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The Boredoms, Failures of Attention, and a Pedagogy of Opening

Hall, Carrie (2018) The Boredoms, Failures of Attention, and a Pedagogy of Opening. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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I take as my central premise that the ways we learn to pay attention and the ways we perceive attention are not solely neurological, but also cultural, and as such, perceived failures of attention like distraction and boredom are not failures at all, but rather mismatches of attention structure that comment on the power relationships out of which they arise. I investigate the ways cultures, institutions and language itself affect the circulation and demands of attention and the ability to fulfill those demands. I speak of boredom not as one thing, but of “the boredoms” as a family of feelings separate from apathy—not deficits, but distributions of attention that might not neatly fit the situation at hand. This dissertation focuses on oppressive boredoms—those that arise from trauma or feeling trapped in an educational environment, for example, or even feeling trapped in a cycle with technology—and how these boredoms affect literacy learning.

I compare studies on boredom and attention in cognitive neuroscience and literacy research in order to better understand the cultural constructs of attention, both in the research itself and in the rhetoric used to deliver that research. As a teacher, I examine the assignments and structures that give rise to essays that sometimes appear bored or boring. As a rhetorician, I close read these same student essays, looking at what the student has done instead of what they’ve failed to do. Building off of Sianne Ngai’s theory of “stuplimity,” I read student writing to look for the signal in noise and the order in disorder. If avant-garde writers can confound readers with repetitions and obfuscations and be called geniuses commenting on the drudgery of the capitalist machine, then perhaps some of the same mechanisms are inadvertently at play in student work. I show how students can adapt the resources of boredom to comment on and even challenge the machines (particular assignments, academia, Standard Written English, “addiction” to technology, trauma and so on) in which they feel trapped.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hall, Carrieclh134@pitt.educlh134
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCarr,
Committee MemberBartholomae,
Committee MemberHolding,
Committee MemberGross, Daniel
Date: 27 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 14 June 2018
Approval Date: 27 September 2018
Submission Date: 11 July 2018
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 204
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: Boredom, Literacy, Attention, Economics of attention, Socioeconomics of attention, Trauma, Stuplimity, Cultural Constructs of Attention, The Boredoms.
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2018 16:31
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2023 05:15

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