Corkery – Rhetoric of Race: Critical Pedagogy Without Resistance

Corkery, Caleb. “Rhetoric of Race: Critical Pedagogy without Resistance.” Teaching English in the Two Year College 36.3 (2009): 244-57. Print.

In this article, Caleb Corkery explicates how he uses rhetorical theory and critical pedagogy in his composition classroom. Corkery uses rhetoric as a non-threatening lens and shows his students how racial arguments have been asserted and defended throughout U.S. history. The goal is to demonstrate that racial identities are in fact constructed. Through this approach, Corkery asserts that he helps to position his students along side the author and text which allows the necessary emotional distance to “properly” engage with the text. Corkery suggests that targeting white students and/ or white identity, or “subordinate students” is a set up for failure – a mutually beneficial inquiry should be the goal.

Using rhetoric provides the text to interrogate and ensures a focus on language:

Composition instructors are in a unique position to connect the inspiration for critical pedagogies to individual awareness. Applying rhetorical skills to the arguments that have historically divided races in this country forces white students to reconcile, on their own, the evolving construction of white supremacy with the “unraced” status of whites today. A critical approach that centers on rhetorical theory is also more appropriate for a writing course, as might argue Soles, Harris, and O’Dair, who warn that critical pedagogies in composition courses neglect their duty to language study (in Beech 182).

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