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Between Bodies and Engagement: A Reclamation of Listening in First Year Composition
AuthorAnglesey, Leslie R
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Although contemporary rhetoric and composition scholarship has engaged in sustained inquiry into writing, speaking, and reading as rhetorical acts, little attention has been paid to the ways in which listening functions as a mode of rhetorical conduct. Recent developments in feminist rhetorical studies have recovered listening as a rhetorical art deserving of inquiry and attention. While this work establishes how listening engages rhetoric to foster cross-cultural dialogue, we have yet to determine how rhetorical listening mediates writing classrooms. In Between Bodies and Engagement: A Reclamation of Listening in First-Year Composition, I respond to this gap by exploring first-year composition (FYC) instructors’ perceptions of listening and its role in the FYC classroom. Using disability studies and feminist rhetorical frameworks, I map the ways in which instructors’ notions of listening engage perceptions of students’ bodies and student engagement to reveal how perceptions of listening rely upon notions of able-bodiedness and gender that may marginalize students’ ability to demonstrate listening in the writing classroom. Drawing on grounded theory as the methodological framework, this dissertation uses a mixed methods approach to investigate instructors’ perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs in FYC. First, I used interview protocols to determine the salient features of instructors’ notions of listening, which revealed how instructors perceive of listening as a rhetorical activity while deflecting an embodied notion of listening. Then, I engaged in classroom observations with three participants to observe how listening mediated classroom activity. I followed-up these observations with instructors and students interviews and coded the data using concept coding to understand how participants were operationalizing listening within the context of everyday classroom experiences. Finally, I collected randomly-selected FYC course syllabi to understand how notions of listening, engagement, and bodies are circulated among different FYC stakeholders within the institutional setting. Using concept and value coding, this analysis demonstrates that the attitudes identified in interviews and classroom observations circulate within the broader context of the research site, which suggests that the attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions are part of instructors’ interpolation into institutional sites of practice.Given the results of the study, I argue for expanding how listening and engagement are assessed within the FYC classroom. Not only will reframing how we think about listening be essential for a more inclusive FYC experience for students, but it will also reflect the ongoing development of listening as a rhetorical art. I argue that an embodied model of listening that accounts for the ways in which listening is a function of an individual’s intersecting identities will create more inclusive learning experiences in first-year composition.