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The Earful Body: Towards a Rhetoric of Listening In and Beyond Scenes of Writing Instruction

Feibush, Laura (2018) The Earful Body: Towards a Rhetoric of Listening In and Beyond Scenes of Writing Instruction. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation focuses on listening, the quieter counterpart to what are usually the stars of composition instruction: writing, reading, and speaking. In particular, it examines the way students and instructors physically manifest the act of listening, using their posture, their eyes, their hands, even their choices about where to sit. I call this “gestural listening,” and it is likely to be a familiar idea to anyone who has ever faced a room of students or audience members and wished for better tools to interpret their often profound stillness and quietness.

To bring gestural listening into focus, I put three bodies of work into conversation: the recently-coalesced field of sound studies, the ever-emergent gesture studies, and the pedagogical elements of rhetoric and composition. Deeply enmeshed in processes of writing and speaking, gestural listening emerges as a tool for destabilizing the usual ways of thinking about listening as simply receptive, rather than more complexly expressive. Ultimately, I argue that listening can be leveraged as a rhetorical force, and that gestural listening should be considered one element of a broader “rhetoric of listening,” which also encompasses listening behaviors in reading, writing, and speaking. Gestural listening can, at different times, manifest both as the exertion and the subversion of power.

My primary methods of capture are ethnographic in nature—for example, the vignette: brief, descriptive passages drawn from moments in my classroom and from my observations of other classrooms. Elsewhere, I use audio and visual recordings to capture both gesture and speech for analysis while also attending to lived experience. My synesthetic methodologies, which attend to auditory, visual, and kinesthetic aspects of classroom and tutorial environments, reflect the need to be aware of these settings in multisensory ways and to develop vocabulary for their sonic and embodied dimensions. Though my inquiry begins in scenes of writing instruction, the results of my research into gestural listening are not limited to pedagogical environments. The final chapter of my dissertation, for instance, handles instances of performative listening in contemporary civil protest, such as the phenomenon of football players “taking a knee” during the national anthem.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Feibush, Lauralaf79@pitt.edulaf79
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHolding,
Committee MemberCarr,
Committee MemberMajumdar,
Committee MemberJackson-Schebetta,
Date: 26 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 June 2018
Approval Date: 26 September 2018
Submission Date: 16 July 2018
Access Restriction: 3 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 3 years.
Number of Pages: 212
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: sound, gesture, pedagogy, composition, listening
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2018 23:31
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2021 05:15


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