Lee Rumbarger

Commentary on "The Homefront"

Date: Fri Jul 11 2003 11:24 am

A claim ... and a course

I make a claim in my dissertation prospectus that‹through this summer "From Dissertation to Profession: Teaching by Design" course‹has changed from something provisional, speculative, even casual, to a specific challenge that I plan to meet with my students' help.

I claim that my readings of women modernists' "domestic" representations of war --homefront writings --"reconnect literary modernism with everyday life, life writing and a re-enlivened canon that serves as participatory community record." Simply, I say homefront texts by Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, are relevant, lively documents that both bring war home for readers and exemplify the many voices that speak an inclusive history.

"Relevant" today. "Lively" texts. Models of unique voice, of expressing of one's own experience and perspective, of one's unique voice, experience and perspective proving valuable as a type of civic participation and a historical record . . . My claim began to seem like one that could put to compelling test in an undergraduate rhetoric and composition class.

Thus, I've spent the past weeks developing "Critical Reading and Persuasive Writing: The Homefront," a lower-division rhetoric and composition course that reads some short modernist texts alongside "official" narratives of their day --and alongside official and homefront narratives of today.

I've worked to create a course that offers lessons in identifying and understanding rhetorical strategy. But beyond that, my course engages particularly extraordinary events happening in the past and right now to help my students find their voice in them.

Course website, with the model Homefront House, at http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~rumbarger/homefront/