Diane P. Freedman
Martha Stoddard Holmes
That our world increasingly concerns the body should come as no surprise. Inthe United States, at least, we see television advertisements probably once con-sidered in bad taste for products we are now willing to admit or think we need:Depends undergarments or Detrol pills for incontinence, Viagra for erectiledysfunction, SSRIs for depression/shyness/anxiety, nicotine patches for quittingsmoking, Pravachol for cholesterol, and the “Little Rascal” for getting aroundwithout walking. More patients and more payers mean more visible treatmentsor devices advertised for hearing loss, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, diabetes, heartdisease, and the effects of aging, illness, and/or catastrophe. And more moneyand worries mean more public-interest or paid announcements about “just say-ing no” to sex or drugs. Medicine and psychiatry are no longer privately dis-cussed doctor to patient but are dependent upon what HMOs do or mustcover—infertility treatments along with Viagra, and Ritalin for the young. Thereare more weight-loss clinics and products, tattoos and tummy tucks, hair and
DIANE P. FREEDMAN AND MARTHA STODDARD HOLMES
skincare products available than ever before. “Infomercials” flood the airways.
And let us not forget the rubber gloves, gas masks, and Cipro being hawked inthe wake of recent biological and chemical-warfare scares. For the first time,coffins too are for sale on TV, advertised at a discount.
On the other hand, teacher-student disclosures and discussions of the
needs and effects of the body, except perhaps in the “health classes” mandatedin the 1970s or in the most theoretical terms, move along more slowly.
Although we remember thinking frequently about the body when we werestudents, we can’t quite imagine having learned, as our own children have, thata fourth-grade teacher was facing a heart-valve replacement operation; a pianoteacher required a hysterectomy and summer recovery; a violin teacher hadpainful bursitis in her shoulder; and a riding instructor had a rib broken by akicking horse. Perhaps it’s only that our children are more out there, bodily, inways we couldn’t afford to be or weren’t encouraged to be. Teachers and stu-dents no longer leave school if pregnant or ill, and access to learning and workfor all and to realms formerly mostly for the male student body—whethersports or auto mechanics and shop—is a right.
In an earlier time, we noticed our teachers and studied them, but we didn’t
know much that wasn’t either spoken or visible. What we did know, however,were things like these:
Diane loved her third-grade teacher. Not only did she make Diane feel
smart, but she also let her sit on her lap and in winter helped her to pull onher stubborn snow pants. Diane learned that she could be little and somewhatcoddled and still be smart. And the teacher—funny, big, and loud—could bematernal and more. Diane also loved her sixth-grade teacher, who was bothher homeroom teacher and her sixth-grade science teacher. She was pregnantand left before the end of the school year to have her baby. She taught Dianethat someone who was visibly a woman and mother-to-be could be smart inthe ways mostly only boys were then considered smart. She had a short hair-cut and a no-nonsense sense of style and speech, but she, too, Diane could tell,respected Diane’s mind. That was also why she was so disappointed (as wasDiane) when she discovered Diane had written test answers on her hand dur-ing a trip to the bathroom.
No teacher’s body went unobserved by Diane, though hers was ignored or
maligned by some of them. The best learning situations, however, were thosein which teacher and student acknowledged and approved of one another’sbodies and minds. Diane disliked or was made anxious by her seventh-gradehistory teacher because he called her “mouse,” making fun of her small sizerelative to her classmates, and because he collected and then mistreated ani-mals and students—sometimes by punishing students with a detention duringwhich they’d have to watch him feed white mice to the class snakes. He alsoclaimed at times that animals had been lost in transit, as when the promisedAfrican monkeys failed to arrive and he used that as the excuse for not return-
ing the essays on which some students had worked hard (he claimed the mon-keys had gotten sick over the essays). At other times he stamped “bull” or “cir-cular file” on their papers with his collection of custom stamps. And Dianenoted the crooked teeth of her tenth-grade English teacher and was botheredby them but probably only because he seemed unfriendly and distant androcked back and forth in his chair as he spoke, never minding that the chairleg repeatedly came down on one of his feet or that his toes got pinched bythe drawer slide at the back of his desk drawer. It’s probably no coincidencethat the book Diane most remembers from that class is William Golding’sLord of the Flies,
a novel about boys who turn on and eventually decide to eatone other when stranded on a desert island.
