Gender Roles and Faculty Lives in Rhetoric and Composition

Synopsis

Combining anecdotal evidence (the personal stories of rhetoric and composition teachers) with hard data, Theresa Enos offers documentation for what many have long suspected to be true: lower-division writing courses in colleges and universities are staffed primarily by women who receive minimal pay, little prestige, and lessened job security in comparison to their male counterparts. Male writing faculty, however, also are affected by factors such as low salaries because of the undervaluation of a field considered feminized. As Enos notes in her preface: "The rhetoric of our institutional lives is connected especially to the negotiations of gender roles in rhetoric and composition."

Enos describes and classifies narratives gathered from surveys, interviews, and campus visits and interweaves these narratives with statistical data gathered from national surveys that show gendered experiences in the profession. Enos discusses the ways in which these experiences affect the working conditions of writing teachers and administrators in various programs at different types of institutions.

Enos points out that fields in which women excel- and are acknowledged- receive less prestige than other fields. On the university level, those genres in which women have demonstrated competence are not taken as seriously as those dominated by men. In practical terms, academia affords more glory for teaching literature than for teaching rhetoric and composition.

Within the field of rhetoric and composition, however, Enos finds it difficult to determine why the accomplishments of women receive less credit than those of men. She speculates as to whether it is part of the larger pattern in society- and in academia- to value men more than women or something in the field itself that keeps women from real power, even though women make up the majority of composition and rhetoric teachers.

Enos provides fascinating personal histories of composition and rhetoric teachers whose work has been largely disregarded. She also provides information about writing programs, teaching, administrative responsibilities, ranks among teachers, ages, salary, tenure status, distribution of research, service responsibilities, records of publication, and promotion and tenure guidelines.