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Communal Belief and Textual Invention

Title: Communal Belief and Textual Invention: An Ethnographic Analysis of First-Year College Students' Writing Processes in a Living Learning Community.
Name(s): Ricks, Antony Norman, 1978-, author
Fleckenstein, Kristie, professor directing dissertation
Opel, Andy, university representative
Neal, Michael, committee member
Treharne, Elaine, committee member
Department of English, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2011
Publisher: Florida State University
Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This dissertation is based on an ethnographic study of a living learning community at a large public university in the Southeastern United States. The research was conducted over a four-month period within a program called the Social Justice Living Learning Community (SJLLC), which is sponsored by the Center for Leadership and Civic Education at this institution. The purpose of the study was to gain insight into the relationship between communal and individual beliefs as each is represented through discourse within a community. The study focused on a first-year public speaking course devoted to the values and purpose of the SJLLC. I used ethnographic observation/notes, videotapes of class sessions, recorded interviews that I conducted with leaders and members of the SJLLC, interview data gathered by the Center for Leadership and Civic Education about members' experiences, and drafts of students' speeches to explore this topic. The dissertation focused on the research questions: What is the relationship between a community's core values/beliefs and individual members' textual performances? How do communal values/beliefs constrain and/or enable individual members' production of discourse? My findings demonstrate that communal and individual beliefs interface with one another through ongoing textual performances--texts operating at their highest level of significance--within the SJLLC. Communal beliefs are established through shared communal texts that I classify into three categories: linguistic textual performances, visual textual performances, and participatory textual performances. Linguistic textual performances communicate the SJLLC's belief system, visual textual performances connect students with examples of the belief system through visual media, and participatory textual performances engage students with the belief system through embodied action. The over-arching theme of the community's belief system is a shared belief in positive social change based on A Social Change Model for Leadership Development, Guidebook, Version III. The basic premise of leadership according to the guidebook is that leaders effect positive social change, that positive social change requires collective action, and that a person does not have to hold a "formal position of leadership" to effect such change (16-17). In classroom practices--and in composing their speeches--members of the SJLLC interpret and use this common belief in positive social change for a variety of purposes and in a variety of ways. They re-invent the communal belief and find ways to engage it in connection with their personal beliefs, demonstrating that communal beliefs do enable and engage personal beliefs rather than constricting or silencing them. The study also reveals the reality of tensions that exist between communal and personal beliefs, demonstrating a need for educators to be aware of the challenges students face when negotiating personal beliefs within classroom, professional, and/or societal discourses. Overall, the study demonstrates a need for college educators to develop teaching strategies that allow students to explore the interface of communal and personal beliefs in their lives and as they write in college.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-5140 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Fall Semester, 2011.
Date of Defense: October 10, 2011.
Keywords: belief, community, discourse, ideology, performance, social change
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Kristie Fleckenstein, Professor Directing Dissertation; Andy Opel, University Representative; Michael Neal, Committee Member; Elaine Treharne, Committee Member.
Subject(s): English literature
America -- Literatures
Composition (Language arts)
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Host Institution: FSU

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Ricks, A. N. (2011). Communal Belief and Textual Invention: An Ethnographic Analysis of First-Year College Students' Writing Processes in a Living Learning Community. Retrieved from