Revolution Lullabye

June 19, 2009

Berlin and Vivion, Cultural Studies in the English Classroom

Berlin, James A. and Michael J. Vivion. Cultural Studies in the English Classroom. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992.

This collection aims to show those in English studies (composition and literature) how the cultural studies movement, begun in England through the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, has affected the teaching of writing and literature in American college classrooms. The book is divided into two sections. The first discusses cultural studies programs, how cultural studies has affected the large-scale programmatic work of English studies, especially that of composition. The second section explains specific cultural studies courses, pedagogies, and practices that have been developed in English studies. Cultural studies helped drive the “social turn” in composition, and it studies how social practices, imbedded with history, politics, ideology, and culture, have affected the formation of meaning and langauge. Cultural studies affected the study and practice of writing in a number of ways: it is based on a poststructural idea of multiple identities and subjectivities; it positions writing as a negotiation and a culturally-coded act; it treats all acts of language, private and public, as interested and affected by cultures and situations; and it sees writing as a meaning-making act of compliance or resistance to the cultural hegemony, not just as transcribing information or knowledge. Cultural studies, the editors claim, is not a content to teach in English studies but rather a method defined by a diversity of pedagogies and practices, but students and teachers who engage in cultural studies often critique culture and explore how meaning is made, understood, and distributed.

Quotable Quotes

cultural studies is not a content but a method “of making meaning and exploring how meaning is made.” (xiv)

Notable Notes

goal: critical readers and understand notion of subjectivity

Zebroski’s critique of the Syracuse Writing studios that privilege development (of teachers, students, writing ability) without connecting it to larger social and economic forces that drive, shape, or prevent that development. The Syracuse writing curriculum, he contends, forwards individual, a-cultural notions of writing that don’t critique the ends of particular kinds of writing instruction. He warns, though, that cultural studies cannot turn into another way to indoctrinate students, a throwback to the banking model. How students are positioned in the classroom – as producers or recievers of knowledge (93) – is of key importance

See Maxine Hairston’s critique of cultural studies in composition (in Composition in Four Keys)

Delores K. Schriner: explains the Northern Arizona University composition curriculum informed by cultural studies: “one person, many worlds” (98) – can’t simplify experiences into one group; Native American. Challenge of teaching the TAs and instructors how to implement this curriculum and why it’s important

Christine Farris “Giving Religion, Taking Gold” – talks about cultural studies in the context of disciplinary cultures. Too often WAC programs try to colonize other departments by enforcing our ideas of writing and inquiry on them. Need for more discussion, see other classrooms in other disciplines as specific cultural and interpretative communities

Linda Brodkey “Writing about Difference” UT Austin course that got so much flack; using law cases to talk about issues of difference, looking at the rhetoric and argument in these legal decisions

February 19, 2009

Berkenkotter, Student Writers and Their Sense of Authority over Texts

Berkenkotter, Carol. “Student Writers and Their Sense of Authority over Texts.” CCC 35.3 (October 1984) 312-319.

The field promotes peer-response, whether through writers groups or class workshops, as an important element in the writing process, yet it is unclear how helpful peer critique is to students who are, sometimes for the first time, emerging as writers with a sense of authority over their texts. Berkenkotter shows the range of responses students might have to peer response through three case studies, each of a student who has recorded his or her composing and revision process in a series of think-aloud protocols and whose peer workshop groups and teacher conferences were tape recorded as well. One student resisted all peer critique; another student listened to peer critique but did not completely cede his own vision and authority of his writing; the third student ceded too much of her own authority, changing her essay in ways that her peers suggested but that she did not completely agree with. Teachers need to keep these varying reactions to peer response in mind when constructing their pedagogy.

Notable Notes

some students feel responsibility to writers; others do not know how to compromise their needs and the readers’ needs.

tenuous situation with a student who is just emerging as a writer

January 28, 2009

Bramblett and Knoblauch, “What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach”

Bramblett, Anne and Alison Knoblauch, eds. What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach: The Anxious Craft of Teaching Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2002.

This edited collection, with an introduction by Thomas Newkirk, showcases the “silent narratives” of beginning composition instructors and teaching assistants, those stories of resitance and confusion that many new teachers are reluctant to talk about because they fear being deemed failures by their fellow teachers, their supervisors, and their students. The essays included, written by TAs and instructors in the University of New Hampshire composition program, are divided into three sections. The first, about the challenges of the first semester of teaching, includes essays about confronting student mediocracy in a required course and learning to adapt and teach “on the fly” when things don’t go as planned (teaching as a practical art.) The second centers around student and teacher relationships and includes pieces about how much a teacher should care about their students, how the personal lives of students often come up and must be dealt with in the writing classroom, and the difficulty of assigning students (who often aren’t much younger than you) grades as a new teacher. The last section deals specifically with different types of student resistance in the classroom, about students challenging a TA’s authority or expertise, about interpersonal problems with male and female students, and about privileged, intelligent students pressing an instructor to tell them exactly how to “fix” their paper. This collection of testimonials provides a space to tell these stories and air these concerns of new composition teachers, a space which Newkirk argues in his introduction that is needed in composition. In addition to telling failure stories, Newkirk believes composition teachers – both new and experienced – need to share “absurdity” teaching stores, visit the classrooms of their teaching colleagues to get ideas and to start pedagogical conversations, and to, in their research and professional writing, provide a more balanced view of the writing and work that happens in the classroom by using both excellent and not-so-excellent examples of student writing in their scholarship.

Quotable Quotes

“Silences in our narratives as teachers, the things we are reluctant to discuss” (1) what we think is not “normal” – Newkirk’s introduction

Notable Notes

edited by UNH PhD grad students (PhD in English with lit, rhet/comp, or linguistics track)

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