In the first part of this response to Nancy DeJoy's "I Was a Process Model Baby," I introduced the idea that the way discourse is often taught can and often does include essential material on race and feminism [to name two examples]. However, these subjects are often deemed as a separate entity rather than an integral part of the development of discourse and the way people, especially students, enter and read discourse. A process of revision is necessary because, when essential parts of the development of discourse are separated, they can just as easily be isolated, and sometimes they are.
A part of the solution that DeJoy proposes is to alter some of the language that we use when interacting with discourse so as to suggest capacity for and encourage contribution, to change a claim of mastery to analysis. While analysis is open-ended and allows conversations to continue, a claim of mastery can be equated with the claim of a limit that we do not yet know exists. Analysis can sound like a very basic term, but it's very difficult to accomplish an analysis without consistently practicing close reading. However, an emphasis on analysis in education can assist in challenging what we think of as dominant discourse today and can encourage more significant change and progress in old and new discourse over time.
That can lead us to another term that writers often learn at a very young age, audience. Students might be asked to draw conclusions as to who an audience of a piece should be. They might choose specific factors related to age, gender, race, socioeconomic background, specific habits, and be asked to produce specific prose that appeals directly to [not these factors specifically, but] assumptions that we make about people who associate themselves with an identity. When we do this, even unintentionally, we reproduce assumptions made about people based on their conceptions of self rather than engage with where these assumptions came from and the consequences of creating those associations. DeJoy calls this process of reproduction of stereotype "identification of/identification with."
There is a split that exists between "identification of" an audience and "identification with" an audience. More simply, this dictates that an identifying factor about a person does not mean that they will meet commonly set expectations. As an example, if we meet one person who is thirty, have we then met every person who is thirty?
To resolve identification of/identification with, or to at least bring awareness to the effect of it, one of DeJoy's suggestions is to use Gloria Steinam's strategy of reversal. Click here to read her essay, "If Men Could Menstruate." It involves taking what we might assume about one form of identity and attempting to assign that expectation to someone who identifies differently and wouldn't usually be subject to those expectations.
A quick disclaimer as there are men who do menstruate: Steinam's essay does not reflect my views on gender and the act of menstruation. This is not the platform on which I will discuss that type of material unless analysis of a piece of writing necessitates it, but if you are someone who does notice implications like that which I have pointed out, you are not alone in that.
What DeJoy points out about texts within the feminist discourse such as this is that they are often very overt about the process that they are using and construct their ideas such that they can be applied to other forms of writing. Exchanging subject for object and using this method to analyze and even challenge expectations associated with identity can be a helpful exercise in reframing our conception of audience. However, even within Steinam's process of reversal, there are steps that might not be useful or need to be put in a different place. This shows that it is not our duty to adhere to discourse, it should be our duty to communicate with it, question it, analyze it, and hopefully continue it. The relationship between self and other, between the writer and those who are reading is better fostered when the writer can produce prose without making absolute assumptions about those reading.
Another strategy that DeJoy suggests is transposition. More specifically, we take a subject and we move it across what people might consider disciplinary, cultural, or historical boundaries. A way to begin is to first consider that ideas and objects did exist before there were names for them. Having those names allows people to create identities, make associations, and set expectations. If we take that name, that descriptor, and apply it to other settings, it's possible to read that setting in a different way, allows us to search for new associations. This can be easily practiced using abstract concepts. The example that DeJoy chooses is The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. While the abstract concept of beauty often refers to the appearance of a thing, she takes that concept and crosses it over to different disciplines, even economics.
Each of the strategies presented are tools to aid in different types of analysis and further interact with discourse. To assist in specifically the questioning of and interaction with discourse, DeJoy brings in these six questions:
What is invention?
What is being invented?
What is arrangement?
What is being arranged?
What is revision?
What is being revised?
It is just as important to answer the odd-numbered questions for each rhetorical situation as it is to answer the even-numbered questions. Every writer will define those terms differently, but even if they choose to define them within their writing, is that necessarily how they are employing those terms in their work? I will add some additional questions.
What is intent?
What are the intentions?
What is identity?
What is being identified?
What is conversation?
What is the nature of conversation?
What are the goals of conversation?
DeJoy's work is, I find, extremely useful as it encourages reflection and challenges the way analysis is currently performed. She emphasizes potential in new ways of interacting with discourse without dismissing methods that have been useful. On the contrary, revision matters. Revision is not a matter of erasing the framework by which people learn and understand discourse. Revision means that this framework has greater potential and can be continuously adapted such that essential discourse can be integrated seamlessly rather than isolated or othered.
A Purposeful Exercise
Click here to read "Is/Not" by Margaret Atwood.
Analyze Atwood's pattern and the type of language that she uses to describe each concept.
Attempt reversal. Change a key word such as "anger" and notice how that impacts the stanza. Why do you believe the initial word was used? What influenced the change you made?
Find a way to assign an abstract concept to this poem such as "freedom" or "morality." Then, choose another poem and assign the same concept to that. How would you compare your readings of this poem and the poem you chose?
After going through some form of analysis as described, identify the author in as many ways as you can think of. Looking up a quick biography can help if you're not already familiar with Atwood. In what ways did your perception of Atwood inform your analysis of her work?
Go back through the analysis you've performed thus far. What would happen if you removed parts of your analysis that were in any way related to Atwood's identity? It is not a bad thing if some elements of identity did inform your analysis, but for these purposes, it's important to be aware of the extent to which this was done.
Finally, think through the thirteen questions added to the conclusion of this post. Would the answer to any of them help in your understanding of this poem? Consider why that is before trying to answer them yourself.
Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me and given me feedback on my posts. I hope that the strategies that I've shown will prove useful to writers, avid readers, and anyone who wants to participate in and further discourse.
If there is anything that you would like to discuss in relation to this post or the following exercise, feel free to contact me through the "chat" function on this website or the contact form. You could also become a Purposeful Prose member. All members can engage with my posts directly through "likes" and comments which helps a great deal. You can also make use of my site's forum.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you!
Atwood, M. (n.d.). Is/Not - Poem by Margaret Atwood. FamousPoetsandPoems.Org. Retrieved from http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/margaret_atwood/poems/352
DeJoy, N. C. (1999). I was a process-model baby. Post-process theory: Beyond the writing process paradigm, 163-178.
Steinem, G. (2020). If men could menstruate. The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies, 353-356.