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Infinite Summer • View topic - "Wardine be cry."

Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
It is currently Wed Jul 08, 2020 9:35 pm

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The Inficratic Oath: first, post no spoilers. Limit your I.J. discussion to only those events that take place on or before the page 981 (100%).



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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 7:40 am 
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Intersting take, Kevdude, but wouldn't that be more evident in speakers who attempt to learn a second language academically rather than emulating other peoples speech? Is English Clenette's second language?


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 1:18 pm 
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What does anyone think of the writing style (eg the dialect or idiolect used by the narrator) in the Dopesick Scene (aka what I now see is being referred to as the yrstruly and poor tony section) from pgs 128-135, compared to the Wardine section, in terms of authenticity?


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 8:29 am 
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I think the yrstruly section was a bit more realistic as far as dialect goes (there were some true-to-life slang terms used, e.g. "having a beef with someone"), but still wasn't entirely comparable to any actual dialects I've encountered. And I think overall, it was a lot easier to relate to than the Wardine section (although that might be because --and one poster already drew this connection in the other thread-- I'm a big, big fan of The Wire).


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 5:52 pm 
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I think it's really more the other way around. How many totally destitute completely uneducated black people have you met? This rendering of dialect, to me, sounded very like the homeless guys who lived near us in downtown Los Angeles in the 1990s. No really, I am serious. Like so-poor-there-is-no-TV poor. It's actually correct, I think, this dialect, so it is really bizarre to see so much complaining about it--he didn't mean for this person to sound like Oprah Winfrey. I think we're so so not aware of the real differences, here.

??

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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:04 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 11:35 pm 
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I don’t know sheet about bedspreads and my credentials include failing miserably on just about every level of my life (most notably, I might add, as a teacher of Standard American English [SAE], after which stint I’ve been pretty much banned from the public educational system in Virginia) and then I also recognize that this long-ass-winded pedantic sounding linguistic narrative will likely come off sounding like what my kick ass black students from the ghetto used to call bullshit, but nonethe-happy-less the five paragraphs starting on p.37 apparently bother some folks in the way the dialect seems to flirt in weird ways with a kind of textbook mixture of AAE, Bayou Creole, and some sort of voice from a culture that is entirely oral.** Here’s a couple more useless sentences to throw into the blender already whirrrring or toss to the compost as you see fit:

(1) It may be safe to say Clenette does not communicate from a typographic consciousness. It may be safe to say she doesn’t live in a world surrounded by printed words. She’s an oral speaker with an oral consciousness. It may even be safe to say that she’s never seen a printed word (and if you say she’s probably been to school I might say yeah, so?) which among other things means—if you append a nickel’s worth of sense to Walter Ong—that she does not have quite the same sense of past-present-future that you and I have living here, as we do, in the literary/typographic world. I mean to say the same sense that you and I have living in our everyday typographic worlds outside the world of Infinite Jest wherein time is an absolute oddity. Actually, time is such an oddity in IJ it’s almost shaping up to be one of those LIKE major thematic issues of the Tome that probably ought to be considered alongside or perhaps through the oral-temporal world of, say, Clenette.

AND BUT SO Clenette seems to exist almost entirely in the present tense, as exhibited by almost every verb she utters, which gives the frantic typographic reader the sense that everything is happening at once in a kind of misspoken dialect.

Of course there is some rudimentary movement through time in a sort of bare verb way, but these movements are awkward and ambiguous because, it may be safe to say, Clenette’s oral underpinnings simply don’t allow for sophisticated movement through time. So she is left to construct, say, future progressive actions between Reg and RT using bare, present tense verbs (with liberal help from the inflected GO).

(2) So anyway. There's that. It may be safe to say that what causes more problems, after the basics of dropping any verbs that can be contracted and hanging out in the eternal present, for writers/speakers of SAE attempting to, say, write in some weird variation of AAE, or perhaps read a kick ass ivory tower honky writing in some kick ass variation of AAE, is what is called in linguistic swamps the “habitual be.” In SAE if I write the sentence, Joe is sad, the sentence can be interpreted to mean Joe is sad at the moment or Joe is generally sad. Joe is sad is, habitually speaking, ambiguous. I can make this distinction less ambiguous in SAE only by lexical means. By adding words. So: Joe is generally sad or Joe is always sad will clarify the sense, in SAE, from Joe is sad right now. In AAE this distinction is often made syntactically with the uninflected BE referring to habitual action. (Not always, which makes it even slipperier.) So when I write Joe be happy, I might say in SAE that Joe is always happy. If I write Wardine be cry, there may be the sense in SAE that Wardine is always crying, almost like she is living (forever in this eternal present tense, perhaps, to Clenette, of course) in a state of cry. Which to me is a kind of magical turn of phrase, a lexical prism, as it were, possible only through Clenette.

So neverthemindless I love the rhythm and feel and energy of this section. But I’m also the kind of person who lives in a seedy section of town in an old house that leans and leaks in the rain with the timeless words of Calvin, the first-grade philosopher, taped below my screen: “Verbing weirds language.”

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** By AAE here, I mean, of course, African American English, referring to a group of closely related dialects AKA African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Black English (BE), Inner City English (ICE), and Ebonics. I know I’m beating a dead horse here but these dialects of North American English are spoken by large numbers of African Americans who live in urban areas euphemistically called the inner city and traditionally referred to as ghettos. There are many many sub-dialects within the dialects. And despite the care that we ought probably give if and when identifying someone’s race upon hearing that unseen someone speak, I don’t think TransistorRhythm is off base in inferring that the speaker of DFW’s p.37’s AAE/creole/oral mix is black. She probably is.


Last edited by jfs on Mon Jul 06, 2009 4:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 4:21 am 
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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:25 pm 
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Olja: I think your early impressions on this might change... I'm still working my way through of course, but I am a little ahead of the spoiler-line, and, well not spoiling here or anything, I keep thinking to these questions of "who is the narrator right now" and "why is this written this way?" etc. etc.
I don't think it's totally fair to consider the "posh/complex" standard narrator as any less a caricature than the Wardine or yrstruly sections. There are bits and pieces pretty grotesque about the other narration-styles too--though yeah, DFW and probably Us (i.e. the standard IS participant) identify more closely with them than with the more exaggeratedly "other" (i.e. for the standard literary fiction reader and IS participant) styles. I mean, Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts anyone?

Jfs: Thanks for this post, interesting analysis.


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 Post subject: Re: "Wardine be cry."
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:05 pm 
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