Contents of spoon-archives/french-feminism.archive/Lubbock.abstracts/davis
Abstract for: French Feminism Across the Disciplines
Paper Title: "Writing Other/Wise: S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G the Limits of
Service" by D. Diane Davis
Traditional composition pedagogies labor under what John Schilb calls
the "ethos of service," a conviction that they exist to support the real
disciplines and real society. Their goal: to foster subjects for the
existing economic structure. Radical pedagogies challenge this approach,
calling for writing courses that refuse to serve the state and its
socio-economic apparatus. My suggestion, however, is that both of these
approaches operate on a narrow notion of what is called ‘writing’; if
traditional pedagogies use writing to perpetuate the existing economic
structure, radical pedagogies use it to foster subjects for their Grand
March against that structure.
The point is this: composition courses, to the left and to the right,
operate as prosthetic extensions of political agendas. Both sides claim
to em/power the student—either by making her more marketable or by
making her savvy to her own false consciousness. What these approaches
have in common is a humanist impulse: Power (pouvoir), Jean-François
Lyotard tells us, always belongs to Some/One; it is always an ego's
power (Libidinal 261). Both the traditional and the radical pedagogue
makes a choice for power, for both assuming it and then for passing it
on. This is a humanist equation offering only humanist solutions, and
here, we’ll choose not to be trapped in it. In fact, to borrow a line
from Hélène Cixous’s "Laugh," "let's get out of here!"
It is the aim of this essay to suggest an/other approach—not apolitical
but political Other/Wise—one that begins with a notion of writing as
écriture féminine. This approach would not be out to mold egos or
stabilize identities. It would ask students to put themselves into the
service of writing rather than the other way around, to offer themselves
up to writing’s force (puissance), a force that works, as Lyotard notes,
"towards the eradication of all subjectivity" (261). If there is a
place that "is not economically or politically indebted to all the
vileness and compromise," a place that "is not obliged to reproduce the
system," Cixous says, "that is writing" ("Sorties" 72). "If there is a
somewhere else that can escape the infernal repetition," she continues,
"it lies in that direction, where it writes itself, where it dreams,
where it invents new worlds." In her essay entitled "Coming to
Writing," Cixous reveals that which the "service-oriented composition
course" conceals: that what is called ‘writing’ demands the death of the
stable Self: "In the beginning," Cixous says, "there can only be dying,
the abyss, the first laugh. . . .In the beginning, there is an end.
Don’t be afraid: it’s your death that’s dying. Then: all beginnings"
A writing course that begins here would invite students to Become
Legion, to grow off-shoots, to do their morning mirror check in a house
of (multiply-hinged) mirrors. It would invite them to be/come
border-runners, to tremble at the edge of "every aspect and form of
[their] definition," and to imagine, with Cixous, "the birth of borders"
(Three Steps 130-1). This essay proposes an alliance between écriture
féminine and the field of rhetoric and composition; not an alliance that
would domesticate the former but one that would radicalize the latter.
It will lean heavily on the works of such French theorists as Luce
Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Cixous, and Lyotard; such
French-inspired critical thinkers as Avital Ronell, Donna Haraway, and
Judith Butler; and such unorthodox rhetorical theorists as Victor J.
Vitanza and Greg Ulmer.
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