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



In this piece, Banks is responding to RhetComp’s attempts to distance itself from the “personal” and instead emphasize the “critical” (as thought the two were mutually exclusive). He contends that we risk losing site of the embodied when we move away from the personal, and that this impoverishes our theories of writing, discourse, and social justice. Ultimately, he argues that embodied writing:

  • Helps dismantle boundaries in the classroom–boundaries that circumscribe relationships between teacher and student and that limit what we feel we can say in the classroom space
  • Reminds us that even when we try to control or ignore our bodies, they come back to haunt us
  • Reminds us that our bodies can disclose things about us (identities) without our consent, but exploring those identities through embodied writing can allow us an opportunity to change some of the associations or fallout we fear
  • Teaches us that bodies are contingent and situated and that embodied writing reflects this situatedness

Throughout the piece, Banks uses creative non-fiction as a way to enact embodied writing and to highlight writing and teaching as embodied practices. These creative reflections hinge on the ideas that “embodied writing comes from embodied thinking” and that we come to know bodies (including our own) in relation to other bodies.


Key Quotes:

“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)

“Unlike the expressivism that saw its end result as helping students write the Truths of their experience–often without paying careful attention to how these Truths interact socially with the truths of others–the ‘personal’ writing I’m asking for here involves the search for truths of experience, particularly where those experiences become disciplined through the interactions they have with readers.” (35)