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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

Stephen Olbrys Gencarella

Subject Categories

Other Rhetoric and Composition | Rhetoric and Composition


In this dissertation, I argue that a better understanding of class affectations in teacher identity and the social space of academia may lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the way class manifests itself in academic spaces. Previous research in Composition and Rhetoric has shown that social class, specifically working-class literacy practices, frequently challenges or is in direct opposition to academic literacy practices, and that teachers respond to such class interference negatively. Little research has been done on how teachers' attachments to certain class norms and/or backgrounds affects how they interact with academic literacy and/or how they respond to students. This study investigates how the performance and performative aspects of class intersect (or influence) teaching practices, teacher identity, and teachers’ perceptions of their students. Through a qualitative case study of graduate student teaching associates (TOs), I examine the ways in which the participants narrate their understanding of their classed identities in the social space of academia, and seek to understand the broader landscape of classed identities in academic space. In contrast to composition scholarship that largely looks at class identity as static, my study shows that we cannot predict behavior based on class identities but that class is always part of this negotiation. How class emerges in social space is not a simple cause-effect process; however, that does not mean that class analysis doesn’t reveal systemic issues. The expectations of academic social space produce different reactions/actions on the part of teachers based on their class background, exposing the classed nature of academic social space that usually remains invisible and, like whiteness, unnamed. The study revealed the need to think of class not only as an identity, but perhaps more along the lines of an epistemology. I went into the study thinking about the individual performances and class identities, but what became more important was the larger scope of understanding class as a way of knowing, acting, and feeling that responds to aspects of social space. Furthermore, the study revealed the need to pay attention to the language practices and position-taking that are part of academia, and to examine the ways that working-class students and teachers are coerced into performing white middle-class ways of being in order to become “legitimate.”