Sunday, June 19, 2011

Narrative Voice

I have never taken well to discussion questions at the end of the chapters of any book I am reading. It always seems an affront - an intrusion and a condescension. I have heretofore thought that it was just the general banality and obviousness of the questions, some being merely bad, others being worse.

Today it occurred to me that the change in narrative voice may be what is so jarring. When the usual text is running along it is simply the author talking, perhaps to himself, perhaps to you, but either way, demanding no response unless the force of his ideas rises to the level of demand. Discussion questions change the voice. The author is now putting you on the spot to speak, and to answer. I find that insulting. Who granted that permission? Not I, certainly.

I noticed this today because Devin Brown's questions are quite good. Worth answering, even. Yet I resent them nearly as much as the insipid questions of maddening, spoon-fed Bible studies.

I put myself in the author's place. When one is writing or speaking, one has (or imagines) an audience. Interacting with that audience seems not only allowable, but polite. Seeking the opinions of the others present does not seem that different from explicating a point while considering what their understanding and previous experiences might be.

Yet as a reader, it is quite different, as if one went to a sermon or a public lecture and was called upon to answer and recite.

And yet, how to get people to address specific questions that the author thinks are key?

1 comment:

Dubbahdee said...

I resent study questions because they are merely commentary disguised as questions.

If you really want to get people talking about what the book is saying, better to read a passage, and then ask, "Well, what do you think of that?"