Diane now finds herself wanting to argue that, far from today’s injunctions
that teachers not hug students and that little boys and girls refrain from kiss-ing one another, learning in school and loving and thriving in school requirethat teachers and students notice—and respect—their own and others’ bodies.
When Diane became a teacher herself, she was reminded on several occa-
sions that students often think teachers are and must be disembodied, thoughthey are usually extremely relieved when they find out differently, after whichclasses and learning go much better. Her eighth-grade students needed to tryon her clogs and admire her earrings and once even see her turn a cartwheelto be fully convinced she could be their friend and mentor. This extraordinarycomradeship was necessary, she thinks, because she was teaching at a board-ing school, and the girls and boys were lonely for their families. Diane’s teach-ing had to have something of the family way about it even though she was notyet a mother herself.
When Diane was in graduate school and working as a writing teacher
year after year to pay her way, her best semester (in terms of student evalua-tions) was the one in which she was quite unhappy and most likely showedher pervasive sadness on her face and in her posture. There seems to have beena connection between Diane’s apparent emotional—and bodily—vulnerabilityand her winning a coveted teaching award that year.
Her students (when she was a new assistant professor some years later)
remarked on how surprised they were to see her shopping, as they were, at acampus bazaar in the student union, querying her incredulously, “Was thatyou we saw buying earrings in the union on Saturday?!”
On the other hand, Diane once hadn’t wanted to live in the town where
she’d taught college lest a student spot her engaging in one of her then-favorite pastimes, swimming nude in the local (and legally off-limits) reser-voir. So of course she’d sensed that there were limits to this otherwise neces-sary bodily interaction, just as there were limits to the heady times when suchswimming habits and the wild dancing she used to do were possible.
In his collection Confessions of the Critics,
H. Aram Veeser notes that “stu-
dents are always shocked when they come upon their teachers out of school:
DIANE P. FREEDMAN AND MARTHA STODDARD HOLMES
incredible! The teachers actually have a life apart from the classroom!” (ix). Hequotes Rachel Brownstein’s contribution to the collection, a chapter that asksus “to remember ‘the delight and mischief and disbelief you first felt whenyour third-grade teacher turned up in a two-piece bathing suit at the beach.
Why that’s Mrs. Fisher—out from behind the desk, in a body!’” (Diane pub-lished an essay in that collection devoted to the still-new practice of autobio-graphical or “personal” scholarship, an interest and practice that for her clearlygrow out of her conviction about the necessarily embodied nature of knowl-edge and pedagogy.) Veeser makes the general claim, one to which we accede,that these days teachers (and academic writers in general) increasingly “havecome to appreciate the attention they suddenly command as soon as they slipinto a body” (ix).
Again, when Diane was pregnant but not-quite-showing while teaching
at Skidmore College, her students asked her why she was pulling hard-boiledeggs out of her jumper pockets and choking down too-dry granola bars whilethey spoke. Eventually Diane’s pregnancy, via her hunger, couldn’t be denied.
And it actually gave her some extra authority if not solicitous attention. (Onthe other hand, a year before, Diane had lost a baby before she began to“show,” and that loss went unmarked and unmentioned, though her sadnesshad surely helped shape classroom dynamics then just as her pregnancy did ayear later.)
At the institution where Diane has been teaching for the last ten years,
her female colleagues also report increased tolerance and solicitation as theirown pregnancies visibly developed. However, a colleague who adopted ratherthan bore a child and did so after classes ended fall term got no such extrainterest or support either from her colleagues or from the institution.
Although campus policies include adoptive as well as birth parents in their“parental leaves,” if no one notices you and if you are trying not to achieve acertain kind of notice (in preference to others), such as when you are applyingfor tenure, you don’t even get the time off, let alone the time of day from col-leagues, students, and administrators.
For many years of teaching, Martha’s overall, comforting premise was
that she was a mind attached to an apparatus, the body, whose purpose wassimply to transport her ideas and intelligence to the classroom. The bodydidn’t really matter except in service of this mind, the thing she had fallenback on all through her life when her body did not, for various reasons andin various contexts, suit. To talk or even think about the body (as she did, ofcourse) seemed unprofessional.
The shift from unmarked to marked body happened without warning,
such as when a large and distressed student spoke threateningly to her in anempty community college classroom and she remembered how small she was.
