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Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy

Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy: Theory and Practice for Composition Studies

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy
    Book Description:

    Despite its centrality to much of contemporary personal and public discourse, sexuality remains infrequently discussed in most composition courses, and in our discipline at large. Moreover, its complicated relationship to discourse, to the very languages we use to describe and define our worlds, is woefully understudied in our discipline. Discourse about sexuality, and the discourse of sexuality, surround us-circulating in the news media, on the Web, in conversations, and in the very languages we use to articulate our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It forms a core set of complex discourses through which we approach, make sense of, and construct a variety of meanings, politics, and identities. In Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy, Jonathan Alexander argues for the development of students' "sexual literacy." Such a literacy is not just concerned with developing fluency with sexuality as a "hot" topic, but with understanding the intimate interconnectedness of sexuality and literacy in Western culture. Using the work of scholars in queer theory, sexuality studies, and the New Literacy Studies, Alexander unpacks what he sees as a crucial--if often overlooked--dimension of literacy: the fundamental ways in which sexuality has become a key component of contemporary literate practice, of the stories we tell about ourselves, our communities, and our political investments. Alexander then demonstrates through a series of composition exercises and writing assignments how we might develop students' understanding of sexual literacy. Examining discourses of gender, heterosexuality, and marriage allows students (and instructors) a critical opportunity to see how the languages we use to describe ourselves and our communities are saturated with ideologies of sexuality. Understanding how sexuality is constructed and deployed as a way to "make meaning" in our culture gives us a critical tool both to understand some of the fundamental ways in which we know ourselves and to challenge some of the norms that govern our lives. In the process, we become more fluent with the stories that we tell about ourselves and discover how normative notions of sexuality enable (and constrain) narrations of identity, culture, and politics. Such develops not only our understanding of sexuality, but of literacy, as we explore how sexuality is a vital, if vexing, part of the story of who we are.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-702-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

  1. INTRODUCTION: Toward Sexual Literacy
    (pp. 1-30)

    Sex and sexuality, and the complex personal and political issues surrounding them, are a powerful part of our daily lives. They form part of the most intimate moments we share with one another. But moreover, far from occupying a purely personal dimension in our lives, they saturate our public conversations and permeate the media. They lie at the core of some of our most pressing sociocultural and political debates, substantively informing how we think of ourselves and our identities, how we understand ourselves to ourselves. A brief scan of on any given day at any time of the day...


    • 1 DISCURSIVE SEXUALITIES: Bridging Sexuality and Literacy Studies
      (pp. 33-74)

      Let me begin at a very personal point—a portion of my own literacy narrative—as a way to approach thinking of literacy and sexuality together. For some readers, pairing literacy and sexuality might seem a stretch, but for me, the connection began early and felt natural.

      I wasn’t always a reader. In fact, I was a pretty “borderline” student in English and reading courses in grammar school throughout the 1970s. Or I was, until our fifth grade reading teacher read to us one chapter a day from C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was...

    • 2 BEYOND TEXTBOOK SEXUALITY: Students Reading, Students Writing
      (pp. 75-98)

      Molly’s experiences with her class are not ultimately surprising to me. Her students’ enthusiasm, as well as her claim that students actually wrote better in her class because of the focus on sex and sexuality, corroborates much of my own experiences, as I will detail throughout this book. But more broadly, Molly’s students’ interest in writing and sex/uality and in exploring sexual literacies parallels trends in “extracurricular” student writing—writing that takes place outside the classroom, in student newspapers and in a variety of online venues. As noted in the preceding chapter, discourses about sex and sexuality permeate our society,...


      (pp. 101-126)

      Henry Giroux has famously advocated for a “pedagogy of difference,” which, in his words, “seeks to understand how difference is constructed in the intersection of the official cannon of the school and the various voices of students from subordinate groups, but also draws upon students’ experience as both a narrative for agency and a referent for critique… . Such a pedagogy contributes to making possible a variety of human capacities which expand the range of social identities that students may become. It points to the importance of understanding in both pedagogical and political terms how subjectivities are produced within those...

    • 4 TRANSGENDER RHETORICS: Sex and Gender
      (pp. 127-150)

      On the first day of a writing-intensive honors course called “Contemporary Masculinities,” I brought in for discussion a couple of recent essays by Patrick (formerly Pat) Califia-Rice entitled “Family Values” and “Trannyfags Unzipped.” In these articles, Califia-Rice discusses his transitioning from female to male, his relationship with another FtM (female-to-male) transsexual, and their decision to have a child together. As can be imagined, the essays sparked much discussion among this group of intelligent, mostly white, mostly straight college-aged students from largely middle-class backgrounds. Califia-Rice’s life seemed strange to them, even as they applauded his willingness to undergo hormone treatments and...

    • 5 STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT MARRIAGE: Sex and Politics
      (pp. 151-174)

      Without a doubt, one of the most contentious debates in contemporary American society has focused on the extension of marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. Numerous news reports and several legal battles throughout the early years of the twenty-first century have turned attention to this issue, which has yet to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Pundits and commentators ranging from Andrew Sullivan (pro) to Rush Limbaugh (anti) have volubly expressed themselves on the issue. Such public battles and debates in many ways turn our attention not only to the “status” of gay and lesbian two-partner relationships in the United...


    • 6 SUSIE BRIGHT IN THE COMP CLASS: Confronting Resistances
      (pp. 177-209)

      Susie Bright is a sex writer—a very good one, in my opinion. She has a wonderful ability to be both pragmatic and philosophical, writing candidly about the mechanics of particular sexual positions and why it is important to talk openly about sex and sexuality. As such, her writing in books such as The Sexual State of the Union is never just erotic, though much of her writing is. Rather, it’s about sexual politics, about the silences that keep us from talking openly about sex and the many reasons why such silences damage our ability to be intimate with one...