Dr. Letizia Guglielmo

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Rhetoric and composition scholar uses publishing to start conversations about issues Chalk it up…

Georgia (Jun 16, 2015)

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Rhetoric and composition scholar uses publishing to start conversations about issues

Chalk it up to her roots that Letizia Guglielmo’s passions run deep, despite the calm, professorial demeanor she maintains amid heated discussions in her research, argumentative writing and intro to gender studies classes.

“That’s just who I am,” she said. “Both my parents came to the U.S. from Italy; I want everybody to be able to tell their own story and be able to contribute.”

Guglielmo’s recent passions about two dissimilar subjects – teen pregnancy and the needs of contingent faculty – are reflected in a trio of books published within two years.

Starting in 2013, she developed “MTV and Teen Pregnancy: Critical Essays on 16 and Pregnant and Teen Moms.” Then came “Scholarly Publication in a Changing Academic Landscape: Models for Success,” which she co- wrote with Lynee Lewis Gaillet, in 2014. “Contingent Faculty Publishing in Community,” a companion to her second book, was released in January 2015.

Though the subject matter is disparate, it all springs from Guglielmo’s determination to give voice to the “voiceless.” The books have given her a chance to speak on behalf of two groups she says have been excluded from critical conversations.


In fall 2012, Guglielmo saw an ad for “16 and Pregnant,” an MTV reality series featuring teen moms.

“I thought, ‘This is fantastic. We’re actually going to ask young women to tell their own stories rather that speaking for them or telling our versions of what we think their lives are like,’” said Guglielmo, also a scholar of feminist rhetoric.

Just how wrong she was became the focus of her first book. It includes 15 essays by 18 contributors, whose perspectives are drawn from women’s studies, psychology, sociology, law and medical anthropology.

After watching the first season, Guglielmo concluded: “It was the same old narratives about how all young women who are pregnant have ruined their lives or how they all come from terrible backgrounds and how the young fathers are always failures, always falling short and never around — a very narrow, singular story.”

What was missing, say Guglielmo and her contributors, are critical discussions of sexuality, gender roles, contraception, abortion or other alternatives to pregnancy, the failure of current approaches to sex education, domestic violence, the role of poverty and education, or how young people view their decisions and life options.

Now in its fifth season, “16 and Pregnant” and it spinoffs, “Teen Mom” and “Teen Mom 2,” continue to pull in the ratings.

But for a group so vulnerable and a subject so misunderstood, more discussion was needed, Guglielmo said.

“MTV was saying it had found a way to help young women make better choices, but they had not really done that,” Guglielmo said. “[The shows] are skewed in the way they are scripted and edited and they make a lot of assumptions based on traditional labels about what girls who have sex are. Those were not the labels the girls put on themselves.”

Among its other shortcomings, Guglielmo says the show draws attention away from the fact that teen pregnancy in the U.S. has declined significantly.

“Our goals are to help people view the shows more critically, encourage these kinds of discussions in the classroom and create opportunities to take them out of the classroom,” she said


Guglielmo’s latest books turn attention to the needs of “contingent” faculty — those who teach full-time in non-tenure track positions, part time as adjuncts and as graduate teaching assistants. It invites them into beneficial discussions and helps them become more productive scholars.

“We saw this huge population within academia who didn’t have the publishing and research they would like to have and who are just not included in so many ways,” said Guglielmo.

She noted that contingent faculty members rarely receive funding and other supports for scholarship, even though they often teach more classes and work with students in 100-level courses at “the most crucial time in their education.”

“Their voices are just completely missing,” she said. “It’s very unfortunate that we don’t really hear from people who have this tremendous teaching experience and really insightful things to say.”

She worked with Lewis Gallet, a scholar on academic publishing, to write 200-300-word vignettes depicting strategies to help contingent faculty members get published and stay focused on their own development.

There was such a flood of response to the coauthors’ call for input that they assembled a second volume, a collection of 18 essays by contingent faculty engaged in rewarding scholarship.

“Not only are contingent faculty published alongside an outstanding scholar on academic publishing and other scholars, they’re now part of the conversation,” Guglielmo said.


-- Sabbaye McGriff



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