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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

Anne Herrington

Third Advisor

Miliann Kang

Subject Categories

Rhetoric and Composition


This dissertation focuses on the school desk in order to awaken peripheral vision of classroom ecologies in writing events. It engages theoretical dialogues about the dialectical relationship between language and experience, the nonverbal sociality of affect, the sedentary labor required to maintain institutional object-­orientations, and possibilities for divergence and disinheritance. Document analysis follows the emergence of the school desk at the advent of compulsory schooling, its use as material rhetoric, and its role as pivot between a punitive and a disciplinary culture, then at the nexus between disciplinary and regulatory societies. The grouping and regulation of populations in biopower is illustrated through analysis of curriculum documents in relation to visual rhetoric that use the school desk as a conceptual metaphor and a technology. I argue that this cultural history inheres in our ritual production of the classroom and its furniture and that it is known through practical consciousness at the level of affect and embodiment. Possibilities for disinheritance exist alongside actualized reality, structured sense. These, we know because we have subtracted them from the possible classroom, over and over, in the labor of composition. The problem of composition becomes: how do we access the potential of the formed world to reform reality, to find new expression? Embodied pedagogies that use contemplative practice, conceptual metaphor, evocative objects, wandering writing, and style in performance are suggested.