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Feeling Engaged: College Writers as Literacy Tutors

  • Author(s): Langdon, Lance-David Bennett
  • Advisor(s): Alexander, Jonathan F
  • et al.

Feeling Engaged: College Writers as Literacy Tutors brings together scholarship in the rhetoric of emotion and in civic writing to show how emotions - confidence, anger, embarrassment, pride, hope, fear, gratitude, guilt, shame, compassion, enthusiasm, and ennui - shape the roles we take on in K-16 literacy networks. This dissertation takes as a case study the community-engaged composition courses, poetry workshops, and literature classes I coordinated in 2011-2013. The undergraduates I led in this work tutored K-12 students in after-school centers and public schools in Mexican American communities, assisting with homework, writing poetry, and leading close readings of American literature. Employing participant observation, interviews, and discourse analysis, Feeling Engaged argues that the success or failure of such partnership hinges on the emotional labor of its participants.

Chapter 1 - Blogging Critical Literacy: Notes Toward Engaged Progressivism - offers a model of a community-engaged composition course, one in which students draw from their experiences as language learners and tutors, and from discomforting online and in-class conversations about inequality, in orienting their research into literacy education. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 document and analyze literacy in two after-school centers with which we partnered. Chapter 2 - Genre and Emotional Roles in K-16 Poetry Workshops - shows how emotion shaped, and was shaped by, the genres employed in our poetry workshops. Chapter 3 - (Bi)Literacy Sponsorship in Latin@ After-School Spaces - demonstrates how after-school centers themselves can help bicultural, transnational students to develop ethnic pride and bilingual competence and to engage with family literacy networks. Chapter 4 - Teaching Police Discourse at Barrio Center - follows a Criminal Justice Club led by a police-officer-in-training; it both critiques police discourse and demonstrates the progressive potential the officer and his students found in it. Chapter 5 - The Emotional Labor of Outreach - turns to an 11th grade English classroom in a public school, documenting a series of literature and rhetoric lessons delivered there by undergraduates and narrating their progression through five stages of emotional labor: frustration, surprise, empathy, enthusiasm, and care. Cumulatively, the chapters argue that emotions provide essential feedback on the efficacy of K-16 literacy networks.

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