Writing instruction, particularly at the post-secondary level, stands at a crossroads. Since the attainment of some level of post-secondary education has become a near mandatory requirement for participation in the contemporary economy, students increasingly describe their decision to go to college as a foregone conclusion. The university level first-year writing course, itself a traditional gate-keeper to post-secondary education, thus occupies a critical space at the confluence of these powerful and interrelated forces. Further, because of this alignment to the economic demands of college preparedness, most if not all levels of writing instruction will be affected in various ways. Unfortunately, these elements enter into a dangerous contradiction when the economic growth everything is predicated upon falters--precisely what has occurred during the "Great Recession" that started in 2007.Based on fieldwork conducted in a high school level college preparation writing class, this dissertation explores the consequences of these contradictions. In particular, this project starts with an observed phenomenon in the classroom in which many students simply "preferred not to" work on their writing assignments. Using this "Bartleby Syndrome" as a mechanism of problematizing the field of post-secondary writing instruction, this project builds a philosophical critique of the relationship between human action and the social, political, and economic environment in which students write. Central to this task is a reconsideration of what American Pragmatism, specifically John Dewey's work, can offer the field of composition. In doing so, this study not only offers a different perspective on some of composition's most vexing challenges, but also builds on the Pragmatist tradition to suggest ways the field of writing instruction can retain and revitalize its long standing project of expanding democracy in the United States.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2012. Major: Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication. Advisor: Dr. Thomas Reynolds. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 313 pages.
Williams, Matthew Clark.
Bartleby Goes to College: A Pragmatist Critique of Writing in Schools.
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