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Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4223-6698

Document Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

English

Year Degree Awarded

2020

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Donna LeCourt

Second Advisor

Anne Herrington

Third Advisor

Julio Capó, Jr.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Rhetoric and Composition

Abstract

This dissertation argues for a material understanding of identity and agency in the production of academic writing. Queer scholarship in composition-rhetoric, which I call Queer Composition, positions “queering” as a metaphoric and immaterial stance against normativity, emphasizing experimental writing and discursive resistance to academic norms while, in recent years, neglecting to do qualitative studies of LGBTQ students’ actual classroom experiences. Yet, as I argue, LGBTQ students have much to show Queer Composition, and the larger discipline, about the role of identity in the production of academic writing as they navigate the heteronormative and cisnormative spaces of the university. This dissertation demonstrates how their experiences can speak back to and inform larger conversations in the field.

To understand the role of LGBTQ identity in the production of academic writing, I sought to understand when and how LGBTQ undergraduates write about their identity across curricular settings, when they are enabled to do so, and what prevents them from doing so. Using a case study method, I emphasize three specific students’ experiences. Aidan, a trans man, uses his understanding of academic norms to speak about trans identity and politics without exposing himself to the potentially hostile eyes of his classmates. Blair, a trans man of color, infuses his intersectional identities into the development of his academic arguments through an epistemological relationship he constructs with an audience he assumes is less educated on trans issues. Garrett, my final case, uses his academic knowledge of identity to engage in a recursive self-analysis that opens up multiple frameworks from which to write, while also finding expression of a political vision through professional writing documents.

Together, these three cases suggest a need to understand agency as a multiple, contextually constructed, and in a mutually constitutive relationship with academic norms that is more complex and nuanced than previous accounts within Queer Composition have suggested. These cases also demonstrate a need to understand the material context of the classroom and writing across the university, as students’ writing choices were delimited or enabled by the possibility of their work circulating to hostile or supportive audiences, respectively.

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