We can learn…to move flexibly back and forth between using and celebrating something we feel as our own voice, and operating as though we are nothing but ventriloquists playfully using and adapting and working against an array of voices we find around us. Peter Elbow, Everyone Can Write, 2000, p. 218. What does it mean when we say that we have ‘found a voice’ for our writing? The word ‘voice’ has a variety of meanings in common parlance. Most straightforwardly, it denotes the sound of the speaking or singing voice received by the ear: the opera singer, Placido Domingo, is said to have a powerfully resonant tenor voice. Metaphorically it is used to denote an empowering process: the introduction of universal suffrage in the early twentieth century is said to have ‘given voice’ to women. This is ‘voice’ conferred by an authority: the right to speak and to make one’s voice heard. This sense of voice is also implicit in an individual’s personal struggle to overcome the fear of speaking: we may say of a young man who has overcome his difficulty of speaking in front of his colleagues at work that he has managed to ‘find his voice’ and now has a greater confidence to express his opinions publicly. ‘Voice’ in these senses is a medium of oral expression of the individual or the group.
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