Revolution Lullabye

October 24, 2013

Gubar, Our Brilliant Career: Women in English, 1973-2010

Gubar, Susan. “Our Brilliant Career: Women in English, 1973-2010.” College English 76.1 (September 2013): 12-28.

Gubar uses her own personal career trajectory – her work as a professor in the Indiana University English Department from 1973 through 2010 – to comment on the state of the humanities in 21st century U.S. higher education and the shifting forces that have affected women’s careers in the humanities over this span of 37 years. She calls in her article for women to protect and advocate for the gains they have made in the academy for the sake of future generations of women scholars and their students. She also argues for the necessity of the humanities in 21st century American society, contending that its decreased influence and presence on college campuses today threatens our democratic society and culture. Her article shows in vivid detail the specific challenges women faced in the academy, ranging from professoinal dress to juggling the demands of family and spousal commitments with increased service and administrative expectations as funding and time for research diminished in the 1980s and 1990s.

Notable Notes

“the wives” – juxtaposition of the English faculty gatherings in 1973 and 2010. “The wives” formed a collective, many had just as stellar credentials as their husbands or the newly hired female faculty, but they were relegated to a supporting cast. There was tension between these “wives” and the new female faculty – the “wives” were never able to be, never allowed to be, what the new female faculty were. (contrast to today’s “mommy wars”)

In contrast, the “husbands” and the “partners” of faculty in the 1990s and 2000s never formed the same kind of collective, as the husbands, wives, and partners often had their own careers. What this marks is a shift in departmental culture from 1973 to 2010 – now it is much more disperse.

change in departmental male/female ratio – in 1973, there were 73 faculty (4 women). In 2010, there were 47 faculty (23 women)

the feminization of the humanities (13) – referring to the place of the humanities at institutions of higher education, but how does that term serve to blame women entering the profession for the demise of the humanities? (13)

central question – what has happened to women in English as the humanities have become devalued, and what has happened to feminist criticism in the humanities? (13)

long lists of names of former female colleagues who left IU, left the profession

Gubar was in the first wave of women hires – early 1970s

touches on issues of dress, pregnancy, nursing, having children in the midst of a career, being single v. married in a college town

change in faculty replacement hires: instead of one-for-one or growing the department in the 1970s, less and less tenure-track faculty were hired – cutbacks (18)

When less faculty are hired, the workload remains the same, so the younger (and more female) faculty teach more and larger classes, direct more theses and dissertations, and take on higher service loads (18). At the same time, tenure expectations were raised.

increased specialization leads to less focus on a local institution/department and more attention to research, a national discipline and conversation (and empty department hallways). Problem of faculty retention (20; 22).

as women rose in ranks, woman-woman rivalry increased: women were torn between protecting younger women and giving honest evaluations, increased competition for limited research funds, salary compression and inversion (21).

today’s problems: gulf btwn K-12 and university education, international and multilingual students, tension btwn education and comp/rhet field, online education (26)

Quotable Quotes

“The conjunction of women’s successful integration into the humanities and the attenuation of the humanities is not causal, I believe, but rather concurrent and coincidental” (13).

“In retrospect, I sometimes think of my cohort as ‘the lost generation’; for a variety of reasons, few of them could or would stay the course” (17).

“As the ranks of senior male professors dwindled through retirement, mid-level women often had to become what is called ‘heavy lifters’: they had to staff so many service-oriented activities or engage in so much advising and mentoring that their research tended to suffer” (18).

“People became less grounded in local university business, more active with colleagues around the country who shared their fields of specialization” (19).

“To use a buzzword that encapsulates the situation, the erosion of herteronormativity that began first with the disappearance of ‘the wives,’ and then with the appearance of lesbians on the faculty, gained momentum” (23).

“the contraction or depopulation of the humanities at the present moment” (24) – less students, graduate TAs/PhD candidates, faculty…focus on vocational, job training, sciences, business, etc. More reliance on contingent faculty to teach, fewer tenure lines

“For all our activism inside the academy, feminists have failed to surmount the multiple forces that conspired to marginalize the profession, and therefore we have failed to insure the future of our sucessors or, indeed, of our own benefits and environments” (25).

“How do I honor the equity that women have attained in the beleaguered humanities without worrying that their presence has contributed to the feminization of the profession, driving men from it and thereby further downgrading its prestige and currency in the culture?” (26).

“Never has a democratic culture needed the critical reading, writing, and interpretive skills practiced and taught by our profession more than now” (26).

“We must sustain what we fought so hard to attain” (27).

March 28, 2009

The New London Group, A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies

The New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” In Multiliteracies. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 9-37.

This article, published prior to this collection, lays out the New London Group’s fundamental arguments. They see current literacy education as inadequate for preparing students for full participation in their working, community, and personal lives, arguing that because literacies and discourses are central to these “lifeworlds,” and since those literacies aren’t the literacies taught in schools, literacy curriculum needs to change to take into account the multiliteracies inherent in the 21st century communication technology and the multiliteracies of students’ diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. They advocate that literacy curriculum be organized around the concept of Design, teaching students the steps of surveying the available designs, going through the design process, and remaking themselves and society through producing the redesigned. In order for literacy curriculum to be changed in this way, educators need a metalanguage to describe the types of meaning and discourse available to design and create with and pedagogical strategies for encouraging their students to expand their literacies (what they deem the “what” and the “how” of a pedagogy of multiliteracies.)

