language heard and overheard. We don't claim to be original, to find the origin of language, or even the orality of language. Instead we consider the un-originality of language by speaking of the plagiarists in our classes, on our TV screens, in our poems, art works, and daily lives--indeed everywhere in which language is (just) words.

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The run time for the file is 27:17. View the references.


The authors wish to thank Dr. Bob Whipple, Creighton University, for his selfless and invaluable technical assistance.