Annotated Bibliography on Feminist Pedagogy in the Composition
Feminization, Maternal Paradigms, and Essentialism
Sheri Laska, 20 July 1998
A discussion of feminist composition pedagogy would not be complete
without an examination of the midwife metaphor and feminist essentialism.
It soon becomes apparent that maternal teaching paradigms contribute
to a feminized perception of the scholarly field of composition.
Many scholars have defended the midwife metaphor and maternal methodologies,
claiming that students learn when the power dynamic in the classroom
is shifted in favor of the students. They also claim that this approach
works to help students develop their ideas. Those who oppose the
maternal model claim that this approach limits the authority of the
female writing instructor, thus placing her in a devalued position.
Opponents of this teaching practice also claim that students learn
better in an environment where they are forced to defend their ideas.
The feminization of composition may also be attributed to the current
debate over the "essential" nature of women's writing. Much scholarship
has been done both advocating and criticizing this classroom practice.
Those who believe that we need to encourage both masculine and feminine
writing claim that students need to feel comfortable with language,
and thus should be allowed to write in ways that are familiar to
them to facilitate the making of knowledge. Those who oppose this
essential approach to teaching writing claim that the practice reinforces
gender differences. They also claim that teaching our students writing
that is not readily accepted in the academy does not give them skills
they will be able to use to ensure their academic success.
The feminization of composition is an umbrella issue that encompasses
many more debates and concerns. There are so many factors to
consider and so many positions to examine, that after reading the
essays I've annotated below, I know that I need continually to rework and
reexamine my teaching philosophies in light of new ideas that find
their way into professional journals. I guess what I have learned
is that we should, in order to be informed educators, always stay
current with the literature. We may find that we need to reconsider
the very philosophies on which we base our teaching methods.
Bridwell-Bowles, Lillian. "Discourse and Diversity: Experimental Writing
Within the Academy." Feminine Principles and Women's Experience in
American Composition and Rhetoric. Eds. Louise Wetherbee Phelps and
Janet Emig. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995.
Lillian Bridwell-Bowles makes a case for the integration of experimental
writing practices into the composition curriculum. She first details kinds
of reading that can stimulate experimentation with language. Bridwell-Bowles
claims that works by Helen Cixous, Julia Kristeva, and Toril Moi
can often encourage students to play with language and writing styles.
She, then, outlines other types of writing that can serve as models
for students wishing to attempt experimental writing practices. She
points to samples of personal and emotive writing, writing that plays
with graphic space, writing that deals with the notion of Other,
writing that attempts to break linguistic boundaries, writing that
transcends class barriers, writing that focuses on sexual orientation,
and writing that attempts to find alternate ways of composing. She
concludes her essay with samples of experimental writing done by
her students. Her final argument cites that this kind of diverse
discourse benefits both she and her students because experimental
writing forces the balance of power to shift to where she can learn
as much from her students as they do from her.
This article is valuable to my discussion of feminist issues and the
teaching of writing in that it assumes that there are different kinds
of writing that represent different groups of people. This is akin
to the debate over essentialism and women's writing. Her position
is reminiscent of the Rosenthal article that claims that we need
to consider both feminine and masculine modes of writing when devising
our composition courses. Bridwell-Bowles' notions of experimental
writing stem from French feminists' beliefs in feminine writing;
women are often are unable to use masculine ways of writing to communicate
the full meaning of their ideas. Bridwell-Bowles, however, expands
this notion of experimental writing techniques to include a variety
of different kinds of writing; therefore, she does not rely on a
dichotomy of only male and female modes of writing. This blurring
of the lines, so to speak, is valuable in that it does not encourage
a gendered approach to writing instruction. Bridwell-Bowles, then,
in her call for experimental writing, is pushing for looser constraints
on writers. She feels that in allowing students to find their own
voice, they will be able to make meaning in more effective ways.
