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                            University of South Florida
Scholar Commons
Changing the subject: First-person narration in and out of the classroom
	Susan Friedman
		Scholar Commons Citation
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University of South Florida
Scholar Commons

Graduate Theses and Dissertations Graduate School


Changing the subject: First-person narration in and
out of the classroom
Susan Friedman
University of South Florida

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Changing the Subject: First-Person Narration In and Out of the Classroom


Susan Friedman

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy
Department of English

College of Arts and Sciences
University of South Florida

Co-Major Professor: Elizabeth Hirsh, Ph.D.
Co-Major Professor: Debra Jacobs, Ph.D.

Joseph Moxley, Ph.D.
Joyce Karpay, Ph.D.

Date of Approval:
March 30, 2007

Keywords: Pedagogy, Personal Essay, Life-Writing, Trauma, Empathy

© Copyright 2007, Susan Friedman

Page 101


I have found through my own teaching experience that incorporating

autobiographical texts and self-writing into my pedagogical practices can foster a

classroom environment that pays attention to subjectivity to promote mindful, ethical

behavior in both teacher and student, and teach empathy for the other. To argue for this

type of pedagogical approach, this chapter presents theories from progressive, feminist

and psychoanalytical pedagogies that I believe fall under the auspices of what bell hooks

terms “engaged pedagogy”— a philosophy of teaching that greatly influences my

classroom practices. In addition, I will review critical positions concerning the place of

the personal essay in the college classroom and how college writers and their teachers

navigate through the public and private space of essay writing. After illustrating how

employing personal writing in the college classroom promotes self-study in both teacher

and student, I will present research to show why and how self-reflective personal writing

improves the well-being of the writing subject, and how self-writing taps into a student’s

multiple intelligences, possibly facilitating the writing process for some learners. Lastly,

drawing on my previous arguments on the effects of scriptotherapy and autopathography

on the reading and writing subject, I will argue that first-person narratives should be

employed in the college classroom because they are valuable resources for teaching


Engaged Pedagogy: Progressive, Feminist and Psychoanalytic Approaches

Paulo Freire’s well known model for liberation pedagogy promotes a system in

which teachers and students are co-subjects in revealing and re-creating “knowledge of

reality” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed 56). Central to Freire’s theory is the practice of

conscientization, or coming to a consciousness of oppression and the commitment to end

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that oppression, in which “the oppressed” become fully committed in their struggle for

Freire’s educational reform centers on eliminating what he calls the

“banking” system of education, an elitist practice in which the teacher deposits

information in the student vault (58). Under this oppressive pedagogical system, the

teacher teaches and the students listen; the teacher disciplines and the students are

disciplined; the teacher is the subject of the learning process and the students are “mere

objects” (59). Hence, the student is treated as a “marginal being” to be integrated into the

larger, “healthy society” (61). To transform banking pedagogy into a liberatory system,

Freire proposes open communication between teacher and students, thereby creating a

parallel classroom relationship and modified power relations between “teacher-student”

and “students-teacher”
(67). In addition, Freire offers a system of “problem-posing”

heuristics that foster open teacher-student/students-teacher discussions and develop

critical thinking skills (118). In Freire’s system, the classroom is a learning space where

both the teacher and her students are in the process of transformation and self-betterment,

where “in the context of true learning, the learners will be engaged in a continuous

transformation through which they become authentic subjects of the construction and

reconstruction of what is being taught, side by side with the teacher, who is equally

subject to the same process” (Pedagogy of Freedom 33).

Freire was initially addressing the student movement in his native country of Brazil. During the student
revolution of the late 1960s, the term “the oppressed” was synonymous with the youth who were
demanding a transformation of the university system. In Freire’s ideology, rebellion against bureaucracy
leads to a transformation of reality out of which universities are revolutionized (Pedagogy of the
Oppressed, fn 27).
Freire believes that once the “vertical patterns characteristic of banking education” are broken, “through
dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges:
teacher-student with students-teacher” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed 67).

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Appendix E (Continued)

Thank you for your participation. Please indicate if you would like to be cited in my
study and if I may use your name. If you are using a pseudonym, please use that name
when responding to this survey.

Page 203

About the Author

Susan Friedman received her bachelor’s degree in English from The University of

Miami in 1984. In 1985, she received “The First Degree in Fluency” in French from the

Université de Dijon, France. In 1996, Susan received her master’s degree in English

from Barry University, in Miami, Florida. While at The University of South Florida,

Susan earned Graduate Certificates in Women’s Studies; Creative Writing; and Teaching

Composition. Susan has received several awards including: the Prentice-Hall Award for

Outstanding Teaching; the James Parrish Fellowship; the Dorothy Newman Linton

Award; and, in two successive years, The Provost’s Commendation for Outstanding

Teaching by a Graduate Student. Susan has lived in France and traveled extensively

throughout Europe. A certified fitness instructor and fitness professional, Susan is also an

ardent yoga practitioner and instructor. Currently, she is studying to become a Certified

Iyengar Yoga instructor.

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