Date of Award

5-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Claude Mark Hurlbert, D. A.

Second Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lynne B. Alvine, Ed.D.

Abstract

Utilizing an autobiographical approach by comparing and contrasting my story with other scholars’ stories whose social-class backgrounds are similar to mine, and by analyzing this information through the works of scholars whose research has helped others working in the fields of composition and teaching, I explore the crisscrossing of the female sex, working class, and academia. This exploration attempts to uncover the influences of social class and gender on an academic from a working-class background. Additionally, it attempts to reveal the hierarchical system that silences the voices of some academics’ and prevents them from being accepted as valuable members in the academy. My key research question is: What can scholars in the field of composition learn about the influences of social class and gender from my narrative, a woman with a working-class background who teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the academy? Several issues emerge in addressing the primary research question. First and for most, I found through my research that many female academics from working-class backgrounds feel torn; they want to maintain their connections to their cultural upbringing while fitting into the academy. However, this group of academics fears they do not fit into either world. Second, the act of storytelling as a means to uncover layers of cultural conditioning offers an uncommon view of a personal and professional academic life, suggesting that being from a working-class background is a state of tension that can negatively affect both the professional and personal life. Next, this condition is subtly maintained by college and university policies as well as faculty and administration members. Finally, changing attitudes about the role and value of academics from working-class backgrounds requires a review of their conditions and a change in consciousness by all people involved. I hope that this dissertation will further illuminate the problems and concerns other academics from working-class backgrounds face. Although my narrative is only one perspective, I believe that my dissertation can give a unique viewpoint and context to the life of an academic from the working class – one that makes the private public.

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