April 6, 2006 – Denise Riley: “On the Inner Voice”

Thursday, April 6 / 4 PM / Oakes Mural Room

What’s really inner about the inner voice? Denise Riley writes:

“To propose the outerness of the intimate innerness of speech may seem an inhumane violation of that “inner voice” as the truth of conscience. Yet to scrutinize inner speech soon throws into crisis the standard conception of inside and outside, resulting instead in an image of an inner speech periodically turned, like a Moebius strip, outward. We readily sense, without any dramatic topographical straining, that outer and inner speech don’t run in parallel as opposites; and this isn’t merely speculative: this non-symmetry of our interiority and exteriority emerges through contemplated experiences of inner speech. Conventionally imagined as inaccessible, the innermost, though, isn’t necessarily concealed. The very display of articulation can do the work of hiding. …We’d lose nothing in subscribing to the inner voice’s social nature – because that sociality is where, in all its idiosyncracy, my linguistic self is founded. “Conversation,” then, may not so much run between persons as its originating points, as through and across them.”

Denise Riley is Professor in the School of Literature at the University of East Anglia. Her writing is concerned with rhetoric and the emotionality of language, and has included investigations in the philosophy of language, social philosophy, and the nature of self-presentation and irony. Her books include War in the Nursery: Theories of Child and Mother (Virago, 1983); ‘Am I that Name?’ Feminism and the Category of Women in History (Minnesota, 1988); The Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony (Stanford, 2000); and Impersonal Passion: Language as Affect (Duke, 2005). She has published many collections of poetry. She edited Poets on Writing: Britain 1970-1991 (Macmillan, 1992).