She does acknowledge that she, as a tenured, respected faculty member,
is in a better position to use experimental writing practices. Her
admission, I think, is very telling. In admitting that she too had
to conform to the standard, linear, logical type of writing accepted
by the academy, she essentially blows holes in her own argument.
In effect, she says it is fun to experiment, but when we get down
to business we better be doing it in an academic writing style. Why,
then, such a focus on this experimental writing? Sure, it might be useful
to do one assignment with our classes that emphasizes the point that
there are many discourses out there. But what good is it to spend
a lot of time teaching them a kind of writing that is ultimately
not going to be important to their success? In an already cramped
semester where our goal should be to teach useful writing practices
it might not be wise to devote too much time to experimental writing.
DeRuiter, Carol. "Gender Issues in College Composition." Teaching
English in the Two Year College (February 1996): 48-56.
Carol DeRuiter argues that it is essential that we blend both the masculine
and feminine modes of writing when teaching our composition courses. She
first discusses the need for writing teachers to "understand and
be sensitive to the unique styles and needs of male and female students
and to the part our own gender plays in teaching both" (48). Calling
on the work of Donnalee Rubin and Susan Jarratt, she points to disagreement
within the profession about the role of "the nurturing 'midwife'
instructor who fosters growth and encourages fragile emerging voices
to the detriment of students who would benefit from conflict in order
to learn how to argue and negotiate" (49). She points out that this
maternal role can also be fulfilled by male teachers (50). She therefore,
calls for a blending of "gender opposites" as an approach to teaching
composition. She ultimately claims that once we help our students
develop the skills required to write in both personal, emotional and
factual, distanced ways, "it is our further responsibility to help them
choose the appropriate model for the situation" (51).
DeRuiter's essay fits into the context of my research on feminist pedagogy
for two significant reasons. First, and most important, is her use of the
term "midwife" to describe the writing teacher. I found this metaphor
problematic when I read Hairston's essay; now I have discovered that this
is a recurrent theme in the discussion of pedagogical issues. I find
articles that discuss this metaphor particularly engaging because
I have not yet decided how I feel about using it to describe my own
teaching practices. I find that to some degree it is important to
nurture students and to help them develop their ideas. But I also
feel that in using the nurturing, midwife metaphor we are somehow
facilitating the feminized composition instructor role that we are striving
so hard to eliminate. So I find it significant, if not, enlightening,
when authors call on this metaphor to describe their teaching methods
or to chastise the teaching of others. DeRuiter seems to be advocating
this nurturing approach in her attempt to bring together gender opposites.
This bringing together of gender opposites is also pertinent to my research
on feminist teaching practices. Again, like Rosenthal, DeRuiter is calling
for acceptance of feminine modes of writing in the academy. She claims
that in teaching both kinds of writing, we will be providing our
students with a choice of writing styles. However, she does not explain
when or where the feminine mode (personal, emotional) of writing
will be useful to our students. Like Bridwell-Bowles, DeRuiter is
unable to make a case for the utility of the kind of writing she
advocates. It is nice to think that we should allow students to write
in ways that they find comfortable, but in the real world comfortable
writing will not ensure their success.
Flynn, Elizabeth A. "Feminism and Scientism." College Composition
and Communication 46.3 (1995): 353-368.
Elizabeth A. Flynn discusses how composition studies, in an effort
to separate itself from literary studies and to be considered a "real"
discipline, has attempted to align itself with scientific research. She
claims that this move toward scientific methodology has been detrimental
to the study of composition and rhetoric. She calls for a return
to alternative research techniques in order to establish composition
as a serious field of inquiry. Flynn cites the feminization of composition
studies as a motivator for scholars to look for ways of legitimizing
the field. She outlines two limitations of the feminization metaphor:
it suggests an oversimplified conception of gender and it suggests
that composition is a unified field (354). She claims that this feminization
metaphor has caused composition scholars to look for masculine ways
of scholarship in an effort to increase the status of the field. She calls
this implementing of techniques normally associated with the more
masculine fields of science scientism (355). She says that using
scientific methodology (empirical studies) to study composition can
lead "to the development of reductive conceptions of reading and
writing as well as to limited conceptions of the role of the research
in the research process" (365). She ultimately argues for a cautionary
approach to borrowing research techniques from other disciplines.
