Notes: Jonathan Alexander “Queer Theory for Straight Students: Sex and Identity” in Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy

Alexander, Jonathan. (2008). Queer theory for straight students: Sex and identity. Literacy, sexuality, pedagogy: Theory and practice for composition studies. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 102-126.

Summary:

In this chapter, Alexander asks how straight students can engage in a critical literacy of straightness to confront the discourses that shape identity. To do this, he provides an example of his website in which he performed as a straight man with a secret and asked his students to analyze and respond to the website.

Keywords: composition, literacy, literacy studies, LGBTQ, pedagogy, queer, queer rhetorics, queer theory, sexuality

Sources:

Monson, Connie & Jacqueline Rhodes. (2004). Risking queer: Pedagogy, performativity, and desire in the writing classroom. JAC, 24(1), 79-92.

Smith, Lauren. (2000). Staging the self: Queer theory in the composition classroom. In Calvin Thomas (ed.) Straight with a twist: Queer theory and the subject of heterosexuality. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 68-85.

Quotations:

“Beyond simply including queer voices into the mix, I think that queer theories and scholarship offer us a chance to critically examine the ways in which gender and sexuality are constructed, narrated, and deployed in the creation of identities, modes of being, and community…. As such, queer theoretical critique can help to underscore the intertwining of literacy and sexuality throughout our culture” (p. 102).

“Butler’s critique, combined with Plummer’s assertion of the centrality of the narrative of sexuality as central to many people’s identity, prompts me to ask, what is the story of “straightness”? With such a question, we can see how the critical examination of identities is also inevitably a rhetorical examination. More specifically, we might ask, how does one compose oneself or become composed as a “straight” person? And how does the repitition of a certain story or performance of “straightness” naturalize it…” (p. 106).

“[P]erforming a narration of straightness, inhabiting its story, might work its weakness from the inside out” (p. 107).

“I think it was revelatory for all of us to consider that straightness may be dependent on not calling it into question. As such, straightness–and its privileges–remain unexamined, normative: it just feels so normal because we don’t have to think about it” (p. 119).

“Indeed, students began to develop a sense of how narrations of identity depend as much on certain silences as they do on certain annunciations. In this sense, I think students developed a crucial understanding of an important dimension of being literate; that is, what is not articulated shapes our perception of the meaningful as much as what is articulated” (p. 121).

Questions and Reflections:

To what extent can the performing of the hoax be asked to be done by students as a reflective practice to engage with the limitations of their narratives? Is there a way to get students involved in the hacking of normative narratives and their production or curate artifacts to help with this?

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