Martha remembers that after that encounter she made herself demonstrate
her physical bravery (teacherly authority) by giving the student a ride home;it was, after all, a winter night in northern Vermont and was well below freez-ing. After she dropped the student off with a calm and cheery “good night, seeyou next week,” Martha cried and swore all the way home.
Even though Martha’s students did not have to be at the front of the
room (that “front” that follows the teacher’s body wherever she moves), theyhad fewer tools to change the marked status of their bodies. Not only werethey more relevant to each other as bodies than Martha was, but they werealso more vulnerable to notice as particular kinds of bodies, especially in thosesituations in which they read and talked about gender, race, sexualities, andability, in which certain bodies seemed to light up for other students as repre-sentative and be asked, to Martha’s deep discomfort and perplexity, “Whatdoes a man think about this? What does a Chicana think about this? Whatdoes a person with a disability think about this?” The focus of the text on cer-tain bodies seemed unbearable to Martha at times, and she longed for theunmarked realm of literature, generated by minds unattached to bodies. It haseven become a pleasure for Martha to age out of the realm of relevance, whereshe can now comment on sexuality in a text without it seeming to adhere toher at all; to many of these students, whose parents are her age or younger, sex-uality is simply not a country Martha or the students’ parents inhabit.
When Martha finally got to teach about the body and the mesh of words,
images, and practices that make and remake its meanings, the question ofmarking became much more complicated. In bringing the body to the fore-ground of class discussion, making it the text, the focus fell on everyone,although not on all equally. The classroom bodies were all under scrutiny, evenwhen the class talked about bodies, disabilities, or differences as concepts.
Many discussions were unintentionally painful in their association with thebodies the discussants lived in outside of the classroom, bodies that werestared at, rejected, obstructed from access to bathrooms and classrooms, diag-nosed and classified, loved for the wrong reasons, photographed, writtenabout, beaten, as well as treated kindly, loved, soothed, and delighted. Suchconversations invited, not always with student or teacher consent, those bod-ies that considered and had abortions, gave birth, despaired, binged, purged,felt alien and were marked alien by others, as well as those bodies that loved,married, enjoyed, read, and learned.
a play by Margaret Edson, the protagonist, a professor of seven-
teenth-century English literature with stage-four ovarian cancer, notes theirony in having for so long taught others about books but now having her body
read “like a book” by medical personnel. Now she is the one and the thingbeing taught—both as an audience and as an object/subject matter. We acceptthe idea that the teacher’s body should be read, though not cordoned off, asthe protagonist of Wit
seems to be. But more commonly, teachers can becomeill and still be teachers. For this, we need engaged and critical analysis of how
DIANE P. FREEDMAN AND MARTHA STODDARD HOLMES
experience and classroom relate to one another; we do not need a dismissal orelevation of the teacher’s body as (a) heroically and tragically ill (if ill or dis-abled), (b) miraculous and inspiring in its overcoming disability or illness, (c)all well, (d) a mistake or irrelevancy, or (e) something we should not talk aboutbecause (g) it is not subject matter related to our work. The essayists repre-sented here are unflinching in their complex portrayals of embodied experi-ence in the classroom.
We maintain that regardless of whether we or our students, singly or mul-
tiply, have physical or other health challenges and changes in evidence;whether our research and course offerings make explicit the physical contoursof our subjects; or whether they include field and site work where the body isperhaps more clearly in play, we are inevitably, ineluctably inspired, limited,plagued, and aided by—given the growing state of discourse about the body,disability, and “selfhood”—our increasingly self-conscious bodies (and by thebodies around us). We need more books this like one that powerfully insistupon here-and-now stories of teaching in acadème.
The bodily reality of the college teacher may include cancer—and/or
cartwheels and body piercing, ED, pregnancy, miscarriage, aging, youth,beauty, arthritis, depression, AIDS, heart disease, physical intimidation, dia-betes, infertility, sleep deprivation, mobility impairment, paralysis, deafness,blindness, posttraumatic stress, rape, anorexia—many situations seen andunseen and many situations beyond those described in this volume.