She warns that in displacing the current ideology for another we
may only be replacing a dangerous system with one more dangerous (367).
The part of this article that I find most useful to the discussion of
feminist pedagogy is that which details the problems with the feminization
metaphor. I find that the feminization metaphor is problematic for composition
scholars not only for the reasons she suggests, but also because it causes
composition scholars to feel they need to prove themselves to other departments,
and even to other members of their own English departments. This is the
kind of situation that leads to hasty decisions to adopt "more serious"
scholarly approaches to the study of writing. Flynn does a sufficient job
in pointing out the problems with adopting techniques that do not
fully lend themselves to composition study. My main concern with
the feminization metaphor is that our teaching practices often encourage
this label. In priding ourselves on our nurturing, maternal teaching
approaches, we foster this metaphor. Therefore, it appears that we
are in a Catch-22 situation. In doing what works for our students,
we hinder our own advancement in the profession. Maybe the problem
is not in the feminization metaphor itself, but in the negative connotations
that surround that metaphor.
Jarratt, Susan C. "Feminism and Composition: The Case for Conflict."
Contending With Words: Composition and Rhetoric in a Postmodern
Age. Eds. Patricia Harkin and John Schlib. New York: MLA, 1991.
I chose to include this article even though it is older than five years
because Jarratt is so often cited in the research on feminist pedagogy.
I also found her argument compelling precisely because she refuses
to buy into the nurturing paradigm so often described by feminist
pedagogues. Susan Jarratt criticizes the notion that the classroom
should be a conflict-free, nurturing environment. She claims that
students learn only when thinking through their positions. She believes
that only when students are confronted with opposition will they
learn to think and write critically. Jarratt details the "feminist
case against argument," citing the "womblike matrix" as a classroom
model (107). She explains that many feminist instructors align argument
with violence as a "expression of the conquest/conversion mindset"
(107). Therefore, these feminists find the non-confrontational "womblike"
classroom more suitable for writing instruction. Jarratt refutes
this approach to writing; she claims that the value-free classroom
environments encouraged by Donald Murray and Peter Elbow create inequalities
that "make the attempt to create a harmonious nurturing community
of readers an illusory fiction" (110). She also claims that this
maternal teaching model puts female teachers at a disadvantage in the college
composition classroom: "because most high school teachers are women and
may be seen as maternal figures, the role of the supportive, nurturing
composition teacher repeats that childish pattern" (111) Therefore,
the nurturing composition instructor may have difficulty establishing
authority in her classroom; Jarratt claims this approach is "doubly
disempowering" for women instructors who already struggle to overcome
patriarchal power (117). Jarratt ultimately claims that teaching
the conflicts will help students to recognize that "the inevitability
of conflict is not grounds for despair but the starting point for
creating a consciousness in students and teachers through which the
inequalities generating those conflicts can be acknowledged and transformed"
(119). In encouraging students to discuss their differences, Jarratt
argues, they will learn that they have the power to change things.
Jarratt's discussion points to the problems surrounding the nurturing
model of writing instruction. She claims that this model does not
work for our students and it certainly does not work for us. In elaborating
how our students would be better off in a more confrontational classroom,
Jarratt allows us to think that there is a way out of the Catch-22
I mentioned earlier. In adopting Jarratt's approach to writing instruction
we, as teachers, can demand the respect and authority we need to
be taken seriously as professionals. However, we can do this without
harming our students. In fact, in forcing them to expand their views,
we empower them. They learn how to consider the opposition when developing
an argument. In taking on a confrontational teaching style, we are
both able to assert our own authority in the classroom and ensure that
our students leave our courses with skills that will empower them.
