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Looking Outside to Empower within

Title: Looking Outside to Empower within: Feminist Activists, Feminist Agency, and the Composition Classroom.
Name(s): Martorana, Christine, author
Fleckenstein, Kristie S., professor directing dissertation
Villeneuve, Pat, university representative
Yancey, Kathleen Blake, committee member
Saladin-Adams, Linda, committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Arts and Sciences, degree granting college
Department of English, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2015
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
Physical Form: online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (271 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This dissertation takes as its starting point a recurring problem within the composition classroom: women writers silencing themselves in compliance with patriarchal expectations that frame the good girl role. In the process, these students subordinate, if not entirely erase, their own feminist agency. The disempowerment of women within the writing classroom is especially worrisome given that the NCTE Mission Statement defines one of the main aims of this classroom as helping students use "language to construct personal and public worlds and to achieve full participation in society." If the composition classroom aims to help students develop and practice rhetorical agency, how can this goal be successfully met when women students are implicitly and explicitly taught to adopt a classroom persona of silence? To address the problem of the good girl identity within the composition classroom, I turn to an exploration of feminist agency enacted beyond academia. Women have not – perhaps have never – been completely disempowered or completely silenced. Historically and currently, women have developed innovative and effective ways of performing feminist agency in social spaces beyond the classroom. Accordingly, this dissertation asks, "What strategies for fostering feminist agency in the composition classroom might be derived from the practice of feminist agency deployed outside of the classroom?" To answer this question, I first identify the visual, linguistic, and embodied strategies employed by feminist activists beyond classroom walls. Next, I consider how the activists use these strategies to support enactments of feminist agency within their specific spheres. Finally, I analyze these enactments in order to discern specific strategies we can use for fostering feminist agency within the composition classroom. This dissertation consists of three case study analyses. The first analysis focuses on The Guerrilla Girls, a feminist art activist group. The second examines Here. In My Head, a feminist perzine, and the third considers the feminist music album A Woman's Reprieve. Within each case study, I conduct first-hand interviews with the participants and textual analyses of the activists' work. This analysis of the rhetorical practices of feminist activists has revealed three valuable conclusions regarding feminist agency. 1) Effective feminist agency, understood as action that challenges rather than perpetuates patriarchal ideologies, begins with the personal and circulates beyond the self. 2) Choice, self-determination, action, and audience participation are central tenets to effective enactments of feminist agency. 3) One overarching goal of feminist activists is to promote a more inclusive reality, one that values women and their experiences/perspectives within the public sphere. These conclusions call on us to consider fascinating avenues through which we might foster feminist agency within the composition classroom. Specifically, my study proposes that we can foster feminist agency within the classroom by emphasizing its personal, active, public, and collaborative characteristics, and I offer specific pedagogical means for doing so.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-9647 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Summer Semester 2015.
Date of Defense: June 2, 2015.
Keywords: composition, feminism, feminist activism, feminist agency, pedagogy, rhetoric
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Kristie Fleckenstein, Professor Directing Dissertation; Pat Villeneuve, University Representative; Kathleen Blake Yancey, Committee Member; Linda Saladin-Adams, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Rhetoric
Women's studies
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Martorana, C. (2015). Looking Outside to Empower within: Feminist Activists, Feminist Agency, and the Composition Classroom. Retrieved from