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Identity Papers

Identity Papers: Literacy and Power in Higher Education

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Identity Papers
    Book Description:

    How do definitions of literacy in the academy, and the pedagogies that reinforce such definitions, influence and shape our identities as teachers, scholars, and students? The contributors gathered here reflect on those moments when the dominant cultural and institutional definitions of our identities conflict with our other identities, shaped by class, race, gender, sexual orientation, location, or other cultural factors. These writers explore the struggle, identify the sources of conflict, and discuss how they respond personally to such tensions in their scholarship, teaching, and administration. They also illustrate how writing helps them and their students compose alternative identities that may allow the connection of professional identities with internal desires and senses of self. They emphasize how identity comes into play in education and literacy and how institutional and cultural power is reinforced in the pedagogies and values of the writing classroom and writing profession.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-546-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 INTRODUCTION: Literacy, Power, and the Shaping of Identity
    (pp. 1-14)
    Bronwyn T. Williams

    We’ve all seen them on college and university catalogues, brochures, posters, and viewbooks. They are the obligatory photographs of happy, attractive students in classrooms, laboratories, libraries, and fresh green lawns, reading and writing under the thoughtful and attentive guidance of their professors. Though the clothing and the faces may have transformed over the years—the photos are no longer only of white men, but now reflect a carefully chosen mix of race, culture, and sex—and today’s students may be shown writing on computers rather than by hand, the message of such photos is remarkably unchanged. What these images imply...


    • 2 SOCIAL CLASS AS DISCOURSE: The Construction of Subjectivities in English
      (pp. 17-28)
      James T. Zebroski

      During the last week of June in 1970, I stepped onto a college campus for the first time in my life. I was 18 and I had come to Ohio State that week for freshman orientation. I had come to Columbus from Warren, about 160 miles to the northeast, on a Greyhound bus. I had never seen the Ohio State campus before except in the photographs included in the brochures and catalogues that the university sent when I expressed interest in applying. I had decided to go to Ohio State because a year earlier I had read somewhere, probably in...

      (pp. 29-41)
      Patricia Harkin

      Imagine for a moment that you are not a practitioner of composition studies but instead a bricklayer. You have earnestly prepared for your profession. You enjoy building strong, useful structures. Eagerly you arrive at the worksite where you have been engaged to build a wall. You look around, puzzled.

      There are no bricks. Instead, you encounter a perky woman in a Liz Claiborne suit carrying a sheaf of thick beige paper engraved in gray gothic letters: The Brick Foundation. She explains,

      What you need to do is fill out this application. In five, single-spaced pages, you are to establish your...

    • 4 THE FEMINIST WPA PROJECT: Fear and Possibility in the Feminist “Home”
      (pp. 42-56)
      Shannon Carter

      Narrating the rhetorical spaces in which I came to compose and continue to recompose one Feminist WPA Project involves a certain amount of what Shirley K. Rose (1998) has called “indiscretion” and every indiscretion involves risk. This is a story of the fear and possibility at once limiting and inspiring the rhetorical and philosophical choices I made while composing and, ultimately, recomposing the Project in response to the fluctuating nexus of power that similarly governs any social space—risk further compounded by the tenure-track (rather than tenured) status of my position, the traditionally and materially marginalized status of the projects...

    • 5 WHEN ‘MS. MENTOR’ MISSES THE MARK: Literacy and Lesbian Identity in the Academy
      (pp. 57-74)
      Tara Pauliny

      In a recent installment of her advice column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Mentor (a.k.a. Emily Toth) counsels academic women struggling to negotiate their various identities (as minority women, mothers, untenured professors) with their sometimes disappointing and often misleading jobs.¹ Underlying the advice she offers is a stalwart feminist position: she “insists that women seize control of their work lives” and that academic women “self-promote,” “speak about inequalities” and “be tough women, not docile girls” (Mentor 2005). Ms. Mentor’s advice here is sound in its recognition of gender difference, racial inequalities, and in its uncompromising feminist stance. Where...


    • 6 SHE TOILED FOR A LIVING: Writing Lives and Identities of Older Female Students
      (pp. 77-91)
      Mary Hallet

      “In general,” the college administrator pronounced, tugging at his tie, “older students do not know how to write academic essays and need lots of help. They are also less sophisticated when it comes to college life.”

      I was 40 years old, a nontraditional undergraduate enrolled in a women’s liberal arts college on the East Coast, about ready to graduate, and thinking about my future. My college experience at this school had been a good one, largely because the institution had invested much time and money in the building and strengthening of its nationally known nontraditional students program. For the most...

