Original Research

Producing subjectivities, taking risks: New directions for teaching women?s poetry in South Africa

P.D. Ryan
Literator | Vol 23, No 3 | a346 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v23i3.346 | © 2002 P.D. Ryan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 August 2002 | Published: 06 August 2002

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P.D. Ryan, Department of English, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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This paper is based on five years experience of teaching an innovative poetry course at third-year level at a distance education institution. Conceived at a time when universities across the country were in the throes of academic and institutional transformation, the course departed radically from the so-called knowledge-as-accumulated-capital ethos and pointed toward assumptions initiated by Paulo Freire that knowledge can meaningfully emerge from the interaction of students from different backgrounds and asymmetrical social positions, especially when such knowledge is situated within a context which allows for creativity, self-reflexivity and critique. Most significantly, this course made available for students a forum for expressing subjectivity without the accompanying anxiety that they would be penalised for doing so. Questions are raised as to the value of presumed “objectivity” as a criterion for academic discourse, and theoretical considerations concerning the privileging of certain epistemologically suspect procedures are aired. Finally, I describe my particular contribution to the course as teacher of gender theory and show how students react to new, even revolutionary, ideas about the intersections of race and gender in relation to reading and writing about poetry.


Course Design; Distance Education; Feminist Pedagogy; Teaching Poetry; Teaching Women’s Poetry


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