First Discourse Paper

First Discourse Paper

Fake It ‘Till You Become It

James Paul Gee and Amy Cuddy both touch upon how one must act in order to succeed in a certain discipline. In Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction, Gee introduces an idea that he calls “Discourses.” Discourses are ways of being in the world. They use acts, values, and beliefs along with the usual words. Before Gee’s concepts, the focus of linguistics involved only what is said (language and grammar). But with his texts, he argues that it is much more than just that. It involves not just what you say, but how you say it along with how you act when you say it. In order to enter a Discourse, one must engulf themselves in the culture. You must be surrounded and involved with everything having to do with the Discourse. This can be said for Amy Cuddy as well. Amy Cuddy discussed in her TED Talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, how nonverbal language plays a huge role in not only how other people view you, but how you view yourself. She talks about how certain body language (body position) can influence how you are perceived, as well as how you trick your mind to feel. Even just a  powerful pose can cause you to seem more powerful and in charge than if you were to make yourself feel small.

James Paul Gee argues that it is not just what you say, it is also how you say it and how you act as well. Throughout Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction, Gee claims that literacy studies should not just focus on the grammar and language and overall literacy of someone, or something, but more so should focus on the social practices of the situations. Gee defines Discourse  as a “way of being in the world . . . form of which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs . . .” (6). He says in order to be apart of a Discourse, you must “apprentice” under a master in the Discipline. This may pose some problems if you wish to enter the Discourse of your choice. Gee says that a Discourse is not a body of knowledge, meaning that you cannot just simply learn a Discourse. You must possess the values, the actions, the beliefs, the language of someone who is in that Discourse. This may take some time, but it can be done. You must be able to exhibit the things someone in that Discourse would exhibit; otherwise, you may stand out as a sore.

As you read this article by Gee, you can see the many examples he provides to show the reader just how important the social aspect of linguistics really are. The very first example involves a man going to a local bar and sitting down next to a very large, tattooed man. In the first version of this example, the man politely asks for a match. This is not in tune with how one should act in a tough bar. The second version shows the man asking for a match in the right way, but also placed a napkin on the bar stool to protect his designer jeans. Gee says, “I have said the right thing, but my ‘saying-doing’ combination is nonetheless all wrong” (5). While at first I agreed with most people in seeing how people spoke being most important, I now see how important it is to act a certain way. The evidence shows that if you are not able to “blend into” a certain social situation, then you will surely stick out like a sore thumb. This value can be expressed in any sort of social situation as well. For example, if you are in an interview, you must express the right language in order for you to get the job. Gee touches upon this on page six of these papers. He talks about how in one set of simulated job interviews, a woman was hired because she was able to speak more formally than the previous woman. Though this rings true, this woman did not show the interviewers how strong of a leader she was. Instead, the whole time she was talking about how she will ask for help in a certain situation, instead of taking initiative. “[The interviewee] fails to characterize her own expertise in the overly optimistic form called for by such interviews,” said Gee (6). Though she had the “language” aspect of the interview down, she was not able to show the values of a person who would receive that job.  

Amy Cuddy talks about the importance of “nonverbals”. These nonverbals are how you present yourself or act without speaking- hence nonverbals. During her TED Talk, Cuddy talks about how body language and composition has a huge affect on both those around you, along with yourself. Cuddy says, “When we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us and what the outcomes are . . . the other audience that’s influenced by our nonverbals, and that’s ourselves” (3:20). She provides an experiment of people sitting or standing in different positions. People who performed a “strong” and “powerful” position made themselves feel more powerful, also making them appear more powerful to those around them as well. Amy Cuddy talks about how in a business situation, a powerful stance can make you appear more powerful as well. This ties in to Gee’s “acting” part of a Discourse. Gee says that to be in a Discourse, you must display a combination of “saying (writing), doing, being, valuing, and believing.” Cuddy’s poses exhibit the “doing” part of this combination. In the beginning of Gee’s Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics, he gives an example of a man in a bar saying the right thing, but the man did not act in the right way. “I have said the right thing, but my ‘saying-doing’ combination is nonetheless all wrong” (Gee 5). If we go back to Cuddy’s business example, we can see that the same situation is true. Adding to Cuddy’s argument, I would point out that one could have a well put together business plan, but have their presentation off due to them slouching and holding themselves, making themselves smaller. These nonverbals cue to the audience that the presenter is not very confident, thus showing that the plan as well could fall through.

Though it may seem as though James Paul Gee and Amy Cuddy do not agree on anything, you can see through the evidence that in many places they do in fact agree. They have the same values and ideas on how to enter a Discourse. They both agree upon how in order to enter such a Discourse, you must express the right values, mannerisms, nonverbals, and actions.

“Thus, what is important is not language, and surely not grammar, but saying (writing)- doing- being- valuing- believing combinations.These combinations I call ‘Discourses,’ with a capital ‘D’ [‘discourse’ with a little ‘d’, to me, means connected stretches of language that make sense, so ‘discourse’ is part of ‘Discourse’]” (Gee 6).