I’m currently writing a final paper for a course titled, “Applications to Literary Theory.” I’m writing on Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Volume I as it is implemented by Jonathan Alexander in his newly published Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy: Theory and Practice for Composition Students (2008). Mid-sentence, I stop, searching for a word… freedom, release, openess… None of these words work in context. And as I run through the possiblities, I see an image that represents exactly what I want to say…
It sounds silly, but here’s what I see: Small white birds flying quickly out of a bright red box into a shining yellow and blue sky (like the one I see right now from the huge windows in Starbucks). And I laugh to myself for a moment because I know I can’t use this language to describe Foucault’s depiction of the human relationship with sexuality before the Victorian age. I know that I must find a word; one like “freedom” (but of course not “freedom”!); one that fits with the academic discourse I have already begun to create.
That’s when I realize how limited I am. I want to write that their sexuality was like white birds flying out of a stifling box (an image which kind of fits Foucault’s purposefully exaggerated view of “non-repressed” sexual life (as if that could exist!)) and I can’t!
How can I lead students to think of discourse in this way? How can I lead them to the discovery that we shape our language to the discourse we write within?