Literature Mod B essay
How do speeches highlight the significance of language and learning as a means bringing about
social change?
Only a text with a congruence of form, features and ideological representation is capable of
transcending the standards of eras, by continuing to resonate with newer audiences within
differing contexts. Texts, such as speeches, become an immovable, united entity which can
not merely resist the unstoppable force of time through the use coherent use of form and
language which produces a coalesced whole in terms of meaning and value. By developing a
relationship between the real world of the audience and an alternative, yet improved world,
the speaker is able to effectively foster the acceptance of new ideas and values. As each of
these speakers weaves reality with the imagined, it becomes apparent that their speeches
compellingly communicate deeply held beliefs to their audiences. This is present in both
Margaret Atwood's 1994 speech “Spotty Handed Villainesses and Doris Lessing's 2007
acceptance On Not Winning the Nobel Prize. Each of which call upon the role that literature
and the imagination play in inspiring a future founded upon injustice and individual
opportunity. This reveals not only the speaker's didactic vision characterised by
empowerment of the individual, but their faith in the audience's capacity to transform their
vision into reality.
A speech can create active social change by preaching individual opportunity, through
address the key aspects of rhetorical mechanisms which enact on the human condition.
Margaret Atwood's “spotty handed villainesses” is an epideictic and almost commemorative
speech on women's equality for opportunity in literature which accrues enough integrity in its
technical form and moreover its exploration of meaning to exceed its immediate context to
resonate contemporarily. Beginning with an intertextual reference to the children rhyme
“There was a little girl who had a little curl”, Atwood establishes both the pervading cultural
reliance to categorize female behaviour (angel/ whore) and the allure of that behaviour.
Through this rhetorical technique, she in turn encourages her audience to consider the role of
female ‘bad behaviour’ in literature, and its relevance to the real world. This point is
strengthened by her use of personal anecdote, in which she recalls that her “older brother
used this to tease her, however he only managed to make very good sound almost horrid”.
This henceforth illustrates Atwood's critique on the restricting presentation of women in fiction
and its effect in reducing individual opportunity realistically. In doing so, she effectively calls
upon her past and current fiction, to use both as a critical presentation on the failures of the
second-wave feminist movement in addressing the consequences of restricting the roles and
opportunity of women in popular fiction and in society. This is lastly confirmed by her belief in
the aphorism ‘create a flawless character and you create an insufferable one’, and it's this
belief which formed the basis of her argument on the “tenancy to cookie cut” female
characters. Through this humorous rendering of cookie cut characters, she successfully
appeals to the audience's pathos through humour and demonstrates a very serious concern,
that such real world parochialism causes the writer to feel her choices for females
opportunities in fiction are restricted. This invariably in turn influences readers, inevitably
resulting in a perpetuation of those in the same parochial attitudes. In this way Atwood
emphasises the relationship between the real and the unreal through the medium of literature
to communicate a powerful critique of the shortcomings of second wave feminism in the
1960’s in addressing the lack of female character opportunity and changing society.