The Center for Writing Studies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

John Hudson

Name: John Hudson, English Department

Presentation Title: "What's (Not) In It For Me?: LGBT (In)Visibility in Composition Readers"

Date: April 5, 2007

Abstract

Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) representation in composition readers remains limited and is frequently nonexistent (Hudson 2003). Thus, a significant minority of our composition students find themselves with little or no representation in so-called inclusive readers. In this talk, I present some of the findings of my dissertation project, based in part on interviews with self-identified and "out" LGBT students. I will explore the impact this lack of representation has on LGBT students in composition classrooms, and identify numerous benefits -- as well as potential risks -- of the presence of LGBT-related selections in composition readers. Building on the work of Malinowitz in Textual Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Students and the Making of Discourse Communities (1995), I draw attention to two persistent zones of silence in Writing Studies: LGBT students in composition classrooms and LGBT representation in composition readers. Given the persistence of homophobia, the very real harm that it continues to inflict, and the evidence which identifies the college-age population as that most prone to overt homophobic behavior, including homophobic violence, I argue that anti-homophobic pedagogy needs to be an element of our writing classrooms, and indeed of all campus classrooms wherever practical. Further, given the clear benefits of having LGBT-related selections in composition readers identified by my research participants, such selections ought to be a centerpiece of anti-homophobic pedagogy in composition classrooms. Finally, I argue that, if we are truly serious about both diversity and preparing students for just, democratic citizenship, this persistent silence in our readers must be broken.