Rhetorical responsiveness, more precisely, involves us in taking the stories of these women, and others like them, seriously as communications about literacy and its practices. Rhetorical responsiveness involves us not only in paying close attention to what students are saying about literacy but also in using this important information to reconsider and re-shape our instruction in light of what we learn about the role that literacy has played in the lived experiences of individuals. In this sense, we could read these narratives as cultural artifacts of our profession, indications of the literacy practices and values we have helped inculcate in the populations of students who have come through our classrooms.

As teachers and scholars, we can also recognize the narratives of these three young women, and others like them, not as evidentiary data about literacy but rather as a kind of social action that calls forth our own active response, our own engagement in making meaning through the design of literacy instruction as it happens in learning spaces. In this context, these narratives offer us the opportunity to position ourselves in increasingly responsible and ethical ways vis a vis the students that inhabit our own classrooms and our own instructional approaches.

It’s within this ethical framework, we believe, that teachers of composition will do our best work with the narratives in this unruly, undisciplined, but invaluable archive called the DALN.


Whether or not storytellers mean to do so, they “create stories out of the building blocks of their life histories and culture.”

(Lieblich et al., 1998, p. 168)