Teaching Women's Studies courses has affected my ability to make the usual distinctions between my status as a woman in the profession, the discourses shaping my life in the college classroom, and the students and colleagues I encounter. Somehow all of these -- work, language, people -- are interlayered, intertwined, webbed. In response to the "theory -- practice" issues I heard in at NCTE in Louisville (1992) -- should every paper be comprehensible to every potential WILLA member? -- what will we do to help students? -- I find resonance in the ongoing moves to create feminist theory outlined in Allison Jagger's and Paula Rothenburg's Feminist Frameworks, third edition (New York: McGraw Hill, 1993). Subtitled "Alternative Theoretical Accounts of the Relations between Women and Men," this staple of advanced courses suggests the rapid change and dialogue among feminists.
Voicing the discomfort of some feminists with postmodern work written in ways that seem to obscure the daily struggles of women, Jagger and Rothenburg acknowledge that "theory itself has now become problematized" even though the task of understanding women's history and condition demands the generalizing processes of theory. Drawing on the work of women of color as central to understanding culture and tracing the ways feminism has become a world-wide struggle, the book gives the necessary range of voices without becoming incoherent. With WILLA on my mind as I read, I find Marilyn Frye's word inspiring. She says feminists are "pattern perceivers" who depend on communication among "the greatest possible range of perceivers, of theorizers" (110). We are writing The World, According to Women, and anthology unified only by "successively overlapping threads held together by friction, not riveted by logic" (111).
Reading Jagger and Rothenburg makes me optimistic about WILLA even when I recognize the built-in frictions inherent in the task of perceiving patterns, misperceiving patterns, and wanting to change patterns. No wonder WILLA flexes professional muscles even as its members tell different stories, undertake different projects, move in many garbs. Our commonality is our function as professionals and lives as part of the incredibly diverse group perceiving pat terns we are learning to name and (hope to) alter.
I used this space to draw on Women's Studies as a resource for WILLA. This new journal and new assembly will be a resource for Women's Studies as English and Language Arts professionals form epistemic community as feminists. We already recognize that the study of literature helped to bring the women's movement into the academy. I believe that teachers' resistance to totalizing theories will bring powerful resources into the women's movement as well.
Copyright 1993, The Women in Literature and Life Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (ISSN #1065-9080). Permission is given to copy any article provided credit is given and the copies are not intended for resale.
Reference Citation: Huse, Nancy. (1993). Column as college editor. WILLA, Volume II, 4.