Disruptive Queer Narratives in Composition and Literacy Studies

By Palmeri, Jason | College English, May 2018 | Go to article overview

Disruptive Queer Narratives in Composition and Literacy Studies


Palmeri, Jason, College English


Disruptive Queer Narratives in Composition and Literacy Studies Jason Palmeri Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy. Eric Darnell Pritchard. Southern Illinois University Press, 2017. 320 pp. ISBN 978-0-8093-3554-1

Techne: Queer Meditations on Writing the Self. Jacqueline Rhodes and Jonathan Alexander. Computers and Composition Digital Press / Utah State University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-60732-506-2

Teaching Queer: Radical Possibilities for Writing and Knowing. Stacey Waite. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017. 216 pp. ISBN 978-0-8229-6457-5.

Eric Darnell Pritchard's Fashioning Lives begins with an epigraph from Malea Powell's 2012 CCCC address:

This is a story. When I say "story," I don't mean for you to think "easy" . . . When I say "story," I mean an event in which I try to hold some of the complex shimmering strands of a constellative, epistemological space long enough to share them with you. When I say "story," I mean "theory." (Powell qtd in Pritchard, 1)

his is a fitting epigraph not only for Fashioning Lives, but for all the recent queer composition and literacy studies books I review here. Each one of these texts demonstrates the power of storytelling as a queer methodology of disruption. The authors tell stories that disrupt academic writing conventions, stories that challenge the normative frames for studying and teaching literacy, stories that fracture singular models of LGBTQ identities, stories that revel in queer impossibility and unknowability, stories that model what queer intersectional consciousness and resistance look like in practice. They tell stories our field desperately needs to hear-stories that can radically change how we study and teach composing if we listen deeply, repeatedly, and openly to what they have to teach us.

In many ways, our field has already been changed by disruptive queer stories told in past decades by resistant scholars who have made space for the kind of books reviewed here. I'm reminded particularly of how Harriet Malinowitz's classic 1995 book, Textual Orientations, powerfully centered the stories of lesbian and gay students-showing how these stories have often been silenced in school settings and revealing what liberatory possibilities gay and lesbian students could enact if given a space to explore the politics of the personal in their writing. Disrupting the straightness of composition, Malinowitz's work helped inspire a generation of queer scholars (including those I review here) to tell their own stories of what it might mean to teach and study writing in ways that challenge heteronormative structures.

The books I take up in this review all queerly trouble genre boundaries, and they all also insist on demonstrating how the authors' embodied queer experiences have shaped their theorizing. Accordingly, I have chosen to include a few of my own fragmented queer stories in this review essay as a way to contextualize where I'm coming from as a reader. I worry that doing so might be seen as self-indulgent, and I'm certain that my own reflective insight and craft as a storyteller pales in comparison to the authors I discuss. And yet, I've decided to "put my queer shoulder to the wheel" (Ginsberg 43) in an attempt show you how these books have inspired me to try to compose otherwise.

"This is a story": I was a nerdy kid in the late 80s who read the paper every day and watched the TV news every night. I vividly remember a few fleeting moments when images of ACT UP activists came bursting into my suburban home-images of radical queers lying down in the street, splashing fake blood, fighting for their lives, not taking shit from anybody. I remember feeling exhilarated, inspired, and (at the same time) terribly afraid, of dying.

I begin this review with Jacqueline Rhodes and Jonathan Alexander's Techne: Queer Meditations on the Writing Self-a multimodal, born-digital book published by the Computers and Composition Digital Press. …

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