Education Queering the English Language Arts (ELA) Writing Classroom
Latrise P. Johnson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 February 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0313


Queer(ing) writing theories and pedagogies serve as fertile ground for the practice and the teaching of writing. This review synthesizes foundational and recent literature on how queer theoretical frameworks and understandings may lead to deeper and transformative writing and writing instruction in secondary English language arts classrooms and, on some level, postsecondary writing/composition. There is little foundational research on queering the ELA writing classroom specifically. What has been taken up is how queer identity and orientations impact and may be impacted by literacy participation and practice. While research takes up queer orientations of literacy practice broadly, this review examines and designates, in some cases, how literacy scholarship that uses queer and queering frameworks might be understood in relation to writing and teaching writing in English language arts classrooms specifically. In addition, the review synthesizes research that considers queer orientations and understandings of writing instruction and practice that are relevant to secondary and early postsecondary contexts.

Queer(ing) Writing Theoretical and Pedagogical Frameworks

Queer(ing) theoretical underpinnings provide pathways to writing and teaching writing that disrupt fixed and static assumptions about the characteristics and types of writing and texts that count as “good” writing and who counts as writers. Alexander and Gibson 2004 aligns tenets of queer theory with writing pedagogy to illustrate how queer theory, though multifaceted and esoteric, is critical for teaching writing in ways that invite students to think about the constructions and development of identities as well as performances of those identities. Alexander and Rhodes 2011 provides a provocative view of queer composing. Goncalves 2006 uses a queer theoretical framing that applies literacy development and personal ethos of addressing social justice and identity. Waite 2017 posits that writing is already a queer practice and positions Waite, their practice, and their students’ writing at the center to develop ways of thinking about writing as radical action and thinking. Queer(ing) the English language arts writing classroom requires literacy perspectives that are fluid and consider infinite ways of writing and being a writer. When teachers and researchers apply queer and queering frameworks to the understanding of writing and writing instruction, they seek to illuminate the myriad possibilities of developing as writers.

  • Alexander, J., and M. Gibson. 2004. Queer composition(s): Queer theory in the writing classroom. JAC 24.1: 1–21.

    Using a historical lens, the authors delineate the path of queer theory as following three distinct stages—coming out and identifying oppression, inclusion and visibility, and transforming praxis and theory by teaching and theorizing queer—and how those scholars have grappled with queer issues, and how those issues have shown up across relevant research and within composition classrooms.

  • Alexander, J., and J. Rhodes. 2011. Queer: An impossible subject for composition. JAC 31.1/2: 177–206.

    The authors posit that queerness is one of composition’s impossible subjects. That is, they build an argument by naming the irony of queer composition. They juxtapose sex and school as contrary phenomena and offer a nuanced view of queer composing where writing is often unsettling, uncomposed, and in many ways threatening—and should be.

  • Goncalves, Z. M. 2006. Sexuality and the politics of ethos in the writing classroom. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press.

    This book offers a queer theoretical framework for writing teachers that applies literacy development and personal ethos for addressing identity. As described in this work, ethos is a series of identity performances shaped by and within social contexts. The author offers practical ways to teach writing that connect students’ (queer) identities with their writing by bridging rhetorical contexts and interest in public discourse. The author outlines ways for students to identify as writers, citizens, and active members of intellectual communities.

  • Waite, S. 2017. Teaching queer: Radical possibilities for writing and knowing. Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1r33q4d

    This book considers writing and teaching as already queer practices and contends with the theoretical overlap between queer practice and composition. The text offers new possibilities for teaching writing and argues for non-normative, category-resistant, and fluid views of writing and writing instruction within college writing courses. The theoretical underpinnings can be applied to understand the queer possibilities of secondary writing classes.

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