Claiming authority: A case study of two female and two male Basic Writers.
AuthorMangelsdorf, Katherine Ward.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractRecent scholarship in Basic Writing has focused on the tensions created when marginalized students encounter the codes and ritual of higher education (Bartholomae & Petrosky, 1986; Bizzell, 1987). However, little concern has been paid to the role that gender plays in students' accommodation processes, including the nature of the texts they create and of the roles they resist or assume. This observational, exploratory study examines the significance of gender in the responses of two female and two male Mexican-American Basic Writers enrolled in their first college writing class at the University of Arizona in the summer of 1988. In this study I use a phenomenological method of inquiry (Emig, 1981) in examining the students' responses to this course. My analysis takes into account my perspective and the perspectives of the students and their tutor. Additionally, I examine two outside readers' responses to students' essays written immediately before and after the course. I also study global features of these texts using Coe's (1988) discourse matrix. Other data include all the writing the students completed in the course, think-aloud protocols, and extensive interviews with the students and their tutor. In general, the men accommodated themselves more readily than the women to producing the traditional type of expository and argumentive writing taught in the course. They perceived their audience as evaluative and skeptical, and preferred to write impersonal, decontextualized essays. In contrast, the women viewed their audience as receptive and sympathetic, and wrote essays that dealt with their personal contexts and that tended to be narrative and associational. Because only four students were involved in this study, I cannot apply these findings to Basic Writers in general. However, these differences between the men and women in terms of their conceptions of their audience and the types of texts they produced support theories of women's epistemological development (Gilligan, 1982; Belenky et al., 1986). Furthermore, this study highlights the need to validate women's modes of communication and ways of knowing in our classrooms and research.