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An uncertain pedagogy: Authority, the body, and the negotiation of teacherly identity

James P Sundeen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In this study, I combine autobiography, self-naming, and traditional scholarship to examine how my past experiences with authority figures shape my understanding of the professional and institutional expectations of university teaching. Specifically, I explore the hidden differences that I bring to the roles I play as a teacher, scholar, and colleague. My experiences as an ulcerative colitis "survivor" and child "witness" to domestic violence (terms that I revisit and revise in my study) under cut my sense of authority in the classroom and reveal a negotiated teacherly identity that makes my enactment of a professorial role problematic. My work thus makes a unique contribution to conversations in Composition and Rhetoric that continue to grapple with issues of authority, identity, and "institutional literacy" (Gallagher), as it suggests and models a phenomenological reading of the institutions of home, hospital, and higher education. ^ To achieve this aim, I draw on scholarship concerning the use of phenomenology in English Studies (Williams; Doyle), the "personal" (Ellsworth; Helmers; Tobin), the negotiation of student identity (Brooke; Newkirk), reflective inquiry in educational contexts with an emphasis on teacher training (Danielewicz; Payne; Ritchie; Ritchie and Wilson), the relationship between identity and writing instruction (Rose and Gilyard), and critical pedagogy (Berlin; Boyd; Chase; George and Shoos; Giroux; Goodburn; Hurlbert and Blitz; Marshall; Murphy; Shor; Welch; and Wolff). ^ The dissertation offers generative questions and concrete advice to Writing Program Administrators (and interested others) who must interact with teachers of all levels (TAs, instructors, up to full professors) who experience difficulty "fitting into" the role of truth-giver or final judge of student writing due to their previous experiences in discourses of violence, institutional signification, or analogous events. Just as important, teacher-scholars who have yet to write about their own lives in terms of critical discursive events or signification games will learn how to use phenomenological reading as a literacy practice in order to "read" the manner in which they have been inserted into institutional discourses. ^

Subject Area

Language, Rhetoric and Composition|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Sundeen, James P, "An uncertain pedagogy: Authority, the body, and the negotiation of teacherly identity" (2006). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3208090.