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Between two classrooms: Graduate students of literature as teachers of writing

Michael Philip Mattison, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study is based on in-depth interviews with seven graduate students of literature who teach for a large research university, and the main concern is with their personal experiences and perspectives as they develop as teachers and students. How do they see themselves as readers and critics of literature? How do they see themselves as instructors of writing? The interviews focus on the reading, writing, and educational histories of these seven individuals, as well as on their impressions of their current classrooms: those they enter as students and those they enter as teachers. What stories do they have to tell? In addition to considering the seven participants as individual teachers and students, this study also focuses on their relationships with the teaching community within which they work. According to these seven teachers, how does their program construct the image of a writing teacher? Of a writing classroom? Of a writing assignment? How do those images align with previous ones held by the seven teachers? What adaptations and alterations take place? How might those changes relate to their study of literature? Some writers (Bishop 1995, Gale, Sullivan 1989) have portrayed the graduate literature classroom as pedagogically antithetical to certain writing classrooms, and this study investigates the oppositions and connections between those two spaces. Ultimately, this study also speaks to the complex disciplinary relationship between the fields of literary studies and composition. The participants provide a unique perspective on the relationship, and one that has been given little attention in other work. At times the difference between the two fields has been considered a cultural one (Elbow 2002, Moran 1995), necessitating different identities. But the participants here do not talk of shifting identities, or of cultural differences. Instead, their concerns with studying literature overlap with their concerns about teaching writing.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Composition|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Mattison, Michael Philip, "Between two classrooms: Graduate students of literature as teachers of writing" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3096299.