Re: F's incitement to confess

On Sun, 22 Oct 1995, dell bleekman wrote:

> I am interested in looking at Foucault's writings on 'confession' and
> 'incitement to confess' in regards to what transpires in many college
> composition classrooms.

In addition to the work on confession in _The History of Sexuality_, F's
notion of confession is tied up in panopticism and surveillance as they
appear in _Discipline and Punish_. One of the ways we regulate those
"beneath" us is through placing them in a position to confess their failings.

A good reference for some of the ways that composition is working with
some of Foucault's ideas, including its resistance, is in Lester Faigley's
_Fragments of Rationality_. While most of his argument focuses on the
disharmony and resistance between composition and postmodernism (centered
on the primary problem of agency in pm theory), he does point out, at
length, that the postmodern subject is to a great extent at odds with the
ideal/model subject in the composition classroom. This would be
composition's counter to "What Is an Author?" (In fact, I think that comp
largely rejects that pm subject because it's hard to fragment yourself as
a writer until you learn to pull yourself together. Intro comp,
particularly, is in the business of pulling people together.)

As far as the confessional is concerned, composition is accused of asking
for confession largely in expressivist writing. Faigley, in his chapter on
writing assessment, points out how the confessional functions more
broadly in our calls for students to use an "authentic" voice, to be
"honest," and for them to use "personal experience" as support. Faigley
specfically points out how such "truth-telling" is confessional and how
the relations of power are regularly unacknowledged in such directions
for students.

I think in general, comp folks are not really "applying" Foucault as
specific classroom practice(s), but rather using Foucault's methods and
concepts to analyze specific practices and relations in the academy. For
example, I am interested in the ways that large-scale writing assessment
disciplines not only students, but also composition studies itself. I
will look, however, for the Stygall article. I've been buried in prelims
until recently and am just now coming up for air.

Patricia LaCoste
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Partial thread listing: