Reinventing the Self Through Women's Writing Courses

Dr. Sarvar V. Sherry Chand,
Dr. Vijaya Sherry Chand
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Critical realist theories of identity are able to explain the formation of individuals who develop autonomy and self-regulation through cognitive and affective processes of conscious learning and living out that learning. A ‘feminist’ pedagogy questions the commonly accepted traditional nature of pedagogical authority and indicates how these goals can be achieved. The analytical understanding of such a pedagogy, directed towards student self-shaping is what humanities education should, ideally, strive for.

This paper describes an attempt at a ‘feminist’ pedagogy underpinned by a critical understanding of identity formation, through a “Women’s Writing” course, conducted annually since 2000, as part of an undergraduate program in English Literature. Each course covered 90 hours of classroom work, and was attended by about ten to 15 female and male students. Data from students who have completed the course indicate that students starting out as bookish learners with a view of themselves as helpless, emerged from the course (a) with increased self-esteem and a stake in and ability to communicate what they have learnt to significant others, (b) refusing to take “traditional values” on trust, (c) able to understand systemic impacts on human behaviour. However, the need to fit back into a social structure which has not gone through this learning process means that such a pedagogy comes at a price for the learners. They may seem to have unlearnt how to be “good little girls” and “manly men”—misfits in the social contexts in which they live. This may become a dilemma for the educator, but the student responses indicate that such pedagogy will result in individuals who prefer such an identity in spite of all the struggles involved. People prefer freedom even if it comes at a cost. Therefore, the humanities have a role to play in liberating human lives.

Keywords: Feminist Pedagogy, Critical Theory, Women's Writing
Stream: Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Experience of Learning, The

Dr. Sarvar V. Sherry Chand

Lecturer, Department of English, St. Xavier's College
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Teaches English Literature at the undergraduate level, and Critical theory and literary theory to postgraduate students. Publications are in the areas of gender studies, Elizabethan drama, social analysis, history and critical theory.

Dr. Vijaya Sherry Chand

Associate Professor, Ravi J. Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation, Indian Institute of Management
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Ref: H06P0584