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[BKARTS] WOID #VIII-7. Mr. Nass Steps to the Bat



On today's New York Times Editorial Page a certain Henry E. Nass, "business-development consultant," weighs in for penmanship: "The process of learning to form the loops and curves teaches children [...] patience, discipline and the rewards of practice. [...] The mastery of penmanship is thus a grade schooler's first metaphor." He forgot to mention chastity, but no matter.

It's not a new argument, not even contestable; just naive. Melanie Klein argued the same about eighty years ago: when a child, male or female, first confronts the suggestively shaped pen, he or she adopts it as a symbolic instrument for the control of bodily functions, which now become *social* functions. What's naive is Mr. Nass' opinion that pens may be better suited to that process than any other device. I suspect, in fact, that it's the phallic connotations of pens that make them unpopular now, in a society as committed to Gleichschaltung as ever, even beyond distinctions of gender. *Master*y of pen*man*ship, indeed. And I'm not prepared to argue, as Mr. Nass does, that the practice of Spencerian script is innately more punishing than Italics: they both can be turned into instruments of repression.

Those of us inside the Prison-House of Writing have taken up the liberation of Writing through Writing. This is our historical task - why impose it on others? There will always be plenty of forms of repression left.

Paul T Werner, New York
http://theorangepress.com

WOID: A journal of visual language

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