Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

5-2009

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

English

Committee Chair

Kopelson, Karen Lynn

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Williams, Bronwyn T.

Committee Member

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Member

Mattingly, Carol

Committee Member

Powell, Annette

Author's Keywords

Literacy; Literacy studies; Amish; Ethnography; Mennonite; Ohio

Subject

Amish--Books and reading; Amish--Ohio--Social life and customs; Literacy--Ohio

Abstract

Following in the tradition of scholars who treat literacy in context such as Deborah Brandt, Shirley Brice Heath, and David Barton and Mary Hamilton, I conducted my dissertation research not in an academic classroom but in the valleys of Hanley, a (pseudonym for a) town in southern Ohio, where I visited Amish homes, farms, and businesses. Using Brandt's model in Literacy in American Lives , I interviewed 25 Amish men, women, and children to study the uses of literacy in school, church, work, and daily life. I also attended community events such as an auction and a wedding to observe ritualistic literacy practices. Observing community members in their home environments helped me to gain a better understanding of the importance of language and literacy in everyday Amish life. In addition, I read The Budget , the Amish and Mennonite International weekly newspaper, for one year. The result of this research is my dissertation "In The Wor(1)d But Not Of It: Literacy Practices of an Amish Community in Southeast Ohio," in which I argue that the normalizing effect of English literacy in the United States has changed Amish language and literacy practices, despite the Amish community's desire to live separately from mainstream culture. The English-only imperative in the United States has permeated Amish ideas about the value of English in their daily lives and, therefore, has devalued their home language, Pennsylvania Dutch. Some Amish denominations have completely abandoned Pennsylvania Dutch, while others maintain the language in order to preserve their heritage and faith. Those who do maintain the language, however, are aware that the community's fluency in the language decreases with each generation and that an "alarming amount of English" has pervaded the Pennsylvania Dutch lexicon. I also argue that the Amish values of collaboration and putting community before self have directly influenced models of Amish education, church hierarchy, community leadership, and the composition of texts that represent the Amish.

Share

COinS