As my advisor and others cautioned, my dissertation — in the process of being written — has drifted away from the chapter outline I initially set down in the prospectus.
Chapter 1, which is essentially my problem statement, is pretty much done, though it’ll likely be considerably revised as I finish up. Chapter 2, my big and unwieldy review of the literature on class in composition, is about two thirds done; naturally, it places considerable reliance on synecdoche. After Chapter 2 is where the revision starts to come into play: Chapter 3 needs to get me from class to the diverse economy, and I’m discarding my foolish initial plan to address the diversity of representations of class outside composition. Instead, I’m backing up my working definition of class as the point of articulation between the economy and culture as materially experienced by the individual with the theories Raymond Williams puts forward in Culture and Society 1780-1950, and then complicate the perspective Williams offers with the way Pierre Bourdieu sees economics and culture intersecting to produce a relational infinitude of classes. Chapter 4 then attempts to somewhat reconcile the perspectives of Williams and Bourdieu by pointing out the historical shift from a mass economy to an individuated and diverse economy, and uses Gibson-Graham, Ironmonger, and Zuboff & Maxmin to explore the consequences of that shift. Chapter 5, of which I’ve now got two very different first drafts, takes that shift back into the college writing classroom and argues for an understanding of student writing as an economic act, but an economic act performed for individuated and diverse (and not always commodified or exchange-based) purposes. Refusal of commodification — especially on a collective basis — can permit refusal of exploitation and domination. This is not to say that such writing lies outside the economy, but that the economy is composed of multiple transactions and motivations and purposes, and that a necessary and heretofore mostly absent economic understanding of student writing need not be solely based on notions of exchange. Chapter 6 then takes that last notion to its logical conclusion by showing how some of the philosophies of the open source movement can help writing teachers refigure classroom practice by moving away from notions of artificial informational scarcity, and I hope lays the groundwork for a qualitative empirical study that might test these ideas.
Does that sound at least somewhat sensible? I’ve been struggling in fits and starts (few starts, lots of fits) to get my head around Chapters 3 and 4 in particular, and this suddenly makes it feel so much more manageable. Grateful for any feedback.