Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy: Theory and Practice for Composition Studies
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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.
hate speech, particularly homophobic hate speech, as a discursive practice. For Butler, language and identity are mutually imbricated—so much so that even our existence as embodied beings must be understood Discursive Sexualities 47 through the material effects of language and discourse on identity. Given this, the use of homophobic hate, or “injurious” speech, for example, has material affects—for both those who use hate speech and those on whom it is used—that construct identities,
which to begin thinking critically about how we can address the connection between literacy and sexuality. Given this connection, I will then forward the notion of sexual literacy, which I believe should be a central concern in the teaching of writing. Then I will briefly outline how the remaining chapters of this book (1) develop theoretical approaches to understanding the connection between sexuality and literacy; and (2) situate those approaches in classroom-based 6 L I T E R A C Y, S E X U
sexuality. James was a second-year graduate student who was completing his master’s degree and working as a teaching assistant in our English Composition Program at the University of Cincinnati, where I served as his immediate supervisor as director of the program. James was an excellent, award-winning instructor; he had had previous teaching experience in English as a high school teacher, and he worked very well with students in our first-year required composition sequence. He had taught the
acknowledged and privileged, marriage provides an interesting point of departure for examining critically with students how certain narrations of normative identity and normative relationships are reified in contemporary society. As such, critical analyses of marriage can form—one might argue, should form—a central part of students’ developing sexual literacy. To unpack the pedagogical possibilities here, I want to explore first some of the rhetorical dimensions in which current debates about
construct, have been deeply inflected by the challenge of gay marriage to how we talk about sex and sexuality—its challenge to our collective sense of sexual literacy. Given this brief survey of how the debates surrounding gay marriage are rhetorically rich, I believe that addressing marriage in the first-year classroom is not only appropriate but potentially pressing—both personally and politically—as a sexual literacy issue. Many of our students will consider marriage as an option for their