Dissertations

Dissertations

These dissertation titles and abstracts, which are only excerpted here, are from the ProQuest Digital Dissertations Database; abstracts are copyrighted by ProQuest.

Branch, Kirk MacHugh (1997) Telling stories: Language and lives in adult literacy narratives. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, United States — Washington. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9836145).

This dissertation argues that a standard literacy narrative exists which structures much of the policy and curricula discussion for adult basic education. This narrative trumpets the adult’s return to school as the first step in personal and economic transformation, crediting literacy–however defined–with making individuals employable and the nation economically competitive. I argue that these narratives frequently ignore adult student experiences as well as their diverse goals for and approaches to literacy.

Cushman, Ellen (1996) The struggle and the tools: Oral and literate strategies in an inner-city community. Ph.D. dissertation, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, United States — New York. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9708910).

In this dissertation, I advance a theory and practice of institutional gatekeeping that employs more democratic language use, language use informed by the legitimate strategies and ideologies of Black vernacular language. During three and a half years of ethnographic research in Quayville, an inner city in upstate New York, I studied the oral and literate skills community members need in order to negotiate the many institutional influences that enter into their lives. My data show that community residents and gatekeepers can actually communicate effectively, mutually indexing the shared task of providing and accessing resources. In the end, I describe how we might apply these findings to our definition of and practices in multicultural classrooms and consider how community literacies can inform the curriculum, goals, and teachers’ duties of a borderland pedagogy.

Deans, Thomas Anthony (1998) Community-based and service learning college writing initiatives in relation to composition studies and critical theory. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States — Massachusetts. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9841860).

This dissertation contextualizes and analyzes community/university partnerships through which college writing is paired with community action. Over the past few years a range of community-based and service-learning initiatives have been launched in departments of English. While some research is available on particular projects, little considers the wider movement. In response, I propose a typology for programs, distinguishing between those that write for, about and with the community; further, I investigate three exemplar programs. Throughout the study I explicate how such practices are situated within (and extend) the discourse of rhetoric and composition.

Egan-Robertson, Ann (1994) Literary practices, personhood, and students as researchers of their own communities. Ed.D. dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States — Massachusetts. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9510465).

This dissertation reports findings from a sociolinguistic ethnography that examined relationships between literacy practices and personhood.The study involved the formulation of a writing club at an urban middle school, involving a multiracial group of women from the lowest academic track; two were described as special education students. They researched and wrote about their communities, investigating questions of personal concern about issues of racism and sexism. Students interviewed community members, including artists, organizers, neighbors, and peers. Students wrote up and published their findings.I collected data on the writing project, including forty-five hours of taped data. Analysis involved thematic and textual analyses of the students’ written artifacts, and microanalysis of videotaped events. A microethnographic analysis examined sociolinguistic processes that research suggested is important. Attention was paid to the social construction of intertextuality during writing activities.

Gelb, Richard Gary (1999) Literacy and magic: The role of oral and written texts within a Santeria religious community. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago, United States — Illinois. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9934760).

The purpose of this study was to discover how literacy and orality are used in the magical setting of a Santería botánica business. Ethnographic methods were used to observe and analyze how the proprietress managed and operated her business, and the roles that literacy, orality, tradition, and creativity play in divination/exorcism communicative events.

The findings of this study are as follows: (1) Sanctioned and unsanctioned forms of literacy exist in contexts that involve power relationships; therefore, they must always be discussed in terms of how they are socially constructed; (2) Literacy skills can be learned outside of the education establishment; (3) Literacy and orality are interrelated; (4) Verbal performances are not completely traditional nor original; each one must be considered in terms of its context. These themes provide implications for changes in school-based literacy instruction. Suggestions are proposed to make formal education more reflective of community literacy practices.

Gorzelsky, Gwendolen A. (1998) Echoes half heard: Community activists, collective movements. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, United States — Pennsylvania. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9906272).

This dissertation explores how literate practices can foster collective movements. These are the questions that drive it: (1) How do particular uses of reading and writing–or literate practices–connect with people’s habits and concerns to galvanize changes in their perceptions and behaviors, in their identities? (2) How do specific literate practices enable people to work through differences to invest intellectual and emotional energy into a collective endeavor? (3) How do these personal changes and group negotiations foster broader collective movements that try to transform people’s social world?

Grabill, Jeffrey Thomas (1997) Situating literacies and community literacy programs: A critical rhetoric for institutional change. Ph.D. dissertation, Purdue University, United States — Indiana. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9808450).

This study explored the possibilities for community literacy practices through an examination that crossed the gaps between university and community contexts. A primary methodology for accomplishing its purposes was an institutional case that described a community literacy program and interrelated the practices of that program with the arguments of various literacy theories about what its practices were or should be. The study points to limitations in the ways some literacy theories construct “literacy,” particularly those that “abstract” the concept. The study also argues that it is important to understand how a community literacy institution defines literacy within that local context.

Kinloch, Valerie Felita (2000) A cultural critique of the city as a site of rhetorical education. Ph.D. dissertation, Wayne State University, United States — Michigan. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9966152).

This dissertation investigates and proposes new meanings of cities as spaces of literacy that challenge observations made by such theorists like Camilo Vergara that cities like Detroit have been battered and torn apart by city residents. Using such observations of twentieth century cities, I make sense of cities by re-imagining them from places of urban collapse to places of urban literacy. I engage in rhetorical analyses of postmodernity, capitalism, and contested social terrain of justice and democracy to pursue the following research questions: How can cities serve as sites by which students gain the critical capacity to read and write in ways acceptable by an academic community? How can the work of-composition studies cater to the insistence made by critical theorist James Berlin that schooling prepare students to become active and critical agents in shaping society’s economic, political, cultural, and social conditions? What conditions of possibility emerge for democracy, active citizenship, and community activism given the, institutional divide between universities And communities? How can a deeper understanding of civic participation lead to a progressive approach to educating students in ways that promote geographical and cultural practices?

