CCCC 2001 in Review: M.1 (Practices of Teaching Writing) Que(E)R(Y)Ing the Composition Classroom

Presenters: Cristina Kirklighter, Jen Bacon, and Thomas Peele

In this session, three presenters, seemingly randomly put together, offered us a snapshot of the ways in which LGBT/queer studies are being used to enhance or even enable composition pedagogies. Two presenters in particular, both from the University of Tampa, Florida, presented two very different, and indeed divergent views on how LGBT/queer studies is impacting the teaching of writing.

In the first, Cristina Kirklighter's "What Happens When Gay Leaders Speak to First-Year Writing Classrooms?" traversed relatively familiar but still useful territory as the presenter described how she introduces LGBT topics into her composition classrooms. While some might (and did) find the emphasis on simply "including" such texts, lives, and stories into the classroom to be pretty much "old hat," it was clear that for others the topic is still one that merits much discussion. Interestingly, this speaks to a curious divide between those of us who regularly use texts discussing LGBT lives and issues and those of us still struggling to incorporate such texts into our classrooms--between those of us who use such texts as a matter of course and those of us for whom such material is still personally challenging, provocative, and even risky. Indeed, one could argue that such texts are going to remain challenging, and what will only change is the teacher's relative comfort in bringing such material into the classroom.

In a very different vein, Thomas Peele's "Queer Arguments" offered a stimulating discussion of how the interrogations of queer theory can be used in conjunction with the teaching of standard argumentative strategies. Peele talked about his critical approach to advertisements in his composition classes-an approach that uses queer theory to interrogate, deconstruct, and problematize hetero-centric readings and receptions of representations in advertisements. Peele then paralleled such critique to the ways in which argument, as he teaches it, can and should open students up to critical questions, to seeing things "from different perspectives," and to considering alternative points of view. As such, Peele's use of queer studies' insights is not just "included" in his classroom discussion, but in a way "grounds" his understanding and teaching of argument. [JA]

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