Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

5-2016

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

English

Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Horner, Bruce

Committee Member

Horner, Bruce

Committee Member

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Member

Kopelson, Karen

Committee Member

Roozen, Kevin

Author's Keywords

literacy; community literacy; college writing; actor-network theory; narrative; authorship

Abstract

In light of the increasing significance of community activist scholarship in Rhetoric and Composition and given the overwhelming nature of institutional educational inequity, this dissertation takes a close look at specific literacy practices and the corresponding networks that shape these literacy practices at a community literacy organization. Based on interviews with participants and staff at a local nonprofit called Family Scholar House (FSH), this project paints a complex picture of each stakeholder’s perspective on successful literacy. First, I employ Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to analyze three specific literacy moments at FSH: an application for government assistance, a financial aid appeal letter, and a fundraising luncheon. I identify the various actors/actants involved in the networks that surround these literacy practices in order to understand the relationship work that helps students navigate these literacy practices successfully. I then use narrative theory to analyze three FSH students’ literacy narratives to demonstrate how students use their own singular writing identity as well as relationships within their lived networks to improve their literacy practices. The resulting new literacy narratives become actants within students’ networks, thereby allowing students to imagine different futures for themselves and for their children, for whom they model these changed literacy habits. I end by arguing for a hospitable approach to literacy research and pedagogy, discussing how to balance the predictability and unpredictability of narrative that are necessary for students’ literacy growth.