Blog for 3/8/17

The topic of cultural studies seems to be making its way into composition courses quite rapidly; the question “how to implement what students are learning into their actual life experiences?” remains at the root of the problem. What I find particularly interesting is that this essay comes into conversation with James Berlin’s notion of “writing for democracy” and as participating citizens. The text states: “so while writing instruction is meant to produce sophisticated critical thinkers and writers, we are left with the important question… the question is simultaneously a practical one—what can we do to produce better citizens and rhetors… can we develop rhetorical theories that surmount to insufficiencies of contemporary cultural studies” (3). However, if students are to participate in democracy and write with purpose, how do instructors teach this process? The idea of implementing cultural studies and students’ life experiences into the classroom is tricky because teachers must strike a balance to improve the quality of education, strive to be rhetorically successful in doing so, while also being mindful of sensitive material that may be encountered during the real life, cultural experiences. This gap between the personal and the social is just one struggle that the composition course must consider. I found several key terms in this essay that are of interest to me as a teacher and a student, in relation to cultural studies and composition courses: power, fantasy, desire, consensus, truth, knowledge, social, and personal. These terms show up in several locations in the text that suggest they are important; furthermore, another major factor teachers need to think about when attempting to implement cultural studies into the curriculum is: how can a student write “truthfully?” Even if a student is writing from their own cultural and life experiences, are their ideas not (to some extent) tied to another ideology? In other words, if writing cannot be ideologically free, how does this sophisticate the rhetorical aim of writing for democracy and as a participant in society?



One thought on “Blog for 3/8/17”

  1. I watch the students stare; their faces are bored and tired. “What, according to Kilbourne, are some of the consequences of how advertisers portray women?”I ask. They do not reply. Two students towards the back take turns shutting their eyes in syncopation as if they’ve planned who naps when the other appears awake. I walk out of the classroom wondering which activities I should have tried instead: more discussion, less lecture, more images, less text. But I have been trying to make a conscious effort not to take their lack of enthusiasm and engagement less personally… But couldn’t they at least fake it?


    Perhaps this dilemma which my sensitive nature wants to take personally is not that personal at all. Rickert states, “We are left with the question of what kind of pedagogy would be resonant with the postmodern world…” (170); Giroux asserts that “schools have lost some of the authority and power they once had” (176). Both of these statements touch on my observations of many (of course, not all) students as a first-year writing instructor: they are bored, they are resistant, they are apathetic, they are unconcerned with appearing or perhaps being disrespectful. According to Rickert, critical/radical pedagogies that seek to inspire some sort of change in students as a result of their critical analysis of ideologies “perpetuate a particular kind of authoritarian violence on the student” (182). Rickert assesses a student’s essay, as originally given to David Bartholomae, to examine the implications of inspiring such transgression in students and discusses in detail students’ trend towards resisting such pedagogy. Hawk similarly examines James Berlin’s social-epistemic rhetoric analysis and other critical pedagogues such as Freire, Giroux, and Shor to warn against “establishing a universal pedagogy” as it “simply produces its own resistance” (79).

    Both Hawk’s Counterhistory and Rickert’s Acts of Enjoyment implicitly and explicitly beg the question for comp./rhet. scholars today in the postmodern era to recognize and address apathy and cynicism of students in relation to the material. Rickert writes, “What is clear is that postmodern students are the most commodified generation the world has yet seen, and as such they are uniquely ‘schooled’ to be subjects of late capitalism” and therefore, perhaps we need all hands on deck to maneuver through this time in history (184). Through his relation of psychoanalysis to composition and rhetoric, Rickert allows for scholars to consider a new perspective towards a pedagogy that seeks to critique dominating ideologies and inspire social justice and social change. Through his articulation of “fantasy” he calls scholars to consider “that our rhetorical work is never done and that rhetoric will never be done with us” so as to relieve some sort of stress for budding scholars and first year writing instructors (213). Whether one “agrees” or “disagrees” with radical pedagogies, Rickert asserts: “Culture matters. Rhetoric must attend to culture; composition must attend to culture” (7). As the twenty-first century has all of us questioning in whether it seems to be progressing towards a more accepting, just, and democratic society or if it will continue to take seemingly retroactive steps towards capitalism, racism, patriarchy, homophobia, and xenophobia, writing and rhetoric scholars must continue to grapple with various theories and pedagogies that not only “teach” writing and rhetoric, but that are contrast, situate, and address our postmodern society.

    Rickert states that even many critical or radical pedagogues perpetuate power structures and essentially violence despite their intents of liberating and democratizing students. But where is the boundary, if at all, for a teacher and scholar to assert authority on a topic or in a discussion, especially if a student asserts racism, sexism, classism, etc.?


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