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Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only

Linda Brodkey
Volume: 4
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only
    Book Description:

    Ranging from personal essay to hard-hitting polemic and touching on many of the major issues in the teaching of writing today, this volume explores alternatives to the standard methods for teaching composition.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8742-8
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Introduction: Poststructural Theories, Methods, and Practices
    (pp. 1-24)

    Let me set the record straight before I try to explain how I conduct research on literacy. I am not a social scientist. The best that can be said of me (which in some circles would be the worst) is that I have a penchant for social theories of language. I have spent my intellectual life tinkering with language theories in hopes of becoming a good writer and teacher of writers. I think of myself as a tinker because tinkers are both curious and arrogant enough to try to fix almost anything. That is a fair description of how I...

  5. Part I. Education

    • Introduction to Part 1
      (pp. 27-29)

      There is a world of difference between an educational history and the educational credentials that a curriculum vitae records. On the face of it, my vita is an argument for meritocracy. I am living proof, it would seem, that in America you don't have to go to the right schools or study with the right people to become a university professor. Even though I took my undergraduate degree at Western Illinois University and my graduate degrees at the University of New Mexico, I went on to work at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas, and the University of...

    • Writing on the Bias
      (pp. 30-52)

      If you believe family folklore, I began writing the year before I entered kindergarten, when I conducted a census (presumably inspired by a visit from the 1950 census taker). I consider it a story about writing rather than, say, survey research because while it has me asking the neighbors when they were going to die, in my mind’s eye I see myself as a child recording their answers—one to a page—in a Big Chief tablet. As I remember, my mother sometimes told this story when she and her sister were of a mind to reflect on their children’s...

  6. Part II. Publications

    • Introduction to Part II
      (pp. 55-58)

      Universities are inclined to equate faculty productivity with publication, typically casting quality as quantity, the number of books and articles produced by faculty over a given period—a month, a year, five years, a decade. Publication is the bedrock on which tenure and promotion rest, and producing the right number of things (in the humanities, at most places, a book and a specified number of articles) in the allotted time usually, though not always, results in tenure and promotion from assistant to associate professor, and in some cases from associate to full professor. There probably are professors who also see...

    • Modernism and the Scene(s) of Writing
      (pp. 59-81)

      When I picture writing, I often see a solitary writer alone in a cold garret working into the small hours of the morning by the thin light of a candle. It seems a curious image to conjure, for I am absent from this scene in which the writer is an Author and the writing is Literature. In fact it is not my scene at all. The writer-writes-alone is a familiar icon of art and is perhaps most readily understood as a romantic representation of the production of canonical literature, music, painting, sculpture. And if the icon evokes in me and...

    • Tropics of Literacy
      (pp. 82-87)

      I have come to think of literacy as a social trope and the various definitions of literacy as cultural Rorschachs. By this I mean to draw attention not simply to the fact that every culture and subculture defines what it means by literacy (e.g., Heath 1983; Scribner and Cole 1981), and not even to the equally important fact that the history of the wordliteracyin a single society shows remarkable variation over time (e.g., Ohmann 1985; Resnick and Resnick 1980). Nor am I principally concerned in this article with how researchers have conceptualized literacy in order to study what...

    • On the Subjects of Class and Gender in “The Literacy Letters”
      (pp. 88-105)

      In “The Discourse on Language,” Michel Foucault dramatizes the desire to be “on the other side of discourse, without having to stand outside it, pondering its particular, fearsome, and even devilish features” (1976:215) in this whimsical colloquy between the individual and the institution:

      Inclination speaks out: “I don’t want to have to enter this risky world of discourse: I want nothing to do with it insofar as it is decisive and final; I would like to feel it all around me, calm and transparent, profound, infinitely open, with others responding to my expectations, and truth emerging, one by one. All...

    • Writing Critical Ethnographic Narratives
      (pp. 106-113)

      As I am using the term here, anegative critiqueis any systematic, verbal protest against cultural hegemony. It might be spoken or written, addressed to any number of audiences, and delivered in any of a variety of forms, not the least important of which is our own curriculum and pedagogy. In this article I focus on some issues that researchers who wish to advocate for change by writingcriticalethnographic narratives are likely to encounter, and I confine my remarks to the formulation of narratives written expressly for academic readers. For most if not all scholars, academic publication determines...

    • Presence of Mind in the Absence of Body
      (pp. 114-129)
      Linda Brodkev and Michelle Fine

      We commonly tell stories about what happens to us and what we make of our experience. In a sense, then, the stories documenting our lives tell what we find worth remembering and contemplating and sharing with others. It is of course the “others” who complicate the telling of stories, for stories are not usually told to ourselves alone, but to those we hope will understand our construction of events. The stories included in this essay concern the sexual harassment of students by professors. We have tried to reconstruct the historical and institutional circumstances of the telling along with the stories...

