Kathleen Parvin

Toward a theory for ethical-democratic composition practice: Transgressing boundaries of radical pedagogy discourses

Kathleen Ann Parvin

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2000 pp: 329
  • Advisor: Lauer, Janice M.
  • Source: DAI-A 62/06, p. 2101, Dec 2001
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681)
  • ProQuest Document Number: 304618462
  • ISBN: 0-493-29299-3
  • UMI Number: AAT 3018255


    This project began as a response to student resistance I encountered while teaching a first-year composition course based on critical and feminist pedagogy grounded in the dialogic educational theory of Paulo Freire. Realizing in practice that these critical/liberatory pedagogies weren’t necessarily as “liberatory” or “empowering” as the arguments of the pedagogy discourses claimed, I adapted the Foucauldian method of critique created by educational theorist Jennifer M. Gore to seek explanations for why students’ perceptions of critical/liberatory composition practices could be so different from my own intentions. Critiques of both critical writing pedagogy discourses and feminist writing pedagogy discourses as what Foucault calls “regimes of truth” reveal previously unacknowledged or unrecognized loci of power-knowledge relations that problematize the liberatory intent of such constructions as “democratic authority,” “empowerment,” “radical democracy” and “student voice/agency.” Continuing to build on Foucault’s particular notion of ethics as self-styling and using the works of feminist political theorists such as Seyla Benhabib and Nancy Fraser, I construct a new conception of radical pedagogy that I call ethical-democratic composition pedagogy. The goal of democratic participation toward which this pedagogy aims is drawn from Hannah Arendt’s formulations of political judgment as the exercise of enlarged mentality and her notion of the public realm as the “world” of plurality and difference that makes communication between political actors possible. Most importantly for composition pedagogy, I outline ethical-democratic writing practices for student journals, research, argument analysis and a paradigm of “transgressive argument.” Using sources drawn from the World Wide Web, I demonstrate with discourses generated in response to the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado the potential an ethical-democratic composition pedagogy has to help students recognize the ways public issues are created by and shaped by discourses and how, in turn, these public discourses ask us to style ourselves as political actors in response.