Revolution Lullabye

April 25, 2009

Varnum, Fencing with Words

Varnum, Robin. Fencing with Words: A History of Writing Instruction at Amherst College during the Era of Theodore Baird, 1938-1966. Urbana: NCTE, 1996.

Varnum presents a counternarrative to the mainstream history of 20th century composition instruction through her archival investigation of the Amherst freshman writing program directed by Theodore Baird from 1938 to 1966. Her history, unlike other histories written in the field, has three distinct differences: first, she spends much time looking at how outside social and political forces (institutional, national, and global) affected the pedagogy in Amherst’s writing courses; second, she depends on the archives of the program (assignments, student papers, memos, reports, as well as interviews) instead of textbooks and journals to sketch a picture of what was happening in the classrooms; and third, she brings to light a much-misunderstood era of American composition, one that is usually conflated and simplified to be “current-traditional.” Baird’s first-year writing courses were designed by the entire team of teachers (everyone used the same collaboratively-written assignment sequence), and student writing, not textbooks, were the centerpiece of the course. Baird believed that writing was a process of self-discovery, a process through which unexpressible (and unknown) truths could be expressed. Varnum’s history does not sugarcoat or reify Baird’s administration or pedagogy, pointing out that his high-priest attitude was decidedly masculine and top-down, perceived by some students and fellow faculty to be a bully who ran a “boot camp” course.

Quotable Quotes

“The tendancy among composition historians has been to look at practice in the classroom, or at the materials and ideas presented there, without acknowledging the larger forces that created the classroom itself” (7).

Notable Notes

great model for dissertation

Baird’s constant metaphor of running orders through chaos (taken from The Education of Henry Adams and science, philosophy, Burke, Richards┬áthat he read)

the Amherst course was taken by all freshman at the same time with the same assignments so that each assignment was a campus-wide event.

focused on conflict, constant questioning and revision

saw student writer as individual who possessed his own voice, the goal was to free that voice and the imagination; break them of writing what he dubbed “the Perfect Theme” (41) influenced heavily by The Education of Henry Adams

Baird’s ideal was to create a community of teachers

all the work that went into teaching and planning the course (assignments were re-invented each year) took away the time the instructors and professors could do their own research

how do policies and politics outside the classroom affect what is being taught?

impact of WWII, GI Bill, co-education, change in American university system, Civil Rights, move towards general education requirements

Varnum interviews professors who taught with Baird, 7 alumni of the program, looks at student papers, essay contest winners, uses letters she writes to Baird and recieves from him, assignment sequences (in appendix)

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February 7, 2009

Jarratt, Feminist Pedagogy

Jarratt, Susan. “Feminist Pedagogy.” 113-131.

Feminist pedagogy in composition is made manifest in several ways and rose out of the 1970s women’s movement (second wave feminism.) Some scholars in composition focus on the differences between men and women writers while others take a broader theoretical approach to feminism, looking at how gender is created and determined within society, through language and discourse, and to whose benefits and ends. Composition as a discipline is also interested in the work of feminism, as the field, populated by many women and heavily involved in both teaching and service, has faced difficulty in the larger, white, male-dominated academy. Feminist pedagogy is a practice, not a subject or content, that believes in decentering classroom authority, recognizing the knowledge of students, emphasizing process over product, viewing society as both sexist and partriarchal, and whose classroom practices include collaborative learning, discussion and talking, and dialogue between the teacher and students. It asks students to pay close attention to their words and style (their effects and meanings) and expands its study beyond gender to ask how race and class and other social differences affect a person’s language.

Quotable Quotes

Feminist pedagogy “is not about forcing all the students to subscribe to a particular political position but rather engaging with students on the terrain of language in the gendered world we all currently inhabit” (118).

Notable Notes

Important Sources for feminism: Betty Friedan; Angela Y Davies, Women, Race, and Class

Historical studies of feminism and women writers: Reclaiming Rhetorica (Lunsford), With Pen and Voice (Logan), Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write (Hobbes)

Composition field: Schell, Holbrook/Miller, Phelps/Emig, Fontaine/Hunter

Men teaching feminist pedagogy: Connors, Villanueva, Bleich, Kraemer, Schilb, Tobin

3rd wave feminism: bell hooks (Talking Back), Anzaldua (Borderlands), The Bridge Called Me Back (Morgan/Anzaldua)

Jarratt/Worsham, Feminism and Composition Studies; Culley/Portuges’ Linda Alcoff; Laura Brady; Elizabeth Flynn; Joy Ritchie; Pamela Annas (Style as Politics), Bauer (The Other ‘F’ Word); Faludi

gendered pronouns Spender Man-Made Language good for classroom exercise

student backlash against feminism

George, Critical Pedagogy

George, Ann. “Critical Pedagogy: Dreaming of Democracy.” 92-112.

