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By Mutsumi Yamamoto
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Extra info for Agency And Impersonality: Their Linguistic And Cultural Manifestations (Studies in Language Companion Series, Volume 78)
The extraterrestrial, left alone on the Earth, endeavoured to create the ‘communicator’ to ‘phone home’ out of bits and pieces of everyday gadgets; what is of our interest here is the way how this old space man conceived of the construction of the communicator, that is, his ‘mind-style’ underlying his idea of the make-shift parabolic reflector. In the last paragraph of the above citation, it goes: “. . those early hints flashed at him from within, of a little fork dancing around a plate”. ), it may be quite likely that an inanimate object like a fork may dance around a plate, as if it is an animate agent.
Since Lennie is represented as a ‘simpleton’, Steinbeck regards it as appropriate that his agency, together with his intentionality and responsibility, should be diminished, and this reveals something about the author’s value and a part of his mind-style or worldview (Leech & Short 1981: 191). Apart from the importance of the assignments of agency as a mirror of an author’s mind-style, the above passage from Of Mice and Men carries yet another Agency and Impersonality important implication.
Fairclough argues that the subject here is an untypical ‘inanimate agent’ of an action process which is typically represented by the SVO clausal pattern, and that agency in causing problems is attributed to the lorries, but not to the people who control them (1989: 123). As Davidson claims, attributions of agency are accusations or assignments of responsibility; it naturally follows then that non-attribution of agency means relief from responsibility. The use of a surface ‘inanimate agent’ to mitigate the sense of responsibility attributable to the ‘real’ agent is one form of the ‘impersonalisation’ of agency, which will be characterised in more detail in the following chapters.
Agency And Impersonality: Their Linguistic And Cultural Manifestations (Studies in Language Companion Series, Volume 78) by Mutsumi Yamamoto