However, what do we do with the students who are unwilling or unable
to stretch their views? How do we deal with resistant students who
are uncomfortable in these confrontational classroom situations?
Do we allow them to be frustrated in an effort to help them eventually
accomplish the goals we have set for them (i.e., to become critical
thinkers)? Or do we help them adapt to the new environment that may
be offensive to them (i.e., take on a mothering role)? The problem here
is that not all students will do well in a confrontational class. They
may get frustrated and feel that they are unable to think in the
ways we are expecting them to. In this case, how do we approach these
Lauer, Janice M. "The Feminization of Rhetoric and Composition
Studies?" Rhetoric Review 13.2 (1995): 276-286.
Janet Lauer discusses the feminization of composition studies by first
problemetizing the metaphor citing the predominance of males who publish
in the field; she likens this publishing craze to the quest for "virgin
territory" on which to develop publishing credits (277). Lauer speculates
on reasons why composition studies has been feminized. She first points
to the fact that many of the teaching techniques of those involved
in composition instruction are feminine in nature: "collaborative,
student centered, and nurturing" (276). She then "foregrounds 'feminine'
traits" and "women's work" that have been central to the inception
of composition as a field of study (280). She points to the organizing
of seminars and doctoral programs as characteristically feminine
activities: "helping to release in others unexplored resources and
transformative power" (282). She also sites acts of service such
as creating bibliographies and editing journals as "crucial to disciplinary
formation but engender[ing] little enthusiasm in departmental promotion
and tenure committees" (283). She claims that these "feminine acts
. . .have played a significant part in shaping the field" but have
also led to the acceptance of the feminization metaphor that characterized
the field of composition studies (283).
I find this article useful in that it offers some background for the
feminization metaphor. It claims that there is more involved here than
just our teaching practices. What occurs to me most strikingly is
that these service-oriented feminine activities are tasks that exist
in all other areas of scholarship. Why, then, then are they only
considered feminized in composition research? Is Lauer merely making
excuses for this metaphor or is she really pointing to reasons for
this feminization? In other areas of scholarship those who edit journals
and who take on bibliographic projects, as well as those credited
with starting departments are heralded as leaders in their field. I
would argue that Lauer's examination of the feminization of composition
is problematic in that it really offers no hard evidence, other than
personal opinion, to support her claims. It is important to my research,
however, in that it offers an alternative opinion as to why composition
is feminized (as opposed to citing our nurturing teaching practices
as the main reason).
Looser, Devoney. "Composing as an 'Essentialist'?: New Directions for
Feminist Composition Theories." Rhetoric Review 12.1 (1993):
Devony Looser aims to examine essentialist dilemmas in composition
scholarship and to suggest ways they might be reconfigured (57). Looser
first calls attention to the disparate definitions of "essential."
Biological or natural essentialism attributes feminine qualities to biological
or natural causes. Nonbiological essentialism can be defines as getting
to the "essence" of women's writing through a "conceptualized general
form" (57). It is this definition that pervades current discussions of
feminine writing; therefore, it is this nonbiological essentialism that
Looser addresses in her discussion. She takes issues with "attempts
to make so-called women's ways part of the 'universal' ways of composing,"
claiming that this approach does nothing to solve the problems of
essentialism (58). She asks the question: "what is the use of identifying.
. .a woman's way of composing?" (58). She claims that attention to
feminine ways of writing can be limiting in that extreme attention
to how we are writing may limit our ability to say what we intend;
it may even cause us to feel guilt when we cite men scholars in our
work (59). She calls for the denaturalization of personal writing
as feminine writing, encouraging us to think about the "implications
of cementing personal writing as a more feminist way of writing"
(61). Pointing to the dangers of essentializing women's writing,
she also critiques the idea that feminist composition must be "cooperative
and collaborative" (62). She ultimately calls for us to continue the
ongoing project of confronting essentialisms (65). Looser concludes her
discussion by offering a way of using essentialism in productive ways.
