Kathryn Conner Bennett, Boston College
Kathryn Bennett is a first-year MA student in the English Department at Boston College. Prior to graduate school, Kathryn worked on Capitol Hill for two years. Her research interests include late eighteenth and nineteenth American literature, feminist theory, contemporary film, and American politics. Her work has appeared in The Journal of Popular Film and Television.
Theorizing a Pedagogy of Public Writing for College Composition
In his book Moving Beyond Academic Discourse, composition theorist Christian Weisser argues that the public writing assignments traditionally given in composition courses, such as letters to the editor, inevitably disappoint: "such assignments have little effect on the world... [students)]get little subsequent response... [and so] surmise that the public sphere is a realm where nothing actually gets accomplished - at least not by them" (94). My presentation will examine how a public writing assignment could succeed. I will first examine the work of public sphere theorists such as Jurgen Habermas, Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, and Michael Warner. I will then apply this theory to specific pedagogical techniques. My aim is to help composition instructors better understand what the public sphere is, how writing can effect it, and what assignments will enable students to become effective public writers.