Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2015

Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Mary Hocks, PhD

Second Advisor

Michael Harker, PhD

Third Advisor

Baotong Gu, PhD

Abstract

Composition, like other disciplines, has seen an explosion in the number of faculty teaching on a contingent basis. Contingent faculty—also known as adjunct faculty— represents an understudied group working with no benefits or job security: their employment is contingent upon enrollment, departmental budgets, and a host of other factors.

As a contingent instructor of composition both “on-ground” and online, I am interested in bringing awareness to the material reality of teaching writing contingently. I aim to share the stories of contingent faculty in their own words, while advocating for the importance and validity of anecdotal evidence and personal stories in composition scholarship about contingency. I also explore research methodologies that privilege the personal, such as autoethnographic and archival research, and apply archival research methodology to analyze a cataclysmic Twitter conversation about contingent faculty that serves as both an example of hashtag activisim and a public forum where individuals can share their stories of contingency.

Contingent faculty’s experiences are critical to the future of composition scholarship: we cannot ethically move forward with improving, innovating, or assessing writing instruction in a meaningful way until we examine the material conditions under which much of that instruction occurs. Rhetoric and composition scholarship has a moral obligation to examine the working conditions of contingent writing instructors; to make space for their stories within the scholarship; to consider how their experiences impact students, departments, programs, and our profession; and to advocate for their rights and fair treatment.

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