An Embodied Pedagogy

This week, I read an article on a professor who had his students write a story about a person of the opposite gender.  First, I would like to gently criticize (it may not be gentle, I just wanted to say that because I don’t think I’ve ever said that before) the article.  The article maintains the gender binary.  Men were asked to write a story about a woman, women were asked to write a story about a man.  No students were asked to write a story about an agender, non-binary or fluid-gender person.

He claims several times to say that transgender people interrupt the binary, but in practice, he doesn’t really look at transgender issues.  He does look at gender explicitly with the assignment, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with transgender.  He has the students read a book by a Califa-Rice as a different part of the class.  But, on the whole, I don’t quite understand what this article has to do with transgender rhetorics.

The part of the article that I found interesting is the idea of embodied rhetoric.  It could be that that is what he means by transgender rhetoric, but still, embodied rhetoric is a field to its own.  A field that can and is used by many different rights groups.

Then, I read the criticism of Stanley Fish’s book Save the World on Your Own Time.  Fish says that academics should only teach their disciplines and stop trying to teach (read: force) political views in the classroom.  Bizzell criticizes this because of the fact that rhetoric, by its very nature, looks at things that are inherently political.  This article also has to do a lot with pedagogy.

So, I kind of want to begin to work out an idea for embodied pedagogy because I am very curious about how that works.  Several years ago, I went to Computers and Writing (Gosh, I am now realizing how much amazing stuff I learned from that conference.  I STRONGLY recommend people go there because it is a fantastic opportunity, but anyways, back to what I was saying.) and I attended a presentation that gave as close as I can think of an embodied pedagogy.

This person used their body as a way to engage students.  So, one of the things that most stood out to me was they laid on the desk in front with instructions of what to do.  The class began a discussion on how awkward and concerning it was to have a discussion while the teacher was laying there like a dead body.  Basically, how does our environment affect what and how we go about doing something.

Another thing that they did once was had them put on face makeup that apparently makes it impossible for face recognition software to work.  They used this to help the students understand that by simply applying makeup, you can trick computers into not recognizing who you are.  They then went into a discussion on how different clothing and different things that we do to our body can change who we are or how we act.

So, I think that would be what an embodied pedagogy would look like.  Now, I am not completely comfortable, nor do I think I would be allowed to, just lay on my desk in the front of the room.

Another possible way to do it would be to give students a stump of a crayon and asking them to write for five minutes about a particular topic, and then ask them to use a nice fountain pen and ask them to write for another five minutes about the same topic.  Ask them to reflect on which was easier, did their writing change from the stub of a crayon to the fountain pen?  Was their writing more elegant when they used a fountain pen vs. the stub?

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One thought on “An Embodied Pedagogy

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  1. Your first point is my first observation as well, that he rejects the binary at first, but then reestablishes it with the assignment. What difference do you think the 11 years since it was published have made? These are really great ideas you bring up–totally fascinating. We should talk more about C&W in class.

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