Monday 12 November 2012

Self-Censorship and Writing in and out of the Classroom

Yesterday at the annual NAWE conference (the National Association for Writers in Education, UK), I spoke on a panel with Bath Spa colleague Steve May and Columbia College Chicago comrades Randy Albers and Alexis Pride. Titled "Revelation and Transgression: Moving Past Self-Censorship," we spoke both about our own experiences overcoming self-censorship and about trying to get students to overcome it in their own writing. 

I think students feel or obtain such permission largely by example, by the reading they're assigned or recommended and by the instructor's own work. For example, Alexis spoke movingly about how the literary weight given in the classroom to Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye made African-American experience seem welcome subject matter; and after sharing some of the poems that have arisen from my own experience as a birthmother (as in my pamphlet/chapbook The Son), I've had students seek me out to discuss writing and sharing their own work on subjects they consider taboo. The same thing has happened with my experimental poetry--sometimes once a student finds it on her own or comes to a reading I give from it, she'll come to me to find out about experimental writing more generally and how to get started writing it.

The topic lingers in my mind as I consider how I might improve my teaching by broadening such models, perhaps especially in my Sudden Prose module with a wider array of flash fictions and prose poems. Your thoughts and recommendations are most welcome!

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