English, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 2010


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Frances V. Condon. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2010
Copyright (c) 2010 Michael W. Kelly


This dissertation outlines how Pragmatism, as a philosophy richly conceived, can act as a useful intervention on three levels ranging from the pedagogical issues surrounding teaching writing teacher to labor issues Composition. In contemporary writing center scholarship, conversations about the utility of theory are hotly debated. Throughout much of its disciplinary history, much writing center scholarship has taken a decidedly best practices approach to its research. This emphasis on applicability is challenged by the trend in some pockets of the field that have incorporated a theoretical bent into their work. The effect of this work has been met with skepticism. This text argues that an approach centered on Pragmatism does not force us to choose between practicality and a theoretical framework because the way I am using Pragmatism accounts for both. Within the field of Composition and Rhetoric, the “pragmatic” turn has been used to describe how scholars advocate for understanding institutions as rhetorical entities capable of change. This idea has both been met with resistance and championed as a paradigm shift. This dissertation contends that what’s missing from the scholarship is a deep inquiry into Pragmatism as a philosophy with an in-depth history can inform contemporary debates in the field. Pragmatism informs perennially thorny debates surrounding the use of contingent faculty in writing teaching. Using Dewey’s 1940 writings as President of the AAUP, I argue issues of academic freedom are largely ignored when scholars write about the material conditions of non-tenure track faculty.

Adviser: Frances V. Condon