Recent collections in a wide range of fields have renewed attention to the
body—even, for example, Our Monica, Ourselves
(2001), which, according toreviewer Micaela di Leonardo, reminds readers—like the Monica Lewinsky-Clinton episodes themselves and however “embarrassingly”—that the presi-dent of the United States has a body. The events, the book, and the theoriesand contemporary academic preoccupations on which the book is basedemphasize “the classed, raced and gendered nature of embodiment in contem-porary America” (9). A flier for the National Women’s Studies Association2002 Conference solicited papers for a plenary topic on the subject of “bodypolitics” and the notion that “for more than a century, feminists have beenresponding to the platitude ‘anatomy is destiny’ and the drive both to curtailthe forces of anatomy and social construction/socialization and to attend to thereal needs and desires of women rooted in real bodies” (2). One of our con-tributors, Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, reports receiving a call for papers for aCanadian conference on “Teaching Motherhood, Being a Mother-Teacher andDoing Maternal Pedagogy.” Clearly, as several contributors note, feministscholars are at the forefront of unabashed discourse about the body. The chap-ters we present here thus enter an important moment of review and reenact-ment of the body’s various meanings and employment in the college classroom.
As we well know, student bodies often command most of the attention in
college classrooms. Young or old, pierced or tattooed, sleeping or rapt, these
bodies dominate the room and seem to justify its existence. The body of theoften-parodied professor, in contrast, is (to the students and increasingly toadministrators) both present and irrelevant, disembodied by discreet or dowdydress and, most hurried mornings, by a face unredeemed by cosmetics or care-ful coif. Even the battered briefcase expresses disregard for anything but thelife of the mind and the practicalities of scholarship. One stereotype has theprofessor displaying the intellect without shame but keeping the body out ofspeech, sight, and investigation.
In order not to stuff all college faculty into one battered briefcase and to
counter the demotion of college and university professors and teaching assis-tants, The Teacher’s Body
presents new essays exploring the palpable momentsof discomfort, disempowerment, and/or enlightenment that emerge when wediscard the fiction that the teacher (like the U.S. president) has no body. Manyof these essays in fact portray the moments of embodied pedagogy as unex-pected teaching opportunities. Visible and/or invisible, the body can trans-form both the teacher’s experience and classroom dynamics. When studentsthink the teacher’s body is clearly marked by ethnicity, race, disability, size,gender, sexuality, illness, age, pregnancy, class, linguistic and geographic ori-gins, or some combination of these, both the mode and the content of educa-tion can change. Other, less visible, aspects of a teacher’s body, such as depres-sion or a history of sexual assault, can have an equally powerful impact on howwe teach and learn.
In personal and accessible prose informed by contemporary performance,
disability, queer, feminist, psychoanalytical, and autobiographical theory, TheTeacher’s Body
presents teaching bodies in a range of academic settings, exam-ining their apparent effect on educational dynamics of power, authority,desire, friendship, open-mindedness, and resistance. The contributors, rangingin professional status from graduate students to full professors, teach atresearch institutions, small liberal arts colleges, and professional schools in thefields of composition and literature, sociology, oceanography, ESL, medicine,education, performance studies, American studies, African American studies,and women’s studies.
Although this volume is unique in the range of disciplines its contribu-
tors represent and its focus on the implications of many kinds of teachers’bodies in the classroom, it continues a conversation that currently includesother thoughtful and successful volumes such as Teaching What You’re Not;This Fine Place So Far from Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class;Calling: Essays on Teaching in the Mother Tongue; Never a Dull Moment: Teach-ing and the Art of Performance; A Life in School; Pedagogy: The Question of Imper-sonation;
and Passing and Pedagogy: The Dynamics of Responsibility,
not to men-tion Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity; Enhancing Diversity:Educators with Disabilities; Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities; StaringBack: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out; Inside the Academy and Out:
DIANE P. FREEDMAN AND MARTHA STODDARD HOLMES
Lesbian/Gay/Queer Studies and Social Action;
and Coming Out of the ClassroomCloset: Gay and Lesbian Students, Teachers, and Curricula,
A note about organization: The chapters that follow reveal so many con-
nections even in their variety that there is no satisfactory arrangement ofthem into familiar limited sections. They enlighten and delight however theyare encountered.
The volume opens with a chapter by Betty Smith Franklin, Professor of
Curriculum, Foundations, and Research, in which she describes her changingawareness and practice of bodily engagement in the classroom experience. Aprevalent theme and situation is that of eating disorders, plaguing studentsand faculty alike. Franklin ultimately acts inside and outside the classroom toalter the climate of female self-degradation and denial. All teachers and stu-dents, she argues, and the production of art, in fact, benefit from attention toembodied teaching reality in the classroom.
