Annotated Bibliography on Feminist Pedagogy in the Composition Classroom:
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.

Annotated Bibliography

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.  43-66.

DeRuiter, Carol. "Gender Issues in College Composition."  Teaching English in the Two Year College (February 1996):  48-56.

Flynn, Elizabeth A. "Feminism and Scientism." College  Composition and Communication 46.3 (1995): 353-368.

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.  105-123.

Lauer, Janice M. "The Feminization of Rhetoric and Composition  Studies?" Rhetoric Review 13.2 (1995): 276-286.

Looser, Devoney. "Composing as an 'Essentialist'?: New Directions for  Feminist Composition Theories." Rhetoric Review 12.1 (1993):  54-69.

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.

Mullin, Joan A. "Feminist Theory, Feminist Pedagogy: The Gap Between  What We Say and What We Do." Composition Studies 22.1 (1994):  14-24.

Rubin, Donnalee. Gender Influences: Reading Student Texts. Carbondale:  Southern Illinois UP, 1993. 57-88.

Schell, Eileen E. "The Feminization of Composition: Questioning the  Metaphors that Bind Women Teachers." Composition Studies 20.1  (1992): 55-61.

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