Friday, April 29, 2011

Books smell

I borrowed this wonderful advert for 'The Smell of Books' from Angela Thomas as an illustration for my keynote at the recent BAAL seminar on language and disadvantage. My point was to illustrate important changes in the communication economy (ie: the rise of self-sponsored writing; of new conventions, new relationships and ideas of appropriacy as well as the usual suspects: multimodal, multilingual and multiscriptual texts) that prompt us to reconceptualize disadvantage and to recontextualize public discourse about 'bad language', and to point out how all this takes place against a backcloth of persistant nostalgia for the book and other fixed forms of print literacy. For me it was a return to some key debates in sociolinguistics and with a title like 'The Trashmaster: popular culture, bad language and writing online', a return to form in grabbing attention. The nub of the question settles on old language prejudices - those that so readily associate with class, although as the seminar discussion uncovered, class is far more fragmented than it was when these debates last headlined in the late 1960s. Same same; different different.

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