Quotable Quotes

“An authentically democratic new vision of schools must include a vision of meaningful success for all; a vision of success that is not defined exclusively in economic terms and that has embedded within it a critique of hierarchy and economic injustice” (13).

“the proliferation of communications channels and media supports and extends cultural and subcultural diversity” (9).

no “glib and tokenistic pluralism” (19).

“As curriculum is a design for social futures, we need to introduce the notion of pedagogy as Design.” (19).

“Through their co-engagement in Designing, people transform their relations with each other, and so transform themselves” (22).

“All written text is also a process of Visual Design” (29) – important connection with graphic design, Wysocki, George – desktop publishing

“Designing restores human agency and cultural dynamism to the process of meaning-making” (36).

Notable Notes

working lives and connection with fast capitalism/postFordism, importance of collaboration in schools, sense in society that to be successful is to get to the top even though there’s not enough room up there.

taking diversity and multiliteracies on as a resource in pedagogy and community

people have multiple, overlapping identities because they belong to many different communities and use many different discourses

available designs always include the discoures of those designing and include the grammars of all the semiotic systems and orders of discourse

listening and reading are also productive forms of designing because the listeners and readers make meaning by combining what they are taking in with their own experiences

good graphic of the grammars of the types of meaning on page 26

explains in detail the four methods of the pedagogy of multiliteracies

design requires agency and responsibility (36).

design as both a noun and a verb

children’s childhoods are co-opted by mass gloabl media and invasive global texts (16)

February 20, 2009

Robillard, Students and Authors in Composition Studies

Robillard, Amy E. “Students and Authors in Composition Studies.” In Authorship in Composition Studies. Eds Tracy Hamler Carrick and Rebecca Moore Howard. Wadsworth Publishing, 2005.

Composition scholarship, by not citing student writing and by calling students by pseudo first names only, constructs students as non-authors, as children. This deficiency model has several problems. First, it perpetuates the idea of the teacher as hero, defined by her students’ successes and failures. Second, it places teachers in an hierarchal position in the classroom, one in which she possesses students (aka “my kids.) Third, it conditions the student to take on the role of a passive reader whose own texts are never circulated and always compared (negatively) to the work of professional writers. Last, by acting as if our students are children in both our teaching and our research, we are continuing the low perception and status of composition in the academy, for our attitudes towards our students are more in line with the attitudes of secondary and elementary teachers than those of our colleagues in other disciplines. Robillard surveys and reviews a number of works in the field, showing how they position and represent students in their discussions, choice of diction, and citation methods.

Quotable Quotes

“A student reads; an author is read” (51)

“In the institutionalized constrast between Author and student, the Author is originary, the student imitative (as is a child). If an Author is autonomous, a student is dependent (as is a child). If an Author is solitary and originary, a student depends on the work of others and is easily influenced (as is a child). If an Author is precise, a student is messy (as is a child). If teachers do not attend to the constructions of students that the discursive practices of the classroom encourage, if they continue to reproduce the constructions of students that they have been working with, they can do no better than to enact this dysfunctional binary” (54).

“Citation of one’s work – positive or negative – is a mark of respect for any writer” (48).

“WIth the respect that is entailed in citation comes the authorial loss of control over the text. To insist on students’ retaining control over their texts is to deny them authorial status” (48).

The “unwritten belief that teachers are judged by the work their students do” (43).

Notable Notes

uses student quote and cites it as we would an author, full name

composition is a field about its students – what other field is?

author/student binary

February 18, 2008

Heath, Shirley Brice. Ways with Words

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Heath, Shirley Brice. Ways with Words: Language, Life, and Work in Commuities and Classrooms. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.


Heath, an anthropologist and linguist, wanted to understand how children’s language development is affected by the cultural communities they grow up in. This research was important because of the push for better educational methods to increase the success of minority and working-class students in schools. She conducted an ethnographic study from 1969 to 1978 of two communities in the Piedmont Carolinas only a few miles away from each other: Roadville (a white working-class community whose members work in the textile mills) and Trackton (a black working-class community who used to farm but now also work in the mills.) She recorded and intepreted the langauge learning habits of the children in these two communities, specifically looking at the effects of the preschool home and community environment on the children. She found that the language expectations of the schools and the mills were different from the values and expectations of the home communities. She argues that the “place of langauge in the cultural life of each social group is interdependent with the habits and values of behaving shared among members of that group,” values formed by family structures, religious groups, and concepts of childhood. (11). Heath also explains her ethnographic methodology.

Chapter 1: “The Piedmont: Textile Mills and Times of Change”

Heath explains the history of the Piedmont region of the Carolinas and describes the antagonistic relationship between the mill worker communities and the townspeople. She introduces the communities of Roadville and Trackton.

