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
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.
Subjects: Language & Literature, Education
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