Reviewing Literature on Gender Using Found Poetry and Dramatic Script

By Morrissey, Dorothy | The Qualitative Report, December 2016 | Go to article overview

Reviewing Literature on Gender Using Found Poetry and Dramatic Script


Morrissey, Dorothy, The Qualitative Report


The writing experiment presented here was derived from the literature review chapter of my doctoral dissertation. The project itself was designed to intervene in the gender narratives of a cohort of postgraduate student teachers in Ireland, and was built around my performance of a play about the marginalisation of women in workplaces (Morrissey, 2012). In this article, I review some of the theoretical texts with which I was engaging prior to and during the project. My review takes the form of a conversation between these various texts using a combination of dramatic script writing and found poetry. The conversational format reflects the way in which I engage with texts and theories; as conversations with distant colleagues (Phillips & Carr, 2010). When I embarked on my dissertation project, I had already been conversing with distant colleagues in performance studies and feminist post-structural theory and I continued to do so as the project progressed. Sometimes serendipitously, other theories and texts presented themselves as interesting or useful along the way. These texts were not confined to academic literature and included poetry which also helps me to "think hard" (St Pierre, 2009, p. 231) about what I am doing/writing. In this article, I review these various texts and theories as a kind of conversation which "in reality" was inseparable from my conversations with pedagogy, research methodology and "life." The conversational format offers a mode of "capturing" the dynamism of my engagement with theory; opening spaces for readers to engage in that conversation and generate their own meanings. The conversational format also offers an alternative mode of representing a literature review in a qualitative report and, concomitantly, an alternative mode of understanding theory (and of what counts as theory). While the conversation itself troubles taken-for-granted notions of gender and the systems of power in which it is embedded, the format troubles normative modes of representing a literature review; modes in which gender is also enmeshed (this point is developed further in the literature review itself). So, in both content and format, my writing experiment troubles (or intervenes in) taken-for-granted notions of gender. The thrust of my writing experiment is thereby aligned with my research methodology; fulfilling my need to cohere what (and how) I think and do with what (and how) I write about it. It also addresses a broader need to respond to the way gender has been silenced in educational discourse, and in social and political discourse more generally, by its incorporation into "softer" discourses of "equality," "inclusion" and "diversity" which implicitly endorse the status quo (Skelton, 2007). My writing experiment is aimed at teachers, researchers (in education and related fields), teacher/researchers and anyone else with an interest in gender and power. Staged as a conversation, it invites readers to enter into that conversation and to take its evocations/invocations/provocations with them into their ongoing conversations with theory, gender and life.

Setting the Stage

I am a teacher educator in drama in a Catholic college of education and the liberal arts in Ireland. This means that I teach student teachers (primary) about teaching drama in schools. In Ireland, drama is a subject on the Primary School Curriculum (Government of Ireland, 1999). As a teacher--who has also taught at primary level and in adult education--it has never been enough for me to "reproduce the way things are" (Greene, 1995, p. 1). Like Greene, I believe that it is only by troubling the taken-for-granted that we can posit "alternative ways of living and valuing" (p. 23). And, like Greene, I see teachers as important agents of social change. So, as a teacher educator, I seek to trouble the "certainties" by which--and within which--my students and I live. I see (heteronormative) gender--and, concomitantly, the systems of power in which it is entangled--as one such certainty. …

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