You Are What You Say: “Soliloquy”

Picking my first checkpoint topic was difficult for me, to say the least. I went on the E-Lit directory and randomly choose one based on its title. Soliloquy: it’s short, it’s sweet and has a spicy aftertaste of complexity.

To provide a bit of background on “Soliloquy,” it is a project that Kenneth Goldsmith made that essentially captured every single word he said over the course of one week transcribed onto a single document. The dialogue ranged from saying hello to friends to some R-rated conversations in the bedroom. Goldsmith originally used the document to create a gallery exhibit (link here). He then took the original 281-page book and put it online by dividing the week into seven separate chapters and then dividing the chapters into 10 separate sections.

When first opening up the website, I was drawn in by its simplicity. The page was blank with only the title, the author, and two links that direct you either to start the reading or to read an “About” page.

Then, when you click “Enter,” you are directed to a page with two quotations:

Click “Enter” again, and you are directed to a page listing the days of the week. Under each day, there are 10 sections that divide Goldsmith’s conversations from that day. Being very structural, I obviously started from Monday then looked through chronologically until I got to section 10 under Friday.

What was really interesting was that under each section, there is only one sentence or fragment visible. For example:

However, when you start to move your mouse around, another sentence or phrase pops up where your cursor is.

 At first, I didn’t really know how to reflect or analysis this. I was so confused on Goldsmith’s work. For about a good hour, I was asking myself, “Why does this matter? Why did he make this?”

Like most English majors, I looked at the title of his piece: Soliloquy. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first definition of soliloquy was “the act of talking to oneself.” Okay, that explains why the conversations were always one-sided. I found it interesting that he never recorded what other people said, only himself. It’s like listening to a person talking on the phone and not being able to hear the other person respond.

The second definition was “a dramatic monologue that represents a series of unspoken reflections.” Oh, that makes sense. After reading that, a ton of lightbulbs lite up in my head.

We as humans are always trying to sound more intelligent or superior than other people. We live in this society where speaking colloquially is often criticized, yet we still do it. By recording everything he said, Goldsmith was able to document an accurate “reflection” of himself. Therefore, he was able to see his “true” self, unedited and stripped of flowery language. I’m not sure if I’m just being philosophical for no reason, or if I’m necessarily right, but it makes sense in my head.

What I found interesting was how he first turned his work into an exhibit, then turned it into a web-based text. If you look at the image of the gallery exhibit, it was literally the entire document printed out on white paper and taped on the gallery’s walls. Who would want to read all of that? I thought putting it in the web-format he did was an interesting, and smart, decision. By having only the first sentence or phrase visible and then whatever your cursor is over prevents the screen from looking too clustered and preserves its neat structure.

Overall, I think looking through “Soliloquy” was an interesting experience. It really made me reflect on the idea that we really don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do: something I believe everyone should think about.

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