CCR 632: Comp Pedagogy

Skype Interview with Jonathan Alexander

This is a quick follow-up to the post about Alexander’s book and some highlights from our class Skype session with him.

“Our own subject position within the classroom has to be taken into consideration. … What does my own positioning allow me to see and allow me to reflect on that other people might find useful?”

We asked Alexander what considerations must be taken into account when different bodies try to implement a pedagogy of sex/ual literacy. For example, if he identifies as a queer male, how does that change the perceptions that his students have about this pedagogy? If a heterosexual female adopts this pedagogy, do perceptions change? Alexander suggested that marking our bodies, and accounting for how those bodies might be perceived, can lead to useful class discussions about sex/uality and identity.

“Being gay is not this monolithic thing where we all understand what that means.   Sexuality is often not that simplistic.”

In Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy, Alexander acknowledges that there is an assumption that he is interested in sexuality because he is a gay man. As he posits, though, issues of sex/uality are not static, easily understood issues. Everyone has different understandings of sex, sexuality, and sexual identification that they must come to critically.

“Issues of queerness are often wrapped up in normative bodies, what normative bodies do,and how they are represented as sexual bodies.”

This quotation is wrapped up in a few larger issues. First, Syracuse’s Writing 105 and 205 classes are based on particular inquiries (e.g. poverty, reimagining the normal, food politics). When we asked him what a sex/uality inquiry would look like, Alexander responded that he would not add it to the list; rather, he would recommend taking a preexisting inquiry and examining how sex/uality can augment it. Second, Alexander took disability as a site of inquiry and briefly applied sex/uality to that, which is where this quotation comes from. A major issue in disability studies is normative bodies; likewise, a major issue in queer and transgender theories is the normative body and how particular bodies are normalized. Lastly, Alexander emphasized the importance of blending various inquiries and issues, arguing that this blending creates richer ways to think about complex situations. He stated explicitly, “I’m wanting more intersectionality from our field.”

I find this last point particularly interesting because it seems like some people argue that while it is important to make connections, we can only focus on so much at once (re: Banks), whereas Alexander argued that intersectionality is key for getting a full understanding of a situation. So, which is better for the field? Does it depend on particular contexts or on which “issues” we’re blending (e.g. intersections between race and gender)? Or is this all just a matter of perspective?

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