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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Donna LeCourt

Second Advisor

Rebecca Lorimer Leonard

Third Advisor

Margaret Gebhard

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Rhetoric and Composition


This research begins with questions about transition and transfer—about the dimensions of writing happening across and in between contexts. As a writing teacher and writing center worker, I endeavor to help students make their own writing experiences, values, and attitudes a site of inquiry as they move in and out of different educational spaces. Motivated by these interests, and informed by materialist perspectives that situate writing education in material conditions and relations, I conducted an interview study of thirteen college writers to explore their values, attitudes, and beliefs about writing within a culture of standardized testing. In doing so, I engaged with theories of writing-related transfer in composition to better understand how prior writing contexts shape these writers’ lives. My analysis of these students’ talk about their writing in high school and college shows that transfer involves more than current sociocognitive and sociocultural approaches account for. Focusing my analysis on participants’ perceptions of the writing process, seen through the lens of labor and affect, I use and modify a Marxist conception of alienation to examine the relation with the work of writing that circulates in students’ talk about writing in school, and specifically testing, contexts. What emerges in this analysis is a view of the affective dimensions of alienation that accounts for the ways these writers relate with the work of writing, and how that relation, as an embodied disposition, can play a part in other writing contexts. Seeing alienation as an embodied disposition, part of students’ transition into new writing contexts, my project contributes a social material theory of transfer that allows composition to account for prior contexts for writing knowledge, contexts shaped by a number of material conditions. Using this understanding of alienation as disposition, I consider the implications of my analysis about participants’ relations with the work of writing for the writing economy of the 21st century.