Critical pedagogy acknowledges that teaching is a political act, that education is one of the primary ways that thought and knowledge are socially constructed into the ideologies that strucure society. Based in the writings of Freire, critical pedagogy centers around the struggle against dominant, oppressive institutional forces, seeking to liberate students by encouraging a critical stance towards society and encouraging them to develop a class consciousness. The ultimate goal is to transform society. Critical pedagogy in composition drew out of the work of Jonathan Kozol and as a reaction to 1980s conservatism (A Nation at Risk), often coupling with cultural studies to form a decidedly political and social agenda in the writing classroom. Critics of critical pedagogy argue that the often white middle-class students who are taught in this method are hardly the oppressed that Freire was writing about, and that critical pedagogy takes the focus off of writing, positions the teacher as “hero,” and is not answering to student needs (the outcome of the course is pre-determined and students aren’t given instructions on how to write and succeed in the hegemonic, dominant society.)

Quotable Quotes

Critical pedagogy “enables students to envision alternatives” (97) – schools need to be critical, dialogic democracies, public spheres of knowledge.

Simon Roger: “To propose a pedagogy is to propose a political vision,” a “dream for ourselves, our children, and our communities” (371).

Notable Notes

Important Sources: Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Pedagogy of Hope; Giroux, Theory and Resistance in Education, Education Under Siege, Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life; Jonathan Kozol; Ira Shor, Empowering Education, When Students Have Power; Aronowitz; Macedo; McLaren; A Nation at Risk; Action for Excellence; Dewey, Democracy and Education; George Counts, John Childs, William Kirkpatrick

Critical Pedagogy and Composition: Alex McLeod, Critical Literacy; Hurlbert/Blitz, Composition and Resistance; Jay/Graff, A Critique of Critical Pedagogy; Hairston, Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing; Jeff Smith, Students’ Goals; Knoblauch/Brannon, Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy; Finlay/Faith; Stephen North, Rhetoric, Responsibility, and the ‘Language of the Left’; Villanueva, Considerations of American Freireistas

hidden curriculum, false consciousness, cultural production, education, schooling, literacy

tension between freedom and authority must be negotiated in the classroom

George and Trimbur, Cultural Studies and Composition

George, Diana and John Trimbur. “Cultural Studies and Composition.” 71-91.

George and Trimbur argue that when composition instructors use cultural studies to organize their pedagogy, they are continuing the movement in the field from focusing on individual writers (process theory) to acknowledging the social and political context of the world the students are writing, thinking, and learning in. This politcal turn, proponents of cultural studies in the composition class argue, represents the diversity of the students, allows for rhetoric to be incorporated in the writing classroom, and accommodates the postmodern goal of recognizing and analyzing fragments and subsets of culture. Cultural studies began as a phenomenon in the UK in the 1960s with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham, and the major New Left thinkers there (Hoggart, Williams, Thompson) looked to Althusser and Gramsci to destroy the power dynamic inherent in the high/low culture split and to begin investigating how people’s cultural practices in turn create the social order and class consciousness. This decidedly white, male, middle-class movement expanded with feminist and race critiques of cultural studies in the 1980s. Those in favor of using cultural studies as the content of a composition class argue that its use of popular culture is inviting to students, it teaches close analysis of texts and artifacts, and leads to civic and public writing. Those against it contend that a focus on cultural studies as a content in the composition classroom leads to a devaluing of writing itself, as the textbooks used don’t include a lot of student texts and the work of producing and writing isn’t foregrounded in the curriculum. Some also see cultural studies as an attempt for leftist teachers to politically indoctrinate their students.

Quotable Quotes

Shift: “emphasis from the personal experience of the individual to the lived experience of participants in the larger culture” (83).

“The arrival of cultural studies marks a wider resurfacing of political desire in academic work”, “a need on the part of American leftist academics to articulate a role for themselves in public formus and to cope (at least rhetorically if not actually) with the globalization of capital and its relentless war against working people and the poor” (72).

Problem with cultural studies pedagogy: “uncritical populist celebration of popular culture, in which the audience is ‘never wrong’ and the practice of everyday life is persisently resistant to the dominant culture” (84).

Notable Notes

Lidna Brodkey 1st year course, “Writing About Difference” at the University of Texas, recounted in “Federal Case”

Cultural studies in composition on the scene in the late 198s, 1990s

Sources about foundational cultural studies theory: Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy; E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class; Raymond Williams, Culture and Society and The Long Revolution; Stuart Hall “Two Paradigms”; Althusser; Gramsci; Lawrence Grossberg “The Formation of Cultural Studies”; Johnson “What Is Cultural Studies, Anyway?”; Baudelaire, Paris Spleen; Engel, Conditions of Working Classes in 1844; Frankfurt School; Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor; Bourdieu; Habermas; Barthes; deCerteau; Walter Benjamin; Women Take Issue: Aspects of Women’s Subordination; Paul Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack

Cultural Studies and Composition: Raymond Williams, The Future of Cultural Studies; Gere, Long Revolution; Ohmann, Graduate Students; Trimbur, Writing Instruction, Cultural Studies, Articulation Theory, Radical Pedagogy; Berlin, Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures; Schilb, Cultural Studies, Postmodernism, and Composition; Faigley, Fragments of Rationality; Berlin/Vivion; Fitts/France; Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone; Sullivan/Qualley, Pedagogy in the Age of Politics.

Critiques of cultural studies: Richard Miller, As If Learning; Joseph Harris, Other Reader; Frank Farmer; Susan Miller, Technologies; Hairston, Diversity, Ideology, and the Teaching of Writing.

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