Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Member

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Member

Clukey, Amy

Committee Member

Goldblatt, Eli

Author's Keywords

rural studies; community literacy; literacy sponsorship


Recently, the academy has become aware that rural students are choosing to attend institutions of higher education less often than their urban counterparts. Rationalizing why this particular population remains underserved by institutions of higher learning is a new conversation for higher education. And yet, in literacy studies, the perceived urban/rural divide in terms of national politics sometimes seeps into conversations about the perceived “literacy” or culture of rural peoples. This polarization, unaccompanied by detailed portraits of rural community literacy sponsorship, means that rural areas do not benefit from the consistent attention paid to their urban counterparts in New Literacy Studies. In this project, these larger issues of rural representation are meshed with recent calls for more research into literacy sponsorship networks: in particular, calls more detailed pictures of the networks of literacy sponsorship in which those sponsors are located. This pilot project responds to both of the issues above by offering a concrete mapping methodology in the hopes of encouraging replication by other scholars. In particular, the project forwards research by providing a specific, multiple-methods study focused on mapping the literacy sponsorship network in a single rural community located in the mid-South. Chapter 1 grounds the study in New Literacy Studies, rural contexts, and complexity theories; Chapter 2 details methodological setup, researcher positionality, and visual mapping elements. Chapter 3 paints over the initial visualization by emphasizing narrative detail of current collaborative literacy sponsorship activities in the community of study. Chapter 4 complicates these collaborations, detailing how multiple cultural aspects affect the operations of community collaborations, particular in terms of access to literacy sponsorship roles. Ultimately, this study advances research in literacy sponsorship networks, proposing a new concrete methodological approach for mapping the complexity of an individual literacy sponsorship network and providing a more detailed portrait of a single rural network.