Inkshedding selections - Session7

On Kathryn Alexander's "Resisting Discourses of Literacy: The Speech Genres of the Feminist Literacy Workers' Network"

I think we try to divorce people from their deep connection to metaphors of voice at our peril. How can we speak of Bakhtinian dialogue or heteroglossia, multiple voices, without talking about voice? . Why worry about metaphors of voice? We need them and need to play with them and explore them further.

--Elizabeth Sergeant

A struggle to wed the benefits of organic conversation with the archival transmission benefits of texts. What a poignant space to be in. Interesting too, that the conversation was initiated with injunctions and prohibitions, almost a ritual in an anti-ritual context.


This presentation makes me think that it might be interesting to start some wandering books on campus for students to record their thoughts on writing, learning and the university experience. We might be able to tap into student voices that we would not otherwise hear.

I think it is valid to look at the ways of talking about the text that try to retain the validity of the voice culture. This is obviously an area of rhetorical tension. Feminist discourse (not academic feminist discourse) that clusters around home birth networks, woman's healing circles, woman's spirituality etc. privilege around the voice of the wise woman, NOT her writing - writing is seen as the weapon of dominant masculinist culture. I'm sure you know this. But the idea that women try to keep this Voice Culture alive even while building textual communication is I think a fertile area of inquiry.

Is this specifically s woman's way of thinking about language, foregrounding the immediate, the interpersonal conversation aspects of texts as opposed to the archival, permanent literate form?

While the women in the learning center where I worked often had specific reasons for writing, the group most often became a forum for establishing an identity as female, as immigrant, as woman with culture, history etc.

I wonder how e-mail letters to other feminists would work. They can be so much more like face-to-face dialogue.

Your approach sounds useful and productive to me. I wonder if you have been able to identify why there was this fiction of oral communication. Do we associate it with being more grassroots, more homely, truer, or more ours as women and feminists?

I'm fascinated by the importance of voice in the feminist literacy project you described. Voice is a contested term in rhetoric-composition theory with the expressionists on the one hand insisting on writers gaining an authentic voice and the postmodernists on the other hand insisting that because voice presupposes the existence of an authentic true subject or agency it's a highly problematic concept.

Maybe we can think of the wandering books as performance act and maybe we can consider that our hunger to make this kind of evanescent discourse permanent is somehow unavoidably misplaced and hopeless. It is all transitory performance after all.


On Anneke van Enk's "Resisting the Official Discourse around Literacy Education"

You remind me that literacy is always situated materially. Hedley, after all, is in jail deprived of exercising the so-called liberatory power of literacy.


Maybe it would help if we got rid of the literate-illiterate binary, and instead spoke of shades-of-grey literacies.

So how do we talk about literacy without being condescending or controlling?

There's another way to think, though, about the response you tell me. That is to honor it as a genuine request . If I were approaching a skill or field in which I had no experience at all, not even enough to describe my goals in working on those skills or in that content area, I might say you tell me in quite a serious way.

For a long time, I have been offended by the self-righteous and condescending discourse surrounding "illiterates." Always, it is a them and us division, implying a definite line separating the literature and illiterate.

You raise an interesting paradox: certainly there are good reasons to resist the official discourse of literacy but can we do so and continue to teach literacy especially if the illiterate implicate themselves in this discourse?

On Rebecca Carruthers' "Learning to Play: The Ritualized Transgression of Ceremonial Boundaries in Scientific Discourse"

This disruption of a pre-existing genre through play may have more to do with creativity than you expressed in the extensive work. Steinberg comes to mind as you are talking about this description. His work is also about science and may provide an alternate disruption to your analysis.

Could it be that our idea that experimentation with genres can happen only after thorough acquisition and mastery of the genre conventions is based on the degree to which the rules and regulations are enforced?

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