Essay1_NBeckwith - Beckwith 1 Noor Beckwith Preceptor...

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Beckwith 1 Noor Beckwith Preceptor: Zachary Sifuentes Expos. 20: A Voice of One’s Own February 2008 Authorial Distancing in “ Huckleberry Finn as Idol and Target” Jonathan Arac’s essay offers a critical analysis of both one of the most beloved books in the American literary canon, Huckleberry Finn , and one of the most charged words in the English language, the N-word. This being the case, Arac immediately places himself onto polemical and potentially incendiary ground. Furthermore, in his critique, he targets the “hypercanonizing” (Arac 32) academics and journalists who have contributed to the perpetuated use of the controversial book and the offensive word in American schools; Arac himself an academic who uses the word, he thus risks indicting himself and being included amongst the irresponsible critics he names. To manage this rhetorical dilemma and escape hypocrisy, he employs three main tactics that change the interplay of the reader, the argument, and the author’s own self. Specifically, Arac uses tactics to impose authorial distance from the subject matter, seeking thereby to exonerate himself. Nonetheless, their overall efficaciousness is moot, and the fears they reflect may in fact be actualized. One of the tools that Arac uses to manage his dilemma is, in short, differential blame assignation. In the argument that he presents against the prevailing institutions that perpetuate the undue idol and the N-word, he describes two key culprits that he treats differently; academia and the media alike are subjected to different criticisms for different faults. On the one hand, Arac’s quarrel with the critical academia is surprisingly simple. He faults many scholars with the unfortunate mistake of attributing an offensive misnomer to Twain’s character Jim, and he faults them for the result of that mistake. Arac presents a cogent and extensive “survey” of this
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Beckwith 2 mistake’s occurrence throughout the era (23-28), and explains that, despite the good will that often accompanies continued discussion of Huckleberry Finn , “one of its major effects is actually to license and authorize the continued honored circulation of a term that is both explosive and degrading” (29). Despite this shortcoming of the literary academy, Arac does nonetheless continue to cite and praise other academics like Leo Marx (32) and Leslie Fielder (35), revealing that his squabble with this group is far from comprehensive or categorical. In other words, the author’s recognition of this scholarly foible does not require one to realize any overarching change of attitude. On the other hand, Arac has a great dispute with those whom he deems the “public authorities” (31). This group is the media and Arac doesn’t hesitate to blame them liberally. Where “
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Essay1_NBeckwith - Beckwith 1 Noor Beckwith Preceptor...

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