Explicitly framed by experiences of medicalization, the next three chap-
ters are dramatic. A recollected scene of medical instruction opens ScottSmith’s “On the Desk: Dwarfism, Teaching, and the Body,” as “a man pointsat [his] hips, knees, ankles with a silver pen.” Smith, now a university teacherwith a critical consciousness of how medical and other cultures construct ourbodies and our disabilities, argues that the body may be “the most telling textof the course, the one our students will . . . respond to in deciding what kindof teacher we will be for them.”
Cortney Davis’s “Body Teaching,” which also begins with the clinical,
provides an alternate perspective. As a medical educator, Davis knows possi-bly the most important part of health professionals’ education occurs in exam-ining rooms, literally hands-on, as patients’ bodies, needs, voices, and variousmodes of being in the world merge with, deepen, and complicate the concep-tual bodies of texts and lectures. The marked body is the patient’s body, butwhat about the bodies of the teacher and learner who depend on her? AsDavis elucidates, “I am keenly aware that I am a woman teaching a man[about women’s bodies], and, in a role reversal even more volatile, a nurseteaching a doctor whose authority will be, ultimately, more respected thanmine. Most of all, I am a female guide who must step out of her body, castingoff any suggestions of sensuality or privilege, when it is precisely my body thatallows me to excel at teaching this intimate exam.”
Carolyn DiPalma’s “Teaching Women’s Studies/E-Mailing Cancer”
examines the body moving in one time frame between academic and medicalculture, theory and practice. “I . . . knew much about gendered body image,the signification of the breast and its (problematic) relationship to the socialconstruction of ‘femaleness’ and ‘femininity,’” she writes. What was more chal-lenging was “weaving this knowledge usefully” into the experience of beingdiagnosed and treated for breast cancer and then bringing that weave of the-ory and practice into a women’s studies classroom. Apprehensive both about
encountering the medical model and being constructed in troubling new waysby colleagues and students, DiPalma instead found her healthcare encounters“appropriate, appealing, and personalized” and her students, in particular,ready to engage and support her experience. They clearly expressed in variousways that “[they] were going through an ill-defined and important processtogether—one at which [they] were all willing to work.”
Teaching contemporary critical theory, which many of us do with a sense
of its liberatory possibilities, often produces a scene of unnoticed and unat-tended distancing from the body, even when the theory itself engages embod-iment. Diane Price Herndl’s “Johnny Mnemonic” asks the difficult questionof what it would mean to teach the postmodern subject with less of that safedistance if, for example, rather than celebrating the rhizomatic subject whilepassing as a Cartesian one, we actually acknowledged that our lives are frac-tured or that we feel, for example, like “bimbo professors” in the face of con-temporary life. Further complicating a critique that is both assiduous andplayful, Price Herndl’s epilogue takes us beyond the bimbo professor to theways her pedagogy changed when the body she brought to class was diag-nosed with breast cancer, underwent chemotherapy and mastectomy, andeventually had the cancer go into remission.
If the teacher’s body fades from awareness in the course of many classes,
it always shows up on the first day of school, an opportunity sociology pro-fessor Rod Michalko uses to launch his students’ first engagement with thebasics of his discipline; from day one they learn Sociology 101 and “blind-ness,” as he relates in “‘I’ve Got a Blind Prof ’: The Place of Blindness in theAcademy.” But what is the Butlerian “scenography”of the entry of blindnessinto the university classroom, an event to which many students react with sur-prise? Michalko’s investigation is both local, focused on the particular socialorganization of the university classroom, and applicable to many other scenesin which disability enters a social frame but is already framed by and evenintegrated into its most basic assumptions about bodies and knowledge.
As academic culture frames and places disabled bodies, attitudinal and
physical environments can be mutually reinforcing, especially when the disci-pline and its research modes are both inscribed as “physical.” Richard Radtkein “My Body, Myself: A Quadriplegic’s Perception of and Approach to Teach-ing” narrates how academic culture narrowly defines both the “appropriate”physical and professional space of a quadriplegic oceanography professorand—in practical detail—his daily work within this space, work that increas-ingly stretches its boundaries.
