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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

English

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

February

First Advisor

Donna LeCourt

Second Advisor

Anne Herrington

Third Advisor

Stephen Olbrys Gencarella

Subject Categories

Rhetoric and Composition

Abstract

This project questions the relationship between place, writing, and constructions of writing center work. Applying a case study methodology, I investigated how and why writing center tutors draw upon experiences of writing in non-writing center spaces in the course of their tutorial work. Participants completed a survey (Appendix D) detailing their contemporary spatial usage with respect to writing, tracked their writing practices for a two-week period, were observed tutoring in multiple writing center sessions, and participated in a series of interviews exploring their experience of writing in multiple spatial contexts as well as their approaches to writing center work. Using a framework of spatial epistemologies developed by Edward Soja, I analyze the data with an eye to how participants developed understandings of and attitudes towards academic space, writing’s role(s) in academic space, and their role(s) as writers in academic space, as well as how these understandings shifted as participants moved between a range of writing spaces. I argue that the movement between different writing spaces leads to the emergence of a writerly agency with respect to place. This agency, along with an investment in one’s writing process, meta-awareness of one’s writings goals and needs, and access to flexible writing spaces, produces conditions where writers are better able to adapt problematic writing spaces to meet their needs as writers (and in the context of the writing center, as tutors).

In their writing center work, participants frequently drew upon material practices, discourses, and values developed in non-writing center spaces. I argue that this process of bringing outside practices into the writing center tutorial serves as a way for tutors to revise their understandings of what can or should happen with writing center spaces, thereby producing new understandings of that space more closely aligned with their needs and goals as tutors. I conclude by suggesting the need for writing center scholars to attend more carefully to the range of writing spaces tutors occupy in their lives as writers outside the writing center and the role their experience in these spaces plays in shaping their tutorial practices.

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