A mode of behaviour or way of thought particular to an individual. (From https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/idiosyncrasy)
As we are settling well into 2020 and we find ourselves in the new year’s second month already, it is time to announce our new bimonthly theme: idiosyncrasy.
Quirks, eccentricities, and mannerisms. Particular trains of thought.
A concept that centers on individuality, but would not exist without a periphery.
To me, this theme is a trigger to think about the post-modern take on the truth – the idea that no truth can ever be true, since the truth, our reality, can only exist in our perception of it. If our truths are inherently perceived from our own individual perspectives, they are inherently subjective.
Naturally, we may think of our own quirks as influencing of our identity in one way, when others perceive it as something entirely different. Our experiences, our scripts and schema’s, our cultures – they simultaneously shape our own behaviour and decide how we judge others.
Idiosyncrasies make individuals identifiable, but to whom?
It seems that the beauty of the idiosyncrasy, is indeed in the eye of the beholder.
Who decides what is eccentric and what is not? Who notices what?
Which features are entirely natural to one, but absolutely peculiar to another?
How easy is it at all, to distinguish a peculiar habit from a grander idea of personality?
And – I shall to admit, I wonder – what about myself?
What quirks do I have that are building blocks to my character?
What mannerisms, or trains of thought are particularly mine?
And so, how do they relate to the identity I am ascribed by others?
Due to my own fascination for the idiosyncrasies of language, which have been a interest of mine throughout my literary studies, I will wander away from a general approach here for a small introduction into how the theme may relate to writing creatively. In writing, one of the many ways in which we weave idiosyncrasies into convincing characters, is the voice in which a narrator tells their story. In psychological theory, narration is seen as a fundamental part of identification. It can be “a tool for identity construction and identity analysis” (Bamberg, p. 3; Dunlop and Walker, p. 235). In first-person narratives, identification happens on two levels; on the one hand narrator-protagonists go through a process of self-identification, while on the other, the reader identifies this narrator while observing this process. The idiosyncrasies of the narrator or characters language present themselves in their orality, or “the ability to hear in one’s imagination what a written text would sound like when read aloud” (Joseph Collignon qtd. in Ong, “Our Times,” p. 1). Orality – in other words, the way in which we can almost hear a character speak within our own minds when their voices are particular – allows the reader to connect with and recognize the personality of the protagonist-narrator, thus supporting the second level of identification. While self-identification through narration occurs by means of the gap between the narrated and narrating self as the narrator takes a reflective position vis-à-vis this self, the features of idiosyncratic language are mainly present in specific phrases, repetition, and register. They are similar and make the protagonists particular, and, consequently; familiar, recognizable and convincing (Bamberg, p. 7; Tannen, p. 78).
It is within this field of individuality, identity, idiosyncrasy, that we invite you to create, shape and share your ideas.
Please e-mail us your response to this theme to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tannen, Deborah. “The orality of literature and the literacy of conversation.” Language, literacy and culture: Issues of society and schooling (1987): 67-88. Accessed 11 May 2017.
Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy. Ed. John Hartley. 30th ed. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2012. Print.
Bamberg, Michael. “Who Am I? Narration and Its Contribution to Self and Identity.” Theory & Psychology 21.1 (2011): 3-24. Web. Accessed 18 April 2017.
Dunlop, William L., and Lawrence J. Walker. “The Life Story: Its Development and Relation to Narration and Personal Identity.” International Journal of Behavioral Development 37.3 (2013): 235-247. Web. Accessed 18 April 2017.