Writing Students

Composition Testimonials and Representations of Students

By Marguerite H. Helmers

Subjects: Education
Series: SUNY series, Literacy, Culture, and Learning: Theory and Practice
Paperback : 9780791421642, 171 pages, November 1994
Hardcover : 9780791421635, 171 pages, December 1994

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Table of contents

Preface by Charles I. Schuster


1. Another Brick in the Wall


A Brief History of Representations
A History of Testimonials


2. Can't Get No Satisfaction


The Tone of Testimonials
The Historical Context
The End Result


3. In Her Eyes You See Nothing


The Concept of Deviance
The Metaphor of Illness
The Introduction of the Beginner


4. Unforgettable


A Desire to Go Native
The Creation of Orientalized Students
The Construction of the Beast
A Laugh at the Natives


5. Angels in the Architecture


The Changing Fortunes of Testimonials
The Uses of Power in Discourse
Theory, Practice, and Teacher-Research
The Feminization of Discourse
A Woman Writing
The Rhetoric of Recovery
A Topoi for a Topoi






This is a book about the usual teacher-student relationship in composition courses. It disrupts and rewrites the commonplace conception of the relationship by revealing the uneven ways in which power is deployed in and around the classroom. And it offers a responsible alternative. The author not only offers teachers a way of learning about power relations at their own specific sites, but also works towards a more equitable redistribution.

Drawing from testimonials about teaching practice published in the journal College Composition and Communication, Helmers explores conventions in this form of writing that portray students in a negative light and show the teacher to be powerfully triumphant in his or her creative pedagogy. Several prevalent modes of representation are discussed in the book, all of which define the students as distinctly different from the teachers, in other words, as an other.

The texture of the work is rich because Helmers takes an enormous amount of post-structuralist theory and recasts it in the sphere of the teacher-student relationship, itself an underexplored realm.

Marguerite H. Helmers is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.