“Hurry Back!”

by Vi Dutcher

Letter-writing, and specifically the circle letter, as presented in the essay by Vi Dutcher, qualifies as folk expression, even though it is not an oral genre. But it is customary in that it is a written genre and custom that has been passed on over many years, and it is learned informally from the example of other members of the community—not from formal instruction in a classroom or office, as is the case with most formal composition today. Circle letters are practiced in North America mainly by women, of various social levels and ethnicities, but Vi analyzes the circle letter's culturally specific practice and meaning in an Old Order Amish community.

Comments for “Hurry Back!”

  • Shirley

    On July 16, 2009 Shirley wrote:

    Fascinating. My mother had a circle, but I don't remember a circle letter. But she also had a car and a phone.

    I was just wondering, this morning, now that some Amish use computers, whether any of them are using FaceBook. I'm sure the bishop would frown on it. What makes FB appealing is the very thing Amish communities would distrust--instant, worldwide, communication.

    And yet, using slow mail, the highest value is "hurry back!" So the external pace must be slow to fit Amish culture, but the internal pace, like gardening and all other work on the farm, is most highly valued when brisk.

    Thanks for detailing how circle letters work and for sharing this paradox of community. You can be forgiven for not sending on the letter if you are sick or overwhelmed temporarily (when the church letter will also bring you lots of sympathy and support) but not if you are thoughtless.

    Gender role analysis was also quite interesting.

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  • Mary

    On October 7, 2009 Mary wrote:

    While I don't come from a technology-shy branch of Mennonites, I was very interested to read this article, because my father's side of the family has what we call a Rundbrief that has remained in circulation since the 1920s. (See my old blog post at http://www.personal.psu.edu/mja11/blogs/family/2008/06/the-rundbrief-of-course-why-di.html.) In our case, we do not have as distinct a collective format as described in the essay.

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