The Identity Dilemma through Form and Content

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The Identity Dilemma through Form and Content
Imagine comparing a person to a language. It would be so tricky and overwhelming: finding grammatical structures that would fit into a person’s personality, verb tenses related to life experiences etc. However, there are two main things which make a person and a language highly comparable: form and content. What are form and content? How are they related to each other? In his essay “Devoid of Content”, scholar Stanley Fish argues that when considering a language, we should leave content outside and just focus on form, because form eventually leads to content. David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, in “How to Write (the Perfect) Email”, point out the importance of form as it leads to a better content in writing emails. But is it really only about form? How many things do we know that only rely on form as a key to content? Although Fish, Shipley and Schwalbe put emphasis on form as a way to content, Gogol, the main character of Jumpha Lahiri’s novel The Namesake, shows that a person can never be “devoid of content” or a “perfect grammatical” structure because form and content are indeed equivalent and they reflect that person’s identity. Gogol actually swims across a medium of overlapping forms and contents which define his life and sense of belonging.
Whether it is a book, piece of art or even something that we eat, most of the things that we see and perceive in our lives are generally distinguished by their form and content. Form and content have always been a discussion topic among great philosophers (such as Aristotle, Kant, Hegel), lovers of art and intellectuals. These two categories, seemingly different from one another, when fully elaborated, are actually interrelated ide...

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...hipley and Schwalbe claim. As Dostoyevsky once said “We all came out of Gogol’s overcoat” (Lahiri 78), the overcoat would represent a person’s struggle to belong in the society. And as we saw this struggle mainly focuses on the form and content of what a person does and perceives from his actions. Since form and content are both part of each other, a person benefits from this smooth transition between them to deal with the quest of identifying himself. After all, we are part of the same “overcoat”.

Works Cited

Fish, Stanley. “Devoid of Content.” The Norton Mix: The Global University. A Custom Publication. W.W Norton, 2013.101-105. Print.
Shipley,David, Schwalbe, Will. “How to Write (the Perfect) Email” The Norton Mix: The Global University. A Custom Publication. W.W Norton, 2013.273-282. Print.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. New York: Mariner Books, 2003. Print.
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