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Facing the Center

Toward an Identity Politics of One-to-One Mentoring

Harry C. Denny

Publication Year: 2010

In the diversity of their clients as well as their professional and student staff, writing centers present a complicated set of relationships that inevitably affect the instruction they offer. In Facing the Center, Harry Denny unpacks the identity matrices that enrich teachable moments, and he explores the pedagogical dynamics and implications of identity within the writing center. 

The face of the writing center, be it mainstream or marginal, majority or miority, orthodox or subversive, always has implications for teaching and learning. Facing the Center will extend current research in writing center theory to bring it in touch with theories now common in cultural studies curricula. Denny takes up issues of power, agency, language, and meaning, and pushes his readers to ask how they themselves, or the centers in which they work, might be perpetuating cultures that undermine inclusive, progressive education.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book would not have been possible without the generous funding from St. John’s University’s summer research grant program that I received for Summer 2008 and 2009 and the regular ongoing assistance that institution provides. The summer...

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1 Introduction Identity Politics, Face, and the Pedagogy of One-to-one Mentoring of Writing

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pp. 1-28

I could tell a tale of swagger and pride, about a group of writing centers great in innumerable ways. The ones at St. John’s University provide a glimpse into the pulse of college life in New York City. It’s a world different from the sleepy casualness of typical college towns, and it’s an environment unlike the crush of humanity at...

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Interchapter 1

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pp. 29-31

Over the years, I’ve been inspired by texts in composition and writing center studies that attempt to transcend the boundaries of conventional chapters or essays in collections. My most direct influences have been Donna LeCourt’s (2004) self-reflections on her experiences growing up working...

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2 Facing Race and Ethnicity in the Writing Cent e r

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pp. 32-56

Over the years, when I’ve shared this first scenario with writing center audiences, the typical reaction has been disbelief. Surely, people say, this tutor misunderstood the student. Surely, they respond, everything isn’t as it seems, or as bad...

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Interchapter 2

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pp. 57-61

What I love most about this response is its subversive quality. As an African American woman, Rochell created a response that avoids directly engaging an earlier draft of this chapter. After my nagging and...

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3 Facing Class in the Writing Center

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pp. 62-83

In the last chapter, I wrote about the face of race in writing center identity politics. As these scenarios suggest, the discussion here turns to economic class, but it’s hard to imagine class cleaved...

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Interchapter 3

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pp. 84-86

This tension between Anna Rita and her client speaks into many of the issues that arise in writing centers and composition classrooms around the politics of language, and also the subtle ways that class (or mitigating class) plays out in sessions. The underlying assumption here is...

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4Facing Sex and Gender in the Writing Center

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pp. 87-112

Just like race and class, our sex, our gender, and the politics attendant to them are ubiquitous in writing centers and to the people that circulate through them. These components of our...

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Interchapter 4

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pp. 113-116

Like so many of the other experiences shared here, sadly, this one too is common, and as Liliana references, the space of writing centers is gendered. What strikes me in that moment of recognizing the gender politics of our spaces is that we read and naturalize their femininity—that’s what marked...

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5 Facing Nationality in the Writing Center

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pp. 117-138

Each of the earlier chapters in this book examined forms of identity that are central to who we are, considered their histories and politics and connected them to the context of work in writing centers. A continuum that runs across these identity formations is their...

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Interchapter 5

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pp. 139-143

I’m struck by Hadia’s awareness of and insight about both the linguistic features of difference and the social-cultural response to her identity as an international student. Hadia clearly has the ability to not just...

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6 Facing the Center Redux

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pp. 144-167

This dilemma—contending with institutional pressures to measure the efficacy of writing center work and to insert accountability into expenditures of energy, time and money—represents a common...


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pp. 168-173


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pp. 174-176

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About the Author

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pp. 177

Harry Denny is an assistant professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City. Through its Institute for Writing Studies, he directs writing centers on its Queens and Staten Island...

E-ISBN-13: 9780874217681
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874217674

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching.
  • Writing centers -- Political aspects.
  • Report writing -- Study and teaching (Higher).
  • Mentoring.
  • Multicultural education.
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