Counterbalance: Gendered Perspectives on Writing and Language
Broadview Press, Apr 15, 1997 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 382 pages
Like other composition readers, Counterbalance has as its primary purpose to improve thinking, reading and writing skills, recognizing throughout the degree to which these are inextricably interlinked. Where Counterbalance differs from almost all other composition readers is in the prominence it gives to writing by women. More and more of the writers in modern Western society are women and women now comprise a substantial majority of the students in many undergraduate courses. Yet most texts are eighty per cent or more comprised of writing by men. As its title suggests, this book acts as a counterbalance; over three-quarters of the essays are by women.
The feminist stance of Counterbalance is unequivocal; an important aim of this text is to encourage students to question assumptions about gender. But for those to whom the word ‘feminist’ engenders immediate unease, it should be emphasised that the stance of the text is provocative and open-minded rather than strident or exclusionary; Audre Lorde and bell hooks are here, but so is George Orwell.
The text is also designed as a counterbalance in other respects; many of the essays here explore issues of race, culture and class. Notions of correctness and issues of free speech and responsibility are also treated. As a whole the book is thus an invigorating and enormously wide-ranging spur to thought and discussion. Yet it avoids the scatter-gun approach so common to first-year collections; Counterbalance retains throughout a focus on language—perhaps the one area that all students, no matter what their backgrounds and interests, can connect to out of their everyday experience. The book’s thesis is that we can all think more clearly and use language more effectively if we know not only something about the traditional areas of composition and grammar but also something about how language influences us. The essays selected demonstrate a variety of expository styles, organizations and methods of development. They are organized into seven chapters so as to present a coherent progression, moving from simpler essays on more familiar topics to more difficult concepts and writing assignments.
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