Theses Doctoral

What Happens in English Class Doesn’t Stay in English Class: How College Writers Remember, Story, and Inhabit the Past in the Present

Campbell, Jessica

This qualitative narrative study investigated the relationship between emerging adults’ understandings of themselves as writers and their autobiographical memories of writing. Narrative data, largely elicited through semi-structured interviews, were collected from 14 participants who were recruited from six postsecondary institutions. Recruitment efforts aimed to yield participants who had divergent educational experiences, career ambitions, and dispositions towards writing, and who inhabited divergent racial, social, and cultural identities.

The study contributes to writer identity research by applying a sociocultural framework that holds memory, narrative, identity, and culture as reflections—and, often, distortions—of each other. The research questions, asked through this lens, aimed to provide insight into the emotional residues of pre-college writing experiences, the potential patterning of narrated memories or identities among participants, and the ways in which the stories participants shared and the identities they storied shape each other.

While this is fundamentally an inquiry into the narrative features of writer identity, it is also a study about how certain lived writing experiences reincarnate as highly emotive autobiographical memories; even if such memories tend to be unstable, unreliable, and suggestable, they are nonetheless meaningful reflections of the lingering effects of the past. Through this retrospective study, a portrait emerges of classroom conditions and writing experiences that are particularly hospitable to the nurturement of positive memories and healthy writing identities, as well as to the inverse.

This research is intended to speak to both secondary English teachers and English teacher educators and college composition instructors by bridging secondary and postsecondary understandings of how student writers are moving between worlds, the memories they are bringing with them, and the ways in which they might be storying their writer identities en route.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Blau, Sheridan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 20, 2022