The teacher’s body often achieves presence by virtue of its difference from
the context. In “The Day the Foreign Devil Came to Class,” Pam Whitfieldwrites about the four years she spent teaching in Zhangzhou province in South-ern China and of the realization that “my body would have to assimilate too,” apublic and private process in which Whitfield’s negotiations of her distance
DIANE P. FREEDMAN AND MARTHA STODDARD HOLMES
from Chinese norms—not just of appearance and language but also of those“stylized, repetitive social acts” that constituted femininity in her new home—both obscured and clarified her ambitious goals as a teacher.
By probing the effectiveness or noneffectiveness of debating race and
racial issues in the classroom, Simone A. James Alexander’s “Walking on ThinIce: The Il/legitimacy of Race and Racial Issues in the Classroom” examineshow race, gender, and class determine classroom dynamics and course content.
Alexander, a teacher of African American studies, addresses the responsibili-ties that both students and the institution expect the teacher to shoulder andhow these expectations change when the teacher is of color. Although thehead of her class, the teacher, ironically, not only suffers bodily containmentin the enclosed classroom but tailors her discourse to suit the needs of her stu-dents and the institution. Moreover, the students, governed by race- and gen-der-restricted discourses, similarly suffer great discomfort. To negotiate thisuncomfortable situation, Alexander challenges her students by teaching textsthat celebrate differences and otherness.
Dance is both figure and practice for Petra Kuppers and Brenda Daly, in
two very different chapters about dance as the enactment of learning. In“Moving Bodies,” Kuppers demonstrates how contact improvisations andspecifically the tactical use of the teacher’s body (in a wheelchair) can allowstudents to engage difference physically and conceptually when the teachersets up the dance classroom as a place where students can experience differ-ences between nondisabled and disabled people, among nondisabled people,and within the self.
In Daly’s “Dancing Revolution,” an impromptu jig performed to rouse a
somnolent student involves the whole class in the unclouded pleasure ofoverturning the academic dictum to “leave the body behind.” “Dancing Rev-olution” sustains its exploration of dance as literary trope, pedagogicmetaphor, and embodied experience for several more turns by reflecting onthe different rhythms and crises of the dancing body through the combinedlife cycles of the teacher herself and the changing academic culture in whichshe teaches.
The nexus of professional development, bodily transformation, and the-
ory forms the core of Ray Pence’s “Enforcing Diversity and Living with Dis-ability: Learning from My First Teaching Year,” which explores his experi-ences of “change and convergence” initiated by the concurrence of his first yearof graduate school, teaching, and living with chronic illness. Pence’s experi-ences in the classrooms where he taught, seminar rooms where he learnedabout new epistemologies, and clinical spaces where he was defined as a pso-riatic arthritis patient provide the raw material for these reflections. He locateshis narrative within disability studies and American studies, disciplines thatcontinue to shape his perceptions of identities: his own and those of peoplewith whom he interacts as a teacher and scholar.
The idea that a teacher’s body and sexuality must be both remembered
and forgotten to produce effective teaching is part of Jonathan Alexander’s “A‘Sisterly Camaraderie’ and Other Queer Friendships: A Gay Teacher Inter-acting with Straight Students.” Writing around and through his students’ cor-respondence with him about who he was to them before and after he disclosedhis sexuality, Alexander affirms “that there are multiple pedagogical advan-tages to ‘coming out’ in the classroom. . . . [I]n marking our sexual orientation,we encourage straight students (and faculty) to mark their sexual orientationsand become aware of the ways in which sexuality is labeled, codified, andpoliticized in our society. At the simplest level, we postulate that, if the unex-amined life is not worth living, then the unexamined heterosexual life, withlatent homophobic attitudes left intact, could be lethal—as it has been, forinstance, for Matthew Shepard and many other gays and lesbians.” Whatcomplicates the value of disclosure, Alexander asserts, is the reality that “[his]embodiment and authority as a teacher more often than not depend on [his]students’ actively suppressing ‘knowledge’ of [his] sexuality.”
Amy Spangler Gerald writes about similar dilemmas in “Teaching Preg-
nant: A Case for Holistic Pedagogy,” one of several chapters taking up per-haps the most common changed-body experience that occurs in the collegeclassroom setting and thus deserves serious attention. Gerald here reflects ona composition class in which she assiduously kept her visible pregnancy out ofthe discussion, thinking that keeping her body out of the conversation wouldbe an important professionalizing gesture. In fact, although it may have con-ferred more professional authority, keeping silent about pregnancy seems tohave taken away another kind of teaching credit in the realm of the intimacyand nurturing that students expect disproportionately of women teachers.