Instead of arguing that we eliminate essentialisms from our work
as composition scholars, Looser suggests we become self-reflexive
when invoking them. Citing Diana Fuss, Looser concludes that "asking
where, how, and why essentialism is invoked and what constitutes
its political and textual effects provides more interesting and difficult
This article is particularly important because it touches on issues
that are central to feminist pedagogy. Namely the question of whether
it is productive to essentialize women's writing. Looser, in demonstrating
the dangers of blindly accepting essential definitions of women's
writing, is able to make a case for examining closely when and how
we invoke these descriptions. This fits into the debate surrounding
teaching masculine and feminine (for lack of better terms) modes
of writing in composition classes. Looser suggests that it might be
dangerous to perpetuate these restrictive (and dichotomous) categories
without a clear examination/explanation of the reasons behind doing
so. Therefore, the question becomes: are our students sophisticated
enough to understand that we are not advocating a split between masculine
and feminine writing, but that we are merely attempting to articulate
a need for a more accepting academy? In other words, should we bring
this debate into our classrooms, where we may be reinforcing the
dichotomy instead of working to eliminate essentialisms?
Luke, Carmen. "Feminist Pedagogy Theory in Higher Education: Reflections
on Power and Authority." Feminist Critical Policy Analysis II: A
Perspective From Post-secondary Education. Ed. Catherine Marshall.
Washington, D.C.: Falmer, 1997. 189-210.
Carmen Luke discusses the problems feminist pedagogues have with power
and authority. She cites Jane Gallop's "good girl and bad girl feminism"
in an effort to explain how feminists are often uncomfortable in positions
of authority and therefore, seek ways to displace that authority
(i.e, student-centered, nurturing classrooms) (190). She argues that
this "disavowal of authority, power, and desire coupled with feminism's
first principle of difference(s) has several potentially disabling
consequences for the transformative politics claimed by feminist
pedagogy discourse" (190). She argues that "good-girl feminists .
. .may have unwittingly replicated all the classical school-marm
virtues of selfless dedication to nurturing and caring for our students"
(193). She, like Jarratt advocates a "confrontational' pedagogy [that]
can dislodge students' monochromatic worldviews" (196). She claims
that failure to challenge students' beliefs "is to abandon the political
and moral responsibility and authority we have as teachers to work
on student's consciousness through critique and analysis" (196).
She identifies a nurture-authority dualism and claims that feminist
pedagogy has tended be located on the nurture side of the continuum
(196). She ultimately claims that this avoidance of authority places the
teacher in subject position of nurturer and the student as the object
of nurturance (202). In displacing classroom authority, the teacher
risks deceiving the student into believing that they have equal representation
in the classroom (202). This, ultimately, is untrue because the teacher
does establish power in the doling out of grades. Citing the dangers
of "reinstat[ing] and legitimat[ing] the. . .disempowering image
of the self-effacing, benevolent school-marm, or the midwife," Luke
ultimately argues against instructors placing themselves on the nurturing
side of the dualism.
This article is important to my discussion of feminist pedagogy in
that it locates the reasons for the nurturing approach to writing
instruction in the female teacher's insecurities with her own authority.
Instead of pointing to how this teaching method works for students,
Luke explains why it does not work for feminist teachers. In advocating
a confrontational teaching method, Luke, like Jarratt, suggests that
feminist teachers take charge of their classrooms and establish their
authority over their students. In doing so, Luke posits that feminist
teachers will avoid deceiving their students into believing that
teacher and student occupy equal power positions. Instead, teachers will
begin feel comfortable with their authority, students will understand
the power structure of the classroom, and feminists will make strides
toward eliminating the maternal stereotype that nurturing teaching
Mullin, Joan A. "Feminist Theory, Feminist Pedagogy: The Gap Between
What We Say and What We Do." Composition Studies 22.1 (1994):
Joan Mullin likens being a women to being left-handed. This analogy
helps her to demonstrate that being a woman in a patriarchal society
is much like being a left-handed person in a world created for right-handed
people. She claims that she has had to learn to become (figuratively)
ambidextrous. She claims that women have had to "learn a language
that doesn't fully express their feelings, a language in which they
are not comfortable" (15). She calls for students to be encouraged
to write without conventions in an effort to draw out their thoughts.
