Historically, the term mentor has carried with it expectations of relationality, longevity, and politics—not necessarily identical to but not completely unlike the “elder” distinction that marks some cultural contexts as distinct. The term has also carried with it bona fide positive and negative associations. In western antiquity, Mentor (Μέντωρ) was not always cast as a favored figure, though he enjoyed positive notoriety in the Odyssey in part because the goddess Athena disguised herself as him on a diplomatic mission to Telemachus, son of Odysseus, at the end of the Trojan War. Various heroic and less heroic archetypes followed Mentor into modernity as the Odyssey itself underwent various tellings and retellings, eventually becoming a cultural trope on which to base assumptions about how authority should equate to wisdom and how future generations should be trained. In contemporary higher-education contexts, mentoring is more often than not used to commodify unmet needs, For these reasons and more, not everyone loves the idea of mentoring, or the term itself.
Within the Feminisms and Rhetorics community, we’re hard pressed to delineate mentors from mentees in most things we do, as we understand that in any mentoring relationship there are reciprocal ways of working, mutual learning, and mutual exchanges of respect. However, four occasions each year do warrant a semi-formal arrangement that we unmistakably call mentoring, for the ways in which they signal opportunities to give and receive. One of them is upcoming next month.
If you plan to attend Feminisms and Rhetorics 2019—physically or virtually—please see this special announcement about the conference manuscript mentoring program and be sure to sign up by September 16 if you are interested. Both the Coalition and the FemRhet Conference have historically been built around multilateral mentoring relationships. This particular manuscript mentoring program is just one of several initiatives, but one of our longest-standing, next to the Wednesday night mentoring tables at CCCC.
We hope you can join us!