Notes: William P. Banks, “Written Through the Body: Disruptions and ‘Personal’ Writing.”

Banks, William P. “Written Through the Body: Disruptions and ‘Personal’ Writing.”The Personal in Academic Writing. Spec. issue of College English 66.1 (2003): 21-40.



Banks explores an embodied writing and its challenges to the assumptions compositionists often make about making texts through his attentiveness to texts and composing bodies, and using non-fiction essay styles and fragmentation.

Keywords: Composition, Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetorics, Pedagogy, Teaching of Writing, Embodiment


Fleckenstein, Kristie S. “Bodysigns: A Biorhetoric for Change.”JAC 21 (2001): 761-90.

hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge, 1994.


“I’ve begun to think that “personal” writing (which may or may not be explicitly narrative) is more complicated than “the narrative.” It requires more confidence than I had assumed, and it requires a greater knowledge of “self,” regardless of whether that “self” is unified or fragmented, Cartesian or postmodern” (22).

“[T]he clamoring to get away from an epistemology identified as “expressivist,” the term critical-meaning variously “distant,” “epistemic,” “socially responsible”-has be- come so commonplace as to rival process as the controlling god-term in composition studies. A discussion of “critical thinking” blazes, again, across the WPA-L discussion list even as I sit here editing this text for the last time before I surrender it to the editors of CE. The assumption, I suppose, is that the “personal” isn’t critical, isn’t socially responsible because it encourages a solipsistic narcissism of knowledge production” (22).

“First, violence is always already embodied. The violence, once inscribed on the body, is difficult to erase and, as such, may control the readings we do of ourselves, our experiences, and others. Second, and more important to this essay, embodied writing hedges because the body hedges, moves in fits and starts, pushes toward puberty and holds back, has days without knee pain and days with. Writing through the body lets writing make the same (often) tentative steps the body does, and as readers, we recognize those movements as metaphors of our own lived experience (Turner; Lakoff and Johnson; Fleckenstein, “Bodysigns”)” (25).

“It’s funny how bodies behave … or don’t. When I presented an early draft of this paper, I wanted to look at my audience, but I got nervous. I could feel my ears getting red, especially while reading about Steve and Michael. My body began to take over; it reasserted itself, even though I had thought that, in such a professional context, I could control it. Ah, Kristeva, how right you have been: no matter how we abject our bodies, particularly in the academy, they come back to haunt us. They make their claims on us/for us/in us/outside us. I can’t tell the story above and not know my body and mind are connected, intimately” (28).

“I realize that in sharing my stories, which also make possible the stories of those like me, I could offer these new colleagues and friends lenses through which to revise their own thinking, possibly even the embodied “arguments” they write. My em- bodied writing may require reflection and theorizing in others, the same way theirs makes me constantly reevaluate my understanding of the stereotypes I create for their positions. But the price seems so incredibly high that I often choose not to pay it” (30).

“The value of embodied rhetorics, as opposed to “personal writing,” rests on this distinction: it is, quite simply, impossible (and irresponsible) to separate the producer of the text from the text itself. Our belief that we could make such a separation has allowed masculinist rhetorics to become “universal” in modernist discourses because the bodies producing the discourse have been effectively erased, allowing them to become metonymies of experience and knowledge” (33).

“Embodied writing, which I’ve tried to manifest here, doesn’t follow the form of academic argument necessarily, may even stand starkly against it, or may incorporate it. It’s more like an amalgam of creative nonfiction and critical autobiography, where pieces of the puzzle stick out and the reader must pull them together with careful attention, feeling over the body of the text for symmetries, unities, coherences-which may exist in the most tenuous of ways, or not at all. It speaks to disciplined audiences and goes through a strenuous process of critique and revision. Likewise, the embodiment of my experiences in writing requires different metaphors, different (dis)organizing methods” (38).

2 thoughts on “Notes: William P. Banks, “Written Through the Body: Disruptions and ‘Personal’ Writing.”

    • Hi Sam!

      Thanks for commenting! I loved reading your post–it was smart and thoughtful! Thanks for linking it. Your work with queer spaces is fascinating and thinking about it in terms of your project on locative media has a lot of powerful implications. I’m looking forward to reading more and seeing the connections to be made.

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