ENG – 300
14 May 2018
Within the last three chapters of David M. Levy’s Scrolling Forward, he begins by identifying the reliability of the book in a bookstore and the unreliability of the web page. The book has the backing of a publisher that made sure the book was viable for publishing while the web page does not have that. The digital world is messy. Since documents are constantly changing in order to live up to the human need to have ourselves remembered, this transition into the digital has been very difficult. Although digital documents have caused a difficult transition in documents, Levy believes that all of those documents are just as important as the ones that came before. Along with substantial documents, digital documents can “address the great existential questions of human life” (Levy, 184). Scrolling Forward then wraps up in Chapter 11 with a statement on the current state of our society and how we understand documents. Levy believes that society is moving so much faster than before and how our use of documents identifies a need for many in society to use documents to try and surpass finality.
When reading the last few chapters of Scrolling Forward, it’s difficult not to think back on many of the chapters within the book. One of the more interesting ways that the idea of documents holding onto existence comes into play in Levy’s third chapter, “Leaves of Grass.” Levy identifies the ways in which the poem “Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman, can be viewed and experienced. In the digital sense, the poem is useful to Levy because they “satisfy my interest in comparative study and lay scholarship,” while his childhood copy hits closer to home (42). Levy writes of his childhood copy, “it is always my childhood copy to which I return for nourishment” (42). The idea of a document holding onto Whitman’s existence not only through scholarly interest, but also through emotional attachment shows how documents persist human existence. Levy shows here how humans really use documents in order to secure a part of themselves in continuity due to how we are able to interpret the same words in different mediums. Whitman’s emotions in “Song of Myself” hold true in both versions. Either form of the document serves as a reminder of his existence in different ways though, in subjectivity and objectivity.
This idea of subjectivity and objectivity in the persisting nature of documents is incredibly evident in the response to The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara. Bambara’s document can easily be seen as a way to concretely remember a spirit and social understanding of racial oppression. Levy states in chapter 10, “Each one of us, by virtue of having a self, is continually struggling to discover ‘ourself’” (186). In a story based around children learning the economic disparity they are living in, Bambara looks to find herself in the economic tier she was born into. She explicitly states within The Lesson, “‘Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven’” (Bambara, 5). By identifying in this document the culture and society that enacts these restraints on a part of itself, Bambara securely locks this experience in its continuity. Using a document to do this, in Levy’s terms, solidifies this experience and Bambara in history through emotional connection to a child that must come to terms with the society they were born into. In a more scholarly and objective outlook, this document can live on as a constant reminder of economic disparity with its downfalls.
Voices of the Self by Kieth Gilyard is another fantastic example of this attempt to solidify a real experience and a real cultural experience in a document. Levy makes it a point to write that “since documents are reflections and materializations of ourselves, their stability, however brief, is an assurance of our own” (189). Gilyard reinforces his argument for the importance and complexity of Black English by using his own experiences to support it. His opinion of this dialect is as follows, “using language as a way of adapting to situations and, to some extent, as a means of defining and controlling situations” (Gilyard, 40). Obviously Gilyard has much appreciation for the concept of Black English, so by using his own life as a way to get this point across, he attempts to solidify himself by materializing his experiences in the text. He, quite literally, seeks to assure his own stability of the concept of Black English and his own experience. With this assurance of both, he identifies Black English as an integral cultural practice that allows many in society to manage their impression. Due to Gilyard’s inherent belief in the importance of Black English, he seeks to solidify himself in continuity and assure himself the security of Black English as a substantial part of his life.
Word Count: 823
- In what ways have you tried to solidify yourself in continuity and reassure yourself of the stability of your life (Levy implies that most all humans do this)?
- Is this continual method of reassurance possibly creating a universal lexicon for understanding the human experience?
- Are there some experiences that are entirely inconsequential and simply exist for the purpose of someone marking their existence?
Levy, D. M. (2016). Scrolling forward: Making sense of documents in the digital age. New York: Arcade Publishing.
Bambara, Toni C. “The Lesson.” Curriculum Resource Solutions, Inc. Web. 12 May 2015.
Gilyard, K. (1991). Voices of the self: A study of language competence. Detroit, MI: Wayne State Univ. Press.