Chapter 2: “‘Gettin’ on’ in Two Communities”

Heath describes in detail the layout and members of the communities of Roadville and Trackton and explains each communities’ norms and beliefs about the roles of men and women, the place of schooling, and their expectations for their children.

Chapter 3: “Learning how to Talk in Trackton”

Heath describes the life of a Trackton child from birth, noting that boys are favored over girls and that the child is immediately a part of the community, not just one family. She illustrates with transcripts the three stages in which Trackton children learn to carry on conversations between the ages of 1 and 2: repetition, repetition with variation, and participation. Boys learn how to use language by being challenged by older members (usually men) of the community; girls learn through “fussing” and playsongs with the older girls. “Flexibility and adaptability are the most important characteristics of learning to be and to talk in Trackton” (111).

Chapter 4: Teaching How to Talk in Roadville

Heath explains how Roadville women prepare for the birth of their children and how they interact with their babies, toddlers and preschoolers. They use babytalk with infants but increasingly correct their children’s language as they grow older. Roadville mothers consider it their duty to train their young children so to prepare them for school, so there is a lot of focus on learning to talk “right.” Children are sex-segregated from two until junior high. Play is an important opportunity to emphasize language through educational toys. Memorization and repitition is key in church and home activities, during which children are expected to answer and perform for adults.

Chapter 5: Oral Traditions

In Roadville, story-telling emphasizes correctness, details and chronology, which are “reinforced in many of the community’s church-related practices and on other occasions when adults tell stories on themselves or each other.” The children’s own stories imitate what the adults do. The community’s expectation for true accounts is in contradiction with the fairytales and imaginative stories told in the preschools. In Trackton, fictionalization in stories (“talking junk”) is allowed and even encouraged, as good storytellers are valued in the community. Children are talked to in Trackton, not read to, and they are taught to be creative storytellers who can relate what they are saying to the ongoing conversation. Verbal play (“yo momma” and other insults, playsongs, one-liners, challenges) is a regular feature in Trackton language.

Chapter 6: Literate Traditions

Trackton and Roadville have different expectations for literacy: in Roadville, writing is seldom done but reading is actively encouraged and praised; in Trackton, writing also is not emphasized and reading is not done silently but only “read aloud.” Roadville children are surrounded by books and specific child-directed reading materials, while in Trackton, children aren’t given books but rather use reading as a competition, a game, and a way to figure out the bigger world around them. Roadville residents see the written word as an authority; Trackton residents see written language as something to be negotiated and manipulated. Women write and read more than the men in both communities.

Chapter 7: The Townspeople

Heath describes the townspeople, those people who are not Trackton or Roadville community members whose children attend school with Trackton and Roadville children. They are the managers of the Trackton and Roadville residents who work at the mills. The townspeople have a different attitude toward children: they treat them as potential conversationalists from birth and mothers are the primary caregivers. They use baby-talk and question-answer routines to talk with their babies. The townspeople’s uses for reading and writing more directly mirror the expectations of the schools, such as using written sources to find information to use in oral or written material of their own. Reading and writing are activities that all members of the community participate in for work and for leisure.

Chapter 8: Teachers as Learners

This chapter describes “how the ethnographies of communication in Roadville and Trackton became instrumental for teachers and students bringing language and culture differences and discovering how to recognize and use language as power” (266). Heath worked with townspeople in her graduate classes and teachers in the community. She helped teachers come up with new expectations and understandings of the relevance of teaching reading and writing to Trackton and Roadville students who would not be going to college, who were instead on the vocational track. The teachers didn’t need to lower their standards of correctness, but instead view the students as bringing a history and a background to the classroom that was to be built on and respected, not shunned and called dumb.

Chapter 9: Learners as Ethnographers

Heath discusses a classroom assignment where the students become ethnographers of their own communities.

Quotable Quotes

“These ethnographies of communication focus on each of the communities in which the children are socialized as talkers, readers, and writers to describe: the boundaries of the physical and social community in which communication to or by them is possible; the limits and features of the situations in which such communication occurs; the what, how, and why of patterns of choice children can exercise in their uses of language, whether in talking, reading, or writing; the values or significance these choices of language have for the children’s physical and social activities.” (6)

“For [Trackton residents], a ‘true story’ calls for ‘talkin’ junk'” (189)

“In short, for Roadville, Trackton’s stories would be lies; for Trackton, Roadville’s stories would not even count as stoires.” (189).

“For Roadville, the written word limits alternatives of expression; in Trackton, it opens alternatives. Neither community’s ways with the written word prepares it for the school’s ways” (235)

“As the children of the townspeople learn the distinctions between contextualized first-hand experiences and decontextualized representations of experience, they come to act like literates before they can read. They acquire the habits of talk associated with written materials, and they use appropriate behaviors for either cooperative negotiation of meaning in book-reading episodes or story-creation before they are themselves readers” (256).

“Thus it is the kind of talk, not the quantity of talk that sets townspeople children on their way in school. They come wiht the skills of labeling, naming features, and providing narratives on items out of their contexts.” (352) The importance of CONTEXT!

The townspeople “bring with them to school linguistic and cultural capital accumulated through hundreds of thousands of occasions for practicing the skills and  espousing the values the schools transmit.” (368)

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