In this next segment of the article entitled Critical Literacy for Whom? Margaret Hagood, the manuscript’s author puts concepts of critical literacy and identity “in action” (Pages 253-254), outlines the relationships between critical literacy and subjectivity “construction” (Pages 254-258) and then puts concepts of critical literacy and subjectivity “in action” (258-259). What holds this conceptual explosion together is the story of Timony, the young man at the center of a case study she’s been weaving through the article so far.
Timony’s important because “The texts Timony used and his recurring time spent in In-School Suspension continuously produced an identify for Timony as a bad student” (p. 253). But she illustrates the ways Timony’s text use and ways of spending time are produced in social, historical, political context – in this case, amidst the Columbine shootings, episodes of violence at Timony’s middle school that yielded a zero tolerance policy. These events surrounded an exchange between Timony and a fellow student, Alex about a guitar pick in Alex’s mouth. A teacher had asked what was in his mouth, he’d joked it was a weapon, they’d shouted Careful! Careful! and everything spiraled out of control to the point that Timony ended up in In School Suspension.
This is all important because what we learn is that Timony is unaware that t-shirts he wears and time spent in ISS have produced him as a “bad student.” Instruction in critical literacy, that takes identity production into account, supports students unpacking the ways film, media, written and spoken language make particular ways of being (identities) taken for granted, assumed. Bowling for Columbine, the Columbine shootings, school violence and district zero tolerance policies did just that for the guitar incident between Timony and Alex.
In the next, lengthier section about subjectivity construction, I had to do some charting. Timony wasn’t around, so I needed to draw some of my own “images” or “maps” to keep my understanding straight. What I came up with was sort of an outline:
1. Texts have no inherent meaning
2. Power works through texts and readers (identity – in text) and (subjectivity – in reader)
3. Subjectivity moves the emphasis from multiple identities produced in texts to readers as subjects and the ways they construct themselves.
“The meanings attributed to texts are what readers make of them within various contexts” (p. 255).
“Subjectivity highlights the tensions of betweenness not as one identity or another or as multiple identities, but in the transitional state of transforming” (p. 257).
To illustrate these ideas, Hagood tells how Timony parodied the guitar pick as a weapon to reference an event that took place beyond the school when a student was suspended for bringing a big tweety bird key chain to school that the school decided was a “weapon.” As he discussed his take on the guitar pick incident, he explains that teachers imbue different materials with violent connotations, like rubber bands, paper clips, in this case a guitar pick. He points to a “wacko” student who joked about killing, but also explains that he is not wacko, so…Here he actively constructs himself outside of the identity of bad student and as one who can joke about violence without being a threat. Timony doesn’t seem himself as dangerous as teachers do. He doesn’t see the identity placed upon him as one he’s taking up.
For the sake of not taking up too much more space, I’ll include 258-end in the final post.