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(Re)presentations of Self-Culture: Sampling Digital Literacies and American Citizenship

Hamilton, Sam (2017) (Re)presentations of Self-Culture: Sampling Digital Literacies and American Citizenship. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines, promotes, and enacts the pedagogy of self-culture as it has developed since the nineteenth-century, and as it is called for in twenty-first-century composition and computers and writing classrooms. It samples 130 digital literacy course syllabi to situate contemporary pedagogical calls for “Doing-It-Yourself” (DIY) within the longstanding American interest in self-culture as an educational practice, and it uses different forms of digitally enabled analytic strategies to explore competing understandings of self-culture in nineteenth-century newspapers, African-American slave narratives, and leading intellectuals of the day.
Self-culture developed in the 1830s as a pedagogical principle supplementing the contemporaneous fomentation of the Common School Movement. Drawing from German pedagogues such as Humboldt and Pestalozzi, and further developed by US-based self-culturists such including Channing, Emerson, and Douglass, the pedagogy balances the individualized impetus for personal development against the socialized motivation for school-based cultivation. In addition to contemporaneous debates about schooling, promotions of self-culture also participated within the nineteenth-century “self-help” movement, notably among US phrenologists who co-opted the concept, infusing it with an at-the-time “scientific” method for measuring an individual’s self-culturing progress, and transforming the impetus to self-culture from a probable personal and social benefit, to a necessary personal and social obligation. To this end, various social classes such as women and laborers took up and further nuanced the principle of self-culture with their enactments of it, infusing it with the added notion that engaging in self-culture worked toward equity with regard to access to social and cultural rights. The expression of self-culture as an action aimed at equity is most clearly expressed in autobiographical slave narratives, particularly in those narratives’ descriptions of slaves’ efforts to learn how to read and write.
Understanding the development and circulation of these historical representations of self-culture enables contemporary digital literacy teachers and students engaged in personally and culturally motivated forms of digital literacy education, whether school-based or not, to attend to both the compositional requirements of contemporary digital writing situations, as well as to individual students’ personal strategies for learning how to enter into and contribute to those situations.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hamilton, Samsamhamilton@pitt.edusah123
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCarr, Stevescarr@pitt.eduscarr
Committee MemberVee, Annetteadv17@pitt.eduadv17
Committee MemberCampbell, Peterodell@pitt.eduodell000000023125165X
Committee MemberLavin, Mattlavin@pitt.edulavin
Committee MemberGries,
Date: 23 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 May 2017
Approval Date: 23 September 2017
Submission Date: 15 May 2017
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 314
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: composition, computers and composition, pedagogy, self-culture, digital pedagogy, digital research
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2017 01:36
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2024 18:36


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