She uses the French feminists Helene Cixous, Julia Kristeva, and
Luce Irigary to explain how women are excluded from discourse because they
cannot adequately write in patriarchal language. She claims that the parameters
placed on language often stifle students who are unable to adapt to accepted
writing standards. She claims that in allowing students to stray from writing
conventions we will find that they will have more to say, that their ideas
will surface (21). In encouraging students to speak and write in
their own voice, Mullin argues, they will learn that there are differences
in how people see and write about the world. They will also learn
that knowledge is made in comparing and discussing these differences.
She ultimately advocates a power shift in the classroom in an effort
to connect with our students and so they can connect with us. In
allowing students' voices to be heard, she argues, we can challenge the
status quo and create new, less restrictive ways of writing.
Rubin, Donnalee. Gender Influences: Reading Student Texts. Carbondale:
Southern Illinois UP, 1993. 57-88.
Again the issue of essentialism finds voice in feminist pedagogical
writing; and again another feminist argues for an expansion of patriarchal
modes of writing to include more feminine uses of language. Again,
I have to point to the central critique of this approach to teaching
writing: how does this benefit our students? Can we give them the
skills they will use in the future when we force them to think in
ways not traditionally accepted by the academy? I think these essentialist
arguments are detrimental to both students and feminist pedagogues.
Students do not benefit from learning techniques that will not be of use
to them in the future. In advocating this dichotomy, feminists stress
the difference between male and female academics. I would argue that
this is counterproductive. In a world where women are striving to
be accepted in serious, intellectual positions, pointing to "natural"
modes of writing that fall short of the mandates of these positions
is problematic. Secondly, in indoctrinating our students into locating
and recognizing "women's writing" aren't we creating a new generation
of patriarchs who will then judge us as inferior because of our "natural"
In a chapter entitled "Gender and Writing Teachers: The Maternal
Paradigm," Donnalee Rubin examines writing teachers' approaches to their
students' writing. She specifically examines teachers who adopt a process-based
method of teaching. Rubin opens her discussion by defining "process"
and "maternal", terms she will rely on throughout her chapter. "Process",
for her purposes, is defined as a teaching method that focuses on
helping students to "become aware of the process they undergo as
they compose" (58). "Maternal", for Rubin, is a "non-exclusive way
to describe any teacher who exhibits those nurturing, caring, supportive
qualities traditionally associated with mothering" (59). Therefore,
for Rubin, maternal teaching can refer to male instructors well as
women instructors. Citing Belencky et al, Rubin includes a discussion of
midwife teachers: "midwife teachers 'assist students in giving birth
to their own ideas, in making their own tacit knowledge explicit
and elaborating it" (61). She further explains that midwife-teachers
must concern themselves with preserving the egos of their students
and to foster their growth (61-2). She claims that we must be aware
that our teaching stems from a maternal metaphor. In making her point,
Rubin cites case studies as evidence. In interviewing a male and
a female teacher (both of whom used maternal teaching models and who
taught through individual student conferences) over the coarse of a semester,
Rubin was able to see how the gender of the teacher impacted his/her reaction
to student writing. She found that when asked to discuss student
papers, the instructors talked about the student instead. She also
found that the gender of the teacher could at times, inhibit his/her
ability to comment on student work (when the topic of the paper contained
unfamiliar, gendered subject matter). Ultimately she concludes that
process-based pedagogy encourages maternal behaviors from both male
and female instructors and that "process, conferencing, and maternal
patterns help writing teachers to overcome innate gender biases and
merge gender-based differences that may be present when they read
their own students' texts" (85). She argues that one of our central
concerns as writing teachers should be to cultivate our maternal instincts
claiming that these instincts will help us to respond to our students in
more productive ways.
