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ERIC Number: ED355530
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Mar
Pages: 19
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
How Conscious Are Our Literature Students of Gender Issues?
Williams, Barbara M.
Activities related to women's issues are many and varied at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, but it is doubtful how much of this sensitivity trickles down into actual literature courses. Efforts at moving students away from passive reading and into a more critical stance that would promote active engagement with texts must be encouraged by English teachers. One method of fostering such a critical stance involves asking students to read "as women," whatever their gender. But underlying this approach should be a concern with the kinds of ideas about gender that readers bring with them to the classroom. An informal study was developed that investigated what uninstructed students know about feminism. First, the dominant trends in recent feminist criticism were identified. Next, the journal entries of students not instructed in feminist theory were studied to see if their responses to texts corresponded in any way with feminist criticism. Results indicated that what students comprehend most about the feminine perspective falls roughly into three categories: "biological"; "experience"; and "socio-political." Least understood are issues of "discourse" and "the unconscious." Students tended to choose active verbs when referring to men and passive for women. In short, while students may have rudimentary awareness of feminist issues, they are not conscious of how controlled they are by their own attitudes. Teachers need to clarify gender issues in literature instruction and encourage students to analyze their own language in terms of gender. (An appendix includes samples of student responses, arranged in tables describing the major viewpoints of current feminist criticism.) (HB)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A