Occasionally (very rarely, in fact) I am caught short by the extraordinarily intense mark of intention that makes itself felt in my writing. It is not that I seek this out or look to say, say and say in a way that is of or for 'me', but that, sometimes, very rarely, I am surprised by the strong impression of encountering myself talking back to me from the 'page'.
Quite why one passage should strike me like this and another doesn't is extremely difficult to ascertain. In such moments I am called to question the popular wisdom in enlightened liberal educational institutions that characterises the programme of education as enabling students to find their own voice.
This emphasis on the search for that singular vocality in writing, for that indelible trace that cannot and will not unhinge itself from the acousmêtre of the author, is grounded in a notion hat the best of writing is always the most original, the most unique, the most individuated.
And yet, those moments that seem to 'speak' to me of me, those intensely reflexive turns in the written prose that speak back are precisely those things I dislike in my writing, Only when I am able to write as if in control of the materials – only as if unfolding an idea in full and erudite spontaneity, as if in short, I were someone else – only then do I feel that the writing is good, secure. In shot, writing is always for me a kind of effacement.
I want to purge those embarrassing Northern vowels, that mark of suburbia, of the Midlands, of bland, safe lower bourgeois, poorly educated autodidact. I want to write as if I were from a glorious and aristocratic generation of emigré Jews, of dissident Palestinians, of Hungarian violinist, of African rebels, or Cuban guerillas; of Clarissa Furtwangler, Szagylyn Passmaker, Hyacinth Smortlyna, Mahmoud Kobal, Cruella Rozhdestvinsky. Wouldn't it be great to be that, to be other than this white, bland, suburban bore?
When students begin to write critically, intelligently, creatively, perhaps the last thing we should do is encourage to write as themselves. Who on earth wants to do that? Why not encourage them to write as if.
AND YET.... In this tendency to efface ourselves is precisely located the operation of a certain power at its most unmediated, in this feigning of boredom with oneself, with the routinely quotidian white. To play act as if in turmoil with oneself, to march endlessly through the detritus of one's average life in search of something else, something new, something Other, is the act of a class terminally ensnared in luxury, in excess without telos, without suffering. It is the feigning, the colonising , the ruthless appropriation even of the pain this class inflicts as if to say – we cause you harm and yet we maintain the right to own your suffering, to colonise it with our soft and whining pettinesses.
Here then is precisely the burden: to rage against self is to play act as if powerless; and yet to valorise the care of that same self is to enact that brutality of a self-obsession in the face of the cruelty inflicted on others.
No way out. No way out???
In that encounter with the self, as if speaking back to oneself from the written page, then, one experiences a moment of extraordinary uncanniness when the promise of some kind of way out is glimpsed if only for a moment: the self becomes performative, split, epistemologically impossible, the creepy doppelgänger that promises both a death and a rebirth.
I am you, speaking back to to you. Who do you think you are?