Date of Award

5-17-2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Claude Mark Hurlbert, D.A.

Second Advisor

Donald A. McAndrew, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Nancy Hayward, Ph.D.

Abstract

Of the many identity issues that students face as they enter university writing courses—those of gender, class, age, and race—the issue of white privilege is one that is seldom addressed. In the predominately white Southern university where I teach, African American students make up 26% of the incoming freshman population, reflecting the racial demographics of the state. Although the visible majority, white students benefit from racial privilege that seems invisible, at least to them. I am interested in studying Southern white students’ perspectives on constructions of whiteness and white privilege—how they live it and how they write it. Recent research shows a need for the questioning of whiteness, both as a social position of privilege and as a dominant discourse, especially in college classrooms. My research questions include: 1. How does identification with the dominant race impact white student responses to writing assignments and class discussion that involve issues of social justice? 2. To what degree do white students feel “othered” in a classroom climate that is likely to question their socially privileged position? 3. How can writing affect white students’ attitudes toward social change? Qualitative methods include classroom observation, student interviews, and examination of student writing. By conducting this study, I hope to contribute to an understanding of why some white students resist critical pedagogy and its commitment to social change, and whether exposing whiteness in student writing might alter that resistance.

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