Friday, September 16, 2011

Foggy Agency

The other day in class, while talking about the subject of audience, we considered the question of how the audience should interact with the text and what the relationship between author and reader should be. Campbell provides through her piece Agency: Promiscuous and Protean five key elements of agency that help to answer this question of relationship between sender and receiver. Campbell separates the five elements into the following categories: communal and participatory, "invented" by authors who are points of articulation, emerges in art/craft, effected through form, and perverse (1). These direct identifications help to materialize this "agency" that we have been dancing with these first three weeks of class.

Campbell' mention of agency being communal and participatory is important to address in terms of how the writer interacts with the audience. In this case study of Sojourner Truth, audience is an incredibly vague concept as it crosses not only time, but race and gender with powerful statements with the power to move and offend many. Truth's original audience was in fact very slim due to her illiteracy. Her true audience was limited to only those who heard her speak the words at the conference in Akron, Ohio in the 1800s. The authorship then moves into the hands of Francis Gage, mutating both the form and function of Truth's words. This enters in to the realm of fiction that now has the power to choose and manipulate its audience, which highlights the perverse aspect of Campbell's theory of agency. As Gage takes hold of Truth's words into a written form, the truth is taken away (both literally and metaphorically).

Audience then, after slipping through the hands of Sojourner Truth, Francis Gage, and finally Karlyn Kohrs Campbell; remains a ghost of intention, fictionalized to the point where its veritable nature is questionable. Is it possible that then the audience becomes the agent of interpretation? This would complex the already paradoxical concept of agent compared to agency; but that is the loveliness of language, to make intricate the complex and to push the already vague into deeper fogs of thought.

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