Mathieu, Paula Jean (2001) Questions of empowerment: Teaching writing at a “homeless” community newspaper. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago, United States — Illinois. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 3019412).

Questions of Empowerment examines writing as social action at a Chicago street newspaper. This study results from three years’ work creating a learning Center and writing programs for homeless and formerly homeless vendors of StreetWise newspaper. Questions is an institutional narrative that combines storytelling, theoretical work, and the words of local writers to explore claims of writing as empowerment, writing to intervene in public discourse, and the role of academics working in neighborhood communities.

Mogge, Stephen G. (2001) Reading with young, adult immigrants: Critical, response-centered pedagogy in a community literacy program. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago, United States — Illinois. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 3008015).

This thesis is an ethnographic, teacher research study exploring the uses of reading with advanced ESL student–mostly Latino/Mexican–in a community literacy program/settlement house in Chicago, IL, in 1996-97, when federal Immigration and Welfare Reforms were being implemented. An English language literacy course was created for young adult immigrants who aspired to become community activists and college students. The course focused on students’ responses to the reading of narrative and informational text that was selected to engage the students in examination of politics, economics, culture, and race as these related to Latino immigrants in the United States. The teacher research also focused on the students’ internalization of the mid-1990’s atmosphere of intolerance following California’s Proposition 187 and during legislative enactment of the new federal reforms. Reading material was, in turn, selected in response to the students’ interests and anxieties, but also to explore the students’ emerging sense of what it means to be “American” amidst the immigrant backlash.

Peck, Wayne Campbell (1991) Community advocacy: Composing for action. Ph.D. dissertation, Carnegie Mellon University, United States — Pennsylvania. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9220222).

This dissertation presents a study of community literacy that focuses on the literate practice of community advocacy. The study offers a descriptive theory of community literacy, which values written discourse from the margins of society. A community center in the inner city of Pittsburg offered a summer internship program to 30 college students who wanted to move beyond their academic discourse communities and learn community advocacy. The study describes problems these interns encountered as they learned the new literate practice of community advocacy, reports the findings of an instructional study in which three different types of community advocacy instruction were designed and tested, and draws conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the different types of instruction.

Phillips, Cassandra Mach (2001) The politics of constructing, enacting and measuring community literacies: An instructor’s “elastic environment”. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Louisville, United States — Kentucky. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 3015255).

This research project, informed by ethnographic, case study, and naturalistic research methodologies, focuses on how instructors negotiate the various forms of literacy they have experienced in their past and present. Through the close analysis of an instructor at a small community college, this study examines how theoretically defined forms of literacy are reflected in the instructor’s literacy biography and then in his classroom. This dissertation presents the data collected from a semester-long study where I extensively interviewed the instructor, observed his course, and collected all course-related documents. Based on my findings, I explore how an instructor’s past with various forms and ideas of literacy largely affects the way in which he defines and teaches it. I argue that defined forms and ideas of literacy, while theoretically competitive, exist in the composition classroom in mutually sustaining ways. In the composition classroom, the instructor manipulates literacy into “literacy combinations” that embody his experiences and better serve the needs of the students.

Rosenberg, Lauren, PhD “Rewriting ideologies of literacy: A study of writing by newly literate adults”
UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST, 2006, 343 pages

This dissertation is based on a qualitative case study of four adults who attend a literacy center where they are learning to read and write better. My primary goal was to investigate how newly literate adults use writing to articulate their relationships to dominant ideologies of literacy. Methods of narrative inquiry were used to collect and analyze data. Participants’ interview transcripts and writing suggested that they already have the critical awareness theorists believe they must be taught. As they increase their literacy, participants articulate four alternative literacy narratives: naming power, particularly in regard to ‘illiteracy’ as a social violence; critiquing material conditions that have forced them into oppressive subject positions; expressing pleasure as exceeding the range of dominant narratives; and enacting critical citizenry by repositioning themselves as resistors. This study suggests that writing can be a more radical act than speech because people can speak back to culture as well as reach out to affect multiple audiences.

Verdi, Gail Grace (2000) Navigating languages and cultures: An ethnographic study of four working-class women academics. Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, United States — New York. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9981441).

The purpose of this study was to trace the experiences of four women from working-class backgrounds as they moved into mainstream academic culture, and to document the role languages and (sub)cultures played in this process. Participants grew up in the New York Metropolitan area, ranged in age from forty to fifty-two, and came from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. This dissertation evolved out of conversations with two graduate students and one full-time faculty member. The researcher was also a participant and has included her own evolution in the study. During unstructured interviews significant themes emerged as the women narrated lived experiences. The researcher transcribed conversations, crafted portraits, and interpreted the narratives. Themes explored included: fathers’ relationships with work, mothers’ stories of opportunity, the languages spoken in participants’ homes and communities, literacy traditions, and the kinds of schools attended. This study also revealed the linguistic and cultural tensions participants encountered as they learned to navigate mainstream academic discourse, tensions that were often mediated by race, ethnicity and gender as well as class.

Wright, Kenneth Robert (2000) Rhetoric, writing, and civic participation: A community-literacy approach to college writing instruction. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oregon, United States — Oregon. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9998051).

Current college instruction in rhetoric, through first-year composition courses, focuses primarily on preparing students for future college writing assignments. This focus does not prepare students for rhetorical action once they leave college, and it separates rhetorical education from its historic role as preparation for participatory citizenship. This work argues that rhetorical education should return to its historic role through a composition pedagogy that combines the principles of Classical rhetoric with current theories of community literacy to introduce students to our culture’s rhetorical complexities.