04 August 2008

Because Writing is About "I"

The August 3 edition of the New York Times magazine's "On Language" section featured a story titled "Me, Myself and I," by Caroline Winter. Winter's story is interesting because honestly, how often have you thought about the reason we capitalize this one letter? She points out "There’s no grammatical reason for doing so, and oddly enough, the majuscule 'I' appears only in English*," and "the solitary 'I' towers above 'he,' 'she,' 'it' and the royal 'we.'” Of course she goes on to explain that whole transition from spoken language to a written form and those silly Old and Middle English times where really anything passed for written language. She even throws in some sociological and political affects of the capital "I." Personally, I found the article interesting when Winter hits on the narcissistic value of the monolithic "I," because the act of writing is in itself a pretty self-centered act. I won't argue that writing can never be selfless, but I tend to agree with Margaret Atwood's claim that "all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality." So yes, for me, writing is an almost entirely selfish act, almost, because I want of that weird haunt of mortality and the desire to have something outlast my days. And narcissistic too, because maybe I believe that you really wanted to read this.

*I could be wrong, but I think Winter may have neglected the Russian Language, who I think does capitalize their form of "I."

x-posted at Vernacular.

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