      (pp. 92-108)
      William Carpenter and Bianca Falbo

      What would it mean for the field of composition to study the literacy habits of undergraduate students identified as talented, privileged, and academically successful? What new information can this group of writers tell us about the relationship between literacy development and education? How might our pedagogies and our theories benefit from examining the ways in which these students discuss their literacies?

      In this chapter, we investigate these questions by examining the written literacy narratives of students working as undergraduate Writing Associates at Lafayette College, our home institution. We seek to contribute a different perspective to current research in literacy studies,...

    • 8 SPEAKING FROM THE BORDERLANDS: Exploring Narratives of Teacher Identity
      (pp. 109-121)
      Janet Alsup

      What does it mean to be a secondary school teacher? Those who have been high school or middle school teachers know that secondary school teaching is demanding work. They have taught 130-plus adolescents per day, spent weekends and evenings grading papers and planning lessons, and have negotiated the competing demands of various stakeholders including administrators, community leaders, colleagues, and students. They also know that the profession is often perceived, both by “insiders” and “outsiders,” as more than a job—as a way of life or a “calling.” A teacher is seen as an individual who should go above and beyond...

    • 9 “WHO ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO DO WITH WHAT I WANT TO BE?” The Writing of Multicultural Identity and College Success Stories for First-Year Writers
      (pp. 122-138)
      James R. Ottery

      No matter what theoretical approach they offer, the rhetoric/readers of first-year writing courses have, for at least the last decade and a half, made an ostensible bow to diversity and multiculturalism. While not altogether abandoning the essays of Anglo-European American writers such as Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, and E. B. White, most of them now feature the writings of prominent American authors whose ancestors were not originally members of their homeland’s dominant culture. Such writers include Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Zitkala-Sa, Helen Keller, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Richard Rodriquez, Mike Rose, Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, and bell hooks, to name...


      (pp. 141-153)
      Robert Brooke

      Imagine with me Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, population 591. We’ve driven up from Lincoln, the University town, and it’s evening, early summer, our Mid-Plains air heavy with moisture and the scent of milo. The two-lane runs mostly straight north, and every rise in elevation is matched by a corresponding drop a quarter mile further. We’ve passed through grass and crops, alongside the steel snakes of center pivot irrigation, by farmsteads ringed with trees. But mostly there’s earth and late day sun, and the wide second landscape of prairie sky.

      We’re in the gym at Cedar Bluffs School, the one shared by...

    • 11 SOME TROUBLE WITH DISCOURSES: What Conflicts between Subjects and Ethnographers Tell Us about What Students Don’t/Won’t/Can’t Say
      (pp. 154-169)
      Sally Chandler

      Embedded within Beth Roy’s (1994) ethnography, Some Trouble with Cows: Making Sense of Social Conflict, is an exploration of methods for studying how individuals remember and reconstruct contested, emotionally charged events. Roy suggests that close attention to subjects’ patterns for remembering and reporting can help ethnographers understand the discourses which individuals, groups, and cultures use to construct the “realities” they report. Roy’s work is not unique in using what subjects say and do to theorize culture; what is unusual is that Roy does not focus on discovering what is verifiable or true in her subjects’ accounts. Rather, she focuses on...

      (pp. 170-181)
      Lynn Worsham

      The events of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath would seem to provide all the corroboration necessary to substantiate the claim that this is a “posttraumatic culture”—the idea, in other words, that the twenty-first century has begun the way the twentieth century ended: as an especially catastrophic age characterized by unprecedented historical trauma that has produced a pervasive and generalized mood corresponding to posttraumatic stress disorder.² To claim that we are living in a posttraumatic age does not mean, of course, that everyone is equally traumatized or suffers in quite the same way. This diagnosis of our social psychology...

    • 13 CONCLUSION: Working Bodies: Class Matters in College Composition
      (pp. 182-191)
      Min-Zhan Lu

      This is a partial reading of the collection, so let me start with an account of the how-why-what of the questions framing my response. Summer of 2005. I’m putting together a graduate course titled “Class Matters: The Information Age,” a project aimed at examining composition scholarship on the relations between matters of class, writing, and teaching from the perspective of social-economic-geopolitical-technological shifts in the United States in the last three decades. I’m working on a talk for the 5th Biennial International Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s) Conference with the hope of approaching the conference theme, “Affirming Diversity,” from positionalities which are co-constitutive...