This little lecture pretends to something I no longer want to claim. The pretense is in the tone and level of the language, not in what it says about poststructuralism. The claim being made by the language is analogous to what Barthes calls the “reality effect” of historical writing, whose real message is not that this or that happened bu that reality exists. So the claim of the language I’ve been using (and am using right now) lies in its implicit deification of the speaker. Let’s call it the “authority effect.” I cannot describe the pretense except to talk about what it ignores: the frailty of the speaker, his body, his emotions, his history; the moment of intercourse with the reader—acknowledgment of the other person’s presence, her feelings, her needs. This “authoritative” language speaks as though the other person weren’t there. Or perhaps more accurately, it doesn’t bother to imagine who, as Hawthorne said, is listening to our talk.

How can we speak personally to one another and yet not be self-centered? How can we be part of the great world and yet remain loyal to ourselves?

Jane Tompkins, “Me and My Shadow”