    • Writing Permitted in Designated Areas Only
      (pp. 130-149)

      The international sign that bans smoking in public places can also be read as a sign of cultural hegemony, a frequent and forcible reminder that in democratic societies civic regulations commonly inscribe the will of the dominant culture. That there are two versions of the sign suggests that the dominant culture is of at least two minds when it comes to smoking in public places. One version of the sign prohibits smoking altogether, and the other regulates smoking by appending a note that may be more familiar to smokers than to nonsmokers: “Smoking Permitted in Designated Areas Only.” This second...

    • Telling Experiences
      (pp. 150-152)

      I began thinking of experience as stories we tell about ourselves the day I overheard my four-year-old son talking to himself about his life as he played alone in his room. That’s when it occurred to me for the first time that if children say aloud what adults have learned to keep to themselves, then at that very moment I could be unwittingly composing an autobiography to myself not unlike the one I could hear my son declaiming. I have since forgotten that specific installment from Jesse’s life story, but not the scene in my mind’s eye of the child...

  7. Part III. Presentations

    • Introduction to Part III
      (pp. 155-157)

      Academics are usually encouraged rather than required to present papers at scholarly conferences and deliver lectures at other institutions. There is a widely held belief, however, that in addition to offering a chance to meet scholars in your field, a conference is a good place to rehearse before an audience of your peers arguments you plan to use in essays. I have found this to be true and not true. While I often discern a fair number of limitations in an argument in the course of writing a fifteen - to twenty-minute conference paper, there is rarely enough time for...

    • Transvaluing Difference
      (pp. 158-161)

      American scholars have more than a passing interest in academic freedom because historically the relationship between the academy and the state has been uneasy. And a good deal of this uneasiness has to do with the long academic tradition of questioning received wisdom, common knowledge, the very doxa by which society lives. Yet we have only to recall the reports of the November 1988 meeting of the National Association of Scholars (NAS)—in theChronicle of Higher Education,theNation,and theNew York Times—to realize that when “minority,” feminist, or progressive scholars examine and challenge academic doxa, the...

    • On the Intersection of Feminism and Cultural Studies
      (pp. 162-163)

      It’s no secret among feminists that white, professional women are more likely than women of color or working-class women to privilege gender over race, ethnicity, and class, or that many of these women attribute the success of the feminist political and academic projects over the last twenty-some years to essentializing gender. It’s not just that white feminists forget that most women are of color, or that most women are working class, but that they believe gender discrimination overrides their race and class privileges. For feminists who can distinguish between the absolute and relative privileges of being white and middle class,...

    • Hard Cases for Writing Pedagogy
      (pp. 164-169)

      When I was a child, my family lived a few doors away from the neighborhood witch, an elderly spinster whose house, obscured from view by weeds and overgrown shrubs, was set off from the street and curious children by a tangled bank of moss. In the summer of my fifth year, some of the other children and I took to snatching pieces of moss from the bank, in some long forgotten childhood ritual of bravura. Late one afternoon, the witch, no doubt exhausted from standing sentry against these inexplicable assaults on her property, let us know in clarion tones that...

    • Critical Ethnography
      (pp. 170-175)

      When I teach graduate seminars on ethnography, I always begin by telling students that ethnography is the “science of hanging out.” I do that not only because I have a penchant for paradox—which of course I do—but also because I want to remind students thattwotraditions, science and art, inform ethnography, and that one of the reasons ethnography often promises more than it delivers has to do with the tendency to resolve the paradox in the text by suppressing the tradition of hanging out. Everybody hangs out, of course, but not everybody makes a living hanging out—...

    • At the Site of Writing
      (pp. 176-180)

      As a schoolchild I was preoccupied by Africa. While there are probably many reasons why that is so, one of them has to do with the way geography was taught. Year after year, Africa was scheduled for May, and year after year school was out before my teachers got around to Africa. I now see the absence of Africa as a lesson in the politics of schooling, for whileImay have been preoccupied by Africa, my teachers seem to have been preoccupied by England and the Soviet Union. As I remember it, England was a place inhabited by little...

    • The Troubles at Texas
      (pp. 181-192)

      There are what I think of asthe troublesat The University of Texas. In April of 1990 the English department policy committee I chaired voted to revamp the ailing composition course, known locally as English 306, by requiring the graduate students who staff the fifty-some sections of the one-semester first-year writing course to teach argumenation from a common syllabus, “Writing about Difference,” for one year. From mid-May to mid-July 1990,1 met with a number of graduate students and faculty members, known locally as the Ad Hoc Syllabus-Writing Group, to develop a syllabus (see “Writing about Difference: The Syllabus for...

    • Difference and a Pedagogy of Difference
      (pp. 193-204)

      I understand multiculturalism to be largely acurricularrather than a pedagogical reform. While I share the principles of inclusion that motivate faculty around the country to add multicultural materials to their reading lists or multicultural courses to their curriculum, and would like to believe that these principles motivate my work as well, I hesitate to think of what I do as multiculturalism in part because I work in composition, a field where pedagogy has historically taken precedence over curriculum—in theory and in research—but where curriculum commonly overrides pedagogy in practice, not least in the view of those...

