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" (41). 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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