Stenberg, Shari J. “Embodied Classrooms, Embodied Knoweldges: Re-Thinking the Mind/Body Split.” Composition Studies 30.2 (Fall 2002): 43-60.


In this article, Stenberg is responding to the postmodern deconstruction of identity and the textualization of the body, moves she argues come dangerously close to reinscribing the modernist tenets they claim to resist. Stenberg argues that the uptake of postmodernism can lead to a fear of essentialism that runs so deep it makes critical discussions of identity nearly impossible. She also argues that some engagements with postmodernism conflate freedom with disembodiment. Ultimately, she is concerned with the pedagogical hope some theorists place in wired classrooms for the postmodern, disembodied freedom the anonymity of online environments is said to provide. Looking for ways to value the extent to which bodies matter in critical pedagogies, Stenberg turns to Peter McLaren’s concept of “enfleshment”–a term which indicates the materiality of discourse in such a way that recognizes the the importance of both the matter and the discursivity of our bodies. Stenberg poses the question of how we might envision the process of “reenfleshment” within our pedagogies by developing a critical language for talking about the body and the social systems in which we live.

To begin imagining this process of “reenfleshment,” Stenberg turns to the point at which she philosophically parts with McLaren. In particular, Stenberg discusses arguments put forth by a feminist scholar who argued that, within critical pedagogy, teachers and students alike must always speak from a place of partial knowledge. According to Stenberg, this argument challenges the idea that teachers can easily assume the authoritative position of the teacher, a point with which McLaren strongly disagrees. Stenberg argues that McLaren’s insistence on the importance of the authoritative role of the teacher ingnores the embodied realities of women and other marginalized minorities. Stenberg asks: how do we move from valuing the kind of bodily transcendence represented in McLaren to embracing embodiment?

Stenberg contends that rather than continuing to seek authority through disembodiment, we should instead focus our attention on understanding the ways embodiment shapes knowledge. She recommends emphasizing the embodied position of the teacher as a way to begin critiquing the traditional construction of authority. Furthermore, she recommends building on this focus on the body of the teacher by creating assignments that ask students to consider the ways bodies are read as signs, to consider the way institutions benefit some bodies more than others, and to consider the ways that they come to understand their own embodied experience.