  8. Part IV. Teaching

    • Introduction to Part IV
      (pp. 207-210)

      Teaching is commonly evaluated on the circumstantial evidence of course descriptions and syllabi, course evaluations, teacher observations, teaching awards, and word of mouth. I usually fare well by these measures, probably because I plan courses carefully enough that the syllabus presents a fairly accurate week-by-week schedule of the work required of students. Students know what they will read and write and when assignments are due in the courses I offer. I even include descriptions of all the writing assignments, often accompanied by instructions on how to complete them. As much as may be learned about a teacher's instructional goals from...

    • Writing about Difference: The Syllabus for English 306
      (pp. 211-227)

      English 101 is called English 306: Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Texas. While I was there (1988-92), three thousand students (approximately half of every entering class) were required to take the one-semester introduction to college writing. There has been nothing comparable to English 102 taught at Texas since 1985, the year the English department fired its lecturers and dropped the second-semester class, English 307: Introduction to Literature and Composition, from its course offerings. When I was appointed director of lower-division English in 1989,1 was given to understand by both the college catalog and the department chair that graduate-student...

    • Writing about Difference: “Hard Cases” for Cultural Studies
      (pp. 228-245)
      Richard Penticoff and Linda Brodkey

      Some twenty years ago, James Kinneavy introduced ATheory of Discoursewith a formidable catalog of the institutional barriers facing composition:

      Composition is so clearly the stepchild of the English department that it is not a legitimate area of graduate study, is not even recognized as a subdivision of the discipline of English in a recent manifesto put out by the major professional association (MLA) of college English teachers, in some universities is not a valid area of scholarship for advancement in rank, and is generally the teaching province of graduate students or fringe members of the department. (1971:1)


    • An Autoethnography in Parts
      (pp. 246-258)
      Kate Burns

      December 11, 1973: District Court Opinion determined the entire Denver School District to be a “dual” school system and that a system-wide plan of desegregation “root and branch” was therefore required under Supreme Court mandate.

      December 17, 1973: Federal Court Judge William E. Doyle ordered that plans for desegregation of the Denver Public Schools be submitted to the District Court.

      January 23,1974: Desegregation plans prepared by the defendants (School District No.1, Denver) and the plaintiffs (Wilfred Keyes, et al.) were submitted for consideration to the United States District Court. After hearing arguments concerning desegregation plans of the parties involved and...

    • The Spirit of Literacy
      (pp. 259-263)
      Janice Chernekoff

      I have to admit that I totally bought into those notions of literacy as something liberating, and even when I started to realize that what I teach in school is steeped in personal and institutional politics, I maintained this image in my head of literacy—true literacy—as a process of enlightenment, an emergence up from the dark depths of ignorance. Describing this vision now I begin to see that there are problems with it, the relative values assigned to images oflightanddark,the notion of moving up toward literacy, even the belief thattrue literacyis something...

    • A Literacy of Silence
      (pp. 264-274)
      Russ Cunningham

      In the hillside suburb of Los Angeles where my nuclear family closed out the remainder of its unbroken years, the rigid demarcation of public and private space was a fundamental aspect of our cultural literacy. Established and upheld in an atmosphere of procedural efficiency, restrained emotion, and tacit understanding, this demarcation served to prevent our loose confederation of white middle-class households from becoming “too public.” Within these households, each set back from the curb by sharply cut lawns and cleanly swept driveways and decisively separated from one another by wooden fences or concrete walls, curtained windows, and the orderly arrangement...

    • Catholic Boy: An Account of Parochial School Literacy
      (pp. 275-283)
      Mark Dressman

      I trace my conscious awareness of involvement in an “educational process” to two incidents in the fifth grade. The first was a realization toward the end of the school year, sometime shortly after the class had mastered fractions, that I had learned everything in school that I needed to get by in life. A short time later, the teacher asked during class if anybody had ever heard of some far-off geographical place. I had. I raised my hand and matter-of-factly reported what I knew, which brought turned heads and stares of incredulity, and one indicting question from a classmate: “How...

    • Resisting the Assignment
      (pp. 284-296)
      Leslie K. Yoder

      A “literacy event is any occasion in which a piece of writing is integral to the nature of participants’ interactions and processes of interpretation” (Heath, quoted by Brodkey).

      September 1989. I’m trying to write my thesis and getting nowhere, so my adviser tells me to just make something up, pretend. I produce a six-page draft titled “Free Fall: What I Might Write about My Thesis if I Knew What I Was Doing, or What if I Did.” It begins

      Wren rock, rock, rocks in her swing, totally taken with lifting and falling, lifting and falling, rocking to the rhythm of...

  9. Works Consulted
    (pp. 297-310)
  10. Index
    (pp. 311-315)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 316-316)