Kimberly Wallace-Sanders also writes, in “A Vessel of Possibilities:
Teaching through the Expectant Body,” of the complications and undermin-ing of authority that may arise when a teacher, because visibly pregnant, isinevitably seen by her students as both sexual and maternal, doubled (becauserevealed as “more than a whole body”) and “fragmented” (“the emphasizedabdomen obscures the rest of the body”). But even though pregnancy maythus compound what “faculty of color, and female faculty of color in particu-lar,” like herself, already experience—an acute awareness of their bodies in theclassroom—it is also, for this teacher of women’s studies and African Ameri-can material culture, a “vessel of pedagogical possibilities.”
In her own chapter on teaching pregnant, “At Home at Work: Confining
and Defining Pregnancy in the Academy,” literary scholar Allison Giffenaddresses the institutional “confinement” of the pregnant professor. She pro-poses that although she may have found something liberatory (and salutaryeducationally) occurring in the classroom, we need to ask to what extent “babytalk” might “further codif[y] the legitimizing centrality of heterosexualitywithin the classroom and the university, and consequently exclud[e] queer
DIANE P. FREEDMAN AND MARTHA STODDARD HOLMES
identities, or even those men and women for whom having children was eithernot an option or not a desirable option.”
The conversation about the pedagogical and political value of coming
out, “making visible an identity that has been largely invisible, discredited, oractively ignored in the academy,” has engaged the academy for several yearsnow. As Brenda Jo Brueggemann and Debra A. Moddelmog discuss in “Com-ing Out Pedagogy: Risking Identity in Language and Literature Classrooms,”when teachers claim “historically abject” identities (e.g., disabled person,queer), “knowledge, discourse, affirmation, recognition, and a political con-text” are produced in the interlinked realms of scholarship and the classroom.
Brueggemann and Moddelmog’s chapter powerfully interweaves two narra-tives of coming out (or, in the frame of Pamela Caughie, changing what they“pass” as) in the classroom, deepening and complicating what it means to passas able bodied/heterosexual and then come out as disabled/homosexual. Asthe two authors, who teach together, illustrate with examples from theircourse, changing or “troubling” our performed identities in the presence of ourstudents has powerful effects on teaching, learning, and notions of the bodyand identity.
The power of disclosing truths about the body is partly contingent on the
vulnerability such disclosures produce in the classroom community. AsMichelle Cox and Katherine E. Tirabassi observe, the small size of composi-tion classes and their emphasis on first-person writing often generate studentdisclosures with their mixed harvest of pain and power, and compositionteachers often wonder how to respond. Their “Dangerous Responses,” how-ever, looks at a different dynamic, narrating and analyzing how two classes’uncritical responses to an essay on date rape produced successive levels of vul-nerability and personal and professional critique within their teachers. Feelingvulnerable can be particularly uncomfortable for us as teachers, while at thesame time it creates the potential for an intensely ethical classroom encounter,one in which personal experience is tendered with the intent of giving a voiceto silenced students. Cox and Tirabassi’s collaborative narrative and analysisunravels exactly how complicated decisions about disclosure can be and offersan alternate scenario to teacher-class disclosure.
Finally, educational theorist Madeleine R. Grumet provides an after-
Teacher’s Body,” on the dual nature of every body, the body asobject and subject. Grumet herself moves between a discussion of “theteacher’s body” and “my
teacher’s body [her own body or the body of the per-son who teaches her],” as she sums up some of the ways a teacher’s subjectiv-ity is first erased and then restored, both in this volume and in pedagogicalhistory. Grumet celebrates “a curriculum at every level of education thatacknowledges the existential realities of its teachers and students” and thecontributors here, who “make themselves present so that their students may bepresent as well,” integrated and educated.
Martha’s most memorable experience of teaching and the body came dur-
ing an NEH Summer Seminar on Disability Studies co-led by RosemarieGarland-Thomson and Paul Longmore at San Francisco State University.
The participants’ differences included gender, age, ethnicity, academic disci-pline, and a wide range of disabilities. As the leaders may have predicted, thekey text for many weeks became none of the cutting-edge essays and booksassigned but rather the dynamics with which the group—and all their differ-ences—came together in a seminar space.
