As a queer, as a writer, as a student, and as a queer writing student, I reside at the intersection of critical-cultural studies of (queer) identity with writing pedagogy. This is what beckons me to composition, to rhetoric.
To that end, I’ve sifted through scholarship of such pion(qu)eers as Harriet Malinowitz and Zan Meyer Gonçalves, who study performance of queer student identity; Jonathan Alexander, Jacqueline Rhodes, and David Wallace, who interrogate the politics of queer identity in composition classrooms; and Charles Morris III, K.J. Rawson, and Jason Palmeri, who investigate the historiographical politics of archival (re)presentations of queer texts. I’ve learned, though, that while many rhetorical rockstars in our field study students, the conversation about teachers’ queer identities remains rather anemic (though Pamela Caughie and Paul Puccio have at times shouldered this onus).
I aim to attend to that deficiency with my current project, a special-themed ENGL 102 course that appraises rhetorical constructions of LGBT identities at UofL and in Louisville, mediated (re)presentation(s) of queers, and community engagement through public presentation. In addition to rhetorically analyzing queer primary texts from the Williams-Nichols Archive and engaging primary re/search methods to discuss queer issues in our communities with my students, I also hope to study the effect/affect of a writing teacher’s queer identity on the ecology of the writing classroom.
Though still elastic, I think my central que(e)ry will ossify into something like: “(How) Does a writing teacher’s status as an ‘out’ gay affect learning, authentic voice, approachability author/ity, motivation, and/or atmosphere?” Some subsequent questions currently taste like this to me: (How) Do intersections (of age, race, sex, gender) further complicate a teacher’s “out” queerness? (How) Do straight and queer students respond differently to an “out” teacher? (If any) What are the correlations concerning the significance of a teacher’s “out” queerness between courses advertised as a queer space (like mine this semester) and courses that are not advertised as such?
To crack these questions, I plan to work closely—and perhaps publish—with past, current, and future students. Of course, I hope eventually to move beyond the (micro)scope of my own classroom: it’s still germinating, but my ambition is that this project will blossom into a rich dissertation, tbh. I imagine the chief research methods will involve an analysis of interviews and other primary methods of ethnography. I also can use all of the help I can get because I believe, if done well, this project will impact so many future writing teachers as they negotiate their own identities, the very real difficulty/impossibility/(im)passé for some teachers of “coming out,” the politics of queer visibility vs. “passing,” and their ethoi in the classroom.
Works that Matter ish
Alexander, Jonathan. Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy: Theory and Practice for Composition Studies. Logan: Utah State UP, 2008.
Alexander, Jonathan, and Jacqueline Rhodes. “Queer: An Impossible Subject for Composition.” JAC 31.1-2 (2011): 177-205.
Anon. “Some Notes of a Homosexual Teaching Assistant in His First Semester of Ph.D. Work.” Crew, Louie, and Rictor Norton, eds. The Homosexual Imagination: in Literature, in the Classroom, in Criticism. Spec. issue of College English 36.3 (1974): 331-36.
Banks, William P., and Jonathan Alexander. “Queer Eye for the Comp Program: Toward a Queer Critique of WPA Work.” The Writing Program Interrupted: Making Space for Critical Discourse. Eds. Donna Strickland and Jeanne Gunner. Portsmouth: Boynton, 87-98.
Caughie, Pamela L. Passing and Pedagogy: The Dynamics of Responsibility. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1999.
Gonçalves, Zan Meyer. Sexuality and the Politics of Ethos in the Writing Classroom. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2006.
Monson, Connie, and Jacqueline Rhodes. “Risking Queer: Pedagogy, Performativity, and Desire in Writing Classrooms.” JAC 24.1 (2004): 79-91.
Morris III, Charles E., and K. J. Rawson. “Queer Archives/Archival Queers.” Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric. Ed. Michelle Ballif. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2013. 74-89.
Malinowitz, Harriet. Textual Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Studies and the Making of Discourse Communities. Portsmouth: Boynton, 1995.
Plummer, Ken. Telling Sexual Stories. New York: Routledge, 1995.
Puccio, Paul. “The Teacher’s Imagination.” Conference on College Composition and Communication. Nashville, TN. 16-19 Mar. 1994.
Wallace, David L., and Jonathan Alexander. “Queer Rhetorical Agency: Questioning Narratives of Heteronormativity.” JAC 29.4 (2009): 793-820. Rpt. in. Readings on Writing. 2nd ed. Ed. B. David Bruce, et. al. Cincinnati: Van-Griner, 2014. 350-75.
Michael Baumann is a 1st-year student in the Ph.D. program. He presently serves as the Ph.D. Student Liaison for the English Graduate Organization.