It is my contention that process-based writing does, in fact, encourage
maternal teaching methods. However, I would argue that we must resist this
pattern as much as possible. I find Rubin's case studies illuminating in
that she found that the male instructor was just as capable of calling
on maternal instincts as was the female instructor. This was encouraging.
But it does not change the fact that perpetuating this maternal paradigm
will only facilitate the feminization of composition and it will
teach our students to become accustomed to nurturing classrooms.
I would argue that they will be shocked when the leave our cozy corner
of the academy for the colder, more confrontational and competitive
departments. I do find that my gender does, at times, prevent me
from constructively responding to student writing. Often the masculine
texts that Lad Tobin describes give me problems as well. This may
be that I have trouble identifying with the actual paper or that
I have trouble seeing the student as making a serious attempt at
good writing. In any case, I do find that gender can get in the way
of writing instruction. Therefore, I find Rubin's findings helpful.
I cannot, however, advocate a maternal paradigm because I feel that
it poses a serious threat not only to feminism, but also to composition
studies as a whole.
Schell, Eileen E. "The Feminization of Composition: Questioning the
Metaphors that Bind Women Teachers." Composition Studies 20.1
I chose to include this article even though it was written more than
five years ago because it deals specifically with the feminization
metaphor and therefore, acts as a companion to Janet Lauer's essay.
I find this discussion useful in that it clearly details the problems
with the metaphor as it impacts women in the field of composition
studies. Eileen Schell cites three "considerations that keep the
'feminization' metaphor alive for composition teachers:" composition
as a "service" course intended to teach "skills," composition as
"drudge" work (labor intensive and low paying), and the predominance
of women who teach composition (55). She clearly states that feminization
does not correspond with feminist intentions, rather "feminization'
denotes marginalized status" (55). Schell also points to maternal
teaching practices as a means of inscribing composition as a feminized
profession (56). She cites that men are more often published in composition
journals and speculates that the undervalued, over-worked female
writing teachers (that make up the majority of the field) are unable to
find time for their own research (57). She invokes an interesting
metaphor to describe the job of the female writing instructor: that
of housewife (58). Women, she charges, "tidy up' student essays with
painstaking, careful commentary and hours devoted to students in
one-on-one conferencing" (58). Therefore, "part-time composition
teachers have much in common with the proverbial housewife who contributes
greatly to the running of the household (or the university) but gets
no actual recognition for it (e.g., tenure salary increases, office
space, resources)" (58). She concludes by calling for women in the
field to write about their experiences in an effort to "chip away
at the grand master narrative that has kept women in composition in a
'feminized' position" (60).
This article is useful in that it points to specific reasons why composition
has remained a feminized field of inquiry. These reasons are rooted in
practical evidence, unlike the personal narrative of Janet Lauer.
Some of the reasoning is the same (such as the dominance of males
in publishing) but Schell makes her case by locating her argument
in widely-accepted perceptions of the profession. In citing the three
main reasons why composition remains feminized Schell is able to
demonstrate for her audience where to start in changing this characterization.
In suggesting that more women share their stories, she asks that
women begin to reshape their roles as instructors. In calling on them to
write (and eventually publish) she aims for women to take control of this
"feminized" field and demand for academia to take it seriously. However,
I wonder if by asking only women to write their stories, Schell might
not merely be perpetuating the feminization of composition studies? How
else can we work to eliminate this problem? As I have suggested before
the problem might not be in the feminization metaphor but in the
connotations of that metaphor. Instead of carrying with it a marginalized
connotation, might it be more productive to work toward empowering
the feminine, thus making feminization a word that signifies authority,
power, competence, and strength?
to main ENGL 320 page