As they worked with space, place, time, body, and communication, words
such as “access” and “reasonable accommodation” acquired mass, dimension,texture, and tenor in ways that they can only if people with disabilities are pre-sent, seen and/or heard, and recognized in the interaction. This process ofworking out how to be together in conversation, in their different bodies, inthat room, transformed every discussion the group had that summer.
It wasn’t always easy or comfortable. A free-flowing sentence had to be
interrupted: “Can you please use the microphone?” “You need to use themike.” “Do I have to use the mike?” “You have to use the mike.” “Can youplease identify yourself before you speak?” “Can you please move this chair?”A recurrent text was who was heard and who was not; who could come to thetable and who did not have access. The group talked about what it felt like tohave to keep asking for what you needed, even if you asked yesterday; what itfelt like to forget what someone needed; and what it felt like, finally, not toneed to ask and not to forget—to be able to converse because we had workedout, at least temporarily, these crucial (and reasonable) basics.
The group also talked about the academic conversations that took place
and would take place again outside the seminar. What did it mean to disclosedisability during a job search? If tenure committees had certain equations inmind for a body in motion toward tenure, what would it mean when a surgeryneeded to happen within that time? Would disability and pregnancy be viewedas parallel delays to the tenure clock, and did you have to pick one? How coulddisabled students have better access to our disability studies classes?
These conversations had more of an impact on the process of communi-
cation and collegiality—on scenes of teaching—than any of the content texts,convincing the group that discussions of the concept and history of difference,as important as they are, have significant limits. Visible, audible, tactile spacesof clear diversity, on the other hand, have remarkable power that doesn’t oftenget realized. We all need to learn more about the real dimensions of access andabout the many modes in which we invite or exclude conversation if we wantto make our classrooms places where difference is really welcome.
Every teacher, even the distance-learning teacher, has a body (virtual or
imagined though it may be) and needs to negotiate its place in the classroom,possibly transforming what cannot be made invisible into a sign of authorityor, if she is particularly courageous, an acknowledged element of the learning
DIANE P. FREEDMAN AND MARTHA STODDARD HOLMES
process, as many of the writers in this collection have done. The body isalready in the classroom, but how to acknowledge this and work with it is thequestion many of these writers explore. The focus is explicitly on the teacher’sbody and on a wide range of experiences of embodiment and pedagogy: whatit’s like to suddenly be a marked body, how that experience changes over time,how we engage those changes in powerful and productive and curious ways,how we change the meanings of our bodies and our students’ bodies in the realtime of the classroom and in the spaces of writing that attach to it.
One of the things this collection explores implicitly is this profession’s
interesting geography, the spaces in which our bodies exist and profess. AsSimone James Alexander points out, the real time of the classroom is only onesuch space; for her, as for several of the other writers in this collection, the spaceof the essay is a place in which what happened there is unpacked and workedout, eventually to return to a new teaching space. Our students, similarly, workthrough the classroom time in their assignments, e-mails, office-hour visits,course evaluations, and nowadays in Internet discussion lists as well. Our bod-ies are diffused across many such sites of expression and interaction. But whatmany of these chapters remind us of is the power of presence and particularlythe power of diversity in that presence: the difference that having a class inwhich the teacher and most of the students have visible or otherwise articu-lated and explored differences can make to our scenes of learning.
Brueggemann, Brenda Jo, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, and Sharon Snyder, eds. Dis-
ability Studies: Enabling the Humanities
. New York: MLA, 2002.
Dews, C. L., Barney and Carolyn Leste Law, eds. This Fine Place So Far from Home:
Voices of Academics from the Working Class.
Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1995.
Felman, Jyl Lynn. Never a Dull Moment: Teaching and the Art of Performance
. New York:
Fries, Kenny, ed. Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out
. New York:
Gallop, Jane, ed. Pedagogy: The Question of Impersonation
. Bloomington: U of Indiana
Griffin, Gail. Calling: Essays on Teaching in the Mother Tongue
. Pasadena: Trilogy, 1992.
Leonardo, Micaela di. Rev. of Our Monica, Ourselves,
ed. Lauren Berlant. Women’s
Review of Books
18.12 (Sept. 2001): 8–9.
Mayberry, Katherine, ed. Teaching What You’re Not
. New York: New York UP, 1996.
Veeser, H. Aram. Introduction: “The Case for Confessional Criticism.” Confessions of
. New York: Routledge, 1996. ix–xxvii.
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