Index Editorial Staff Submissions Resources Archives  

Composition Studies, Heteronormativity, and Popular Culture

Thomas Peele
Boise State University

Introduction | Cultural Studies | Friends One | Friends Two | Will and Grace | Conclusion | Works Cited


In this article, I argue that the field of composition studies is heteronormative. That is, as Michael Warner writes in another context, it thinks of heterosexuality as “the elemental form of human association, as the very model of intergender relations, as the indivisible basis of all community” (xxi). As a result of its heteronormative practices, composition studies not only underserves lesbian and gay students but also perpetuates the hegemonic marginalization of those students. Furthermore, in the absence of significant productions or examinations of discursive resistance to hegemonic constructions of lesbian and gay subjectivity, all students lose the opportunity to think of sexuality as discursively produced rather than as a natural or normal category of difference. In order to resist hegemonic constructions of subjectivity, particular sites of inquiry in composition—for example, feminisms, multicultural studies, postcolonial studies, masculinity studies, critical race theory, and others—function in part as sites of discursive resistance. These areas of inquiry, working from the premise that subjectivity is more or less produced discursively, undermine hegemonic views of their subjects by initiating discourses of resistance. Because composition studies is heteronormative, however, it has with few exceptions thus far failed to produce a discourse that effectively resists hegemonic views of lesbian and gay subjects, even though lesbian and gay subjects are to found in almost every conceivable category of difference.

My aim in this work is to continue a conversation that takes the discursive production of lesbian and gay subjectivity as its focus and to generate antiheteronormative inquiries in the field of composition. Such analysis is necessary because of the extent to which lgbtq subjectivity is underrepresented in composition, an underrepresentation that is reflected in the media and in popular culture.