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Writing with Readers: Written Comments and the Teaching of Composition

Schwartz, Jennifer Whatley (2011) Writing with Readers: Written Comments and the Teaching of Composition. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines a widely practiced but often under-valued and under-examined component of teaching: the comments that teachers write on students' papers. I explore the intellectual and pedagogical work of written comments and the role of the teacher as the reader of student texts. In the first half, I focus on teachers as readers of student writing. I trace what I call a pedagogy of practical criticism—which operates primarily through close attention to student texts—through a group of teachers including I.A. Richards, Reuben Brower, Theodore Baird, William E. Coles, Jr., Mina Shaughnessy, and David Bartholomae. I also examine the common argument that teachers should restrain their authority when reading and responding to students' papers, and I argue that we should consider the positive, productive role of authority in teaching. I analyze scholarship on the issues of authority and appropriation, and I use student papers to look at how teachers negotiate their own authority in their response.In the second half, I focus on students as readers of teachers' response, with emphasis on the difficulties students face in interpreting what their teachers have written. I examine teachers' response in the context of other texts that bear commentary, such as William Blake's marginalia and Jewish biblical commentaries, paying special attention to the ways in which these texts embody both stasis, in the form of the words fixed on the page, and change, which happens through the dynamic and unpredictable work of readers. I foreground the potential difficulty of the more flexible kind of reading that comments often demand of students in asking them to change their own work or to think about it differently. I also examine the difficulty created by the differences between the knowledge and experience of, on one hand, the teachers who write the comments and, on the other hand, the students who must interpret them. I analyze a number of student texts with comments, and I consider the potential for learning that these comments offer—as well as reasons why that potential may not always be fulfilled when students revise.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Schwartz, Jennifer
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFlannery, Kathrynflannery@pitt.eduFLANNERY
Committee MemberShear, Adamashear@pitt.eduASHEAR
Committee MemberBartholomae, Davidbarth@pitt.eduBARTH
Committee MemberBialostosky, Dondhb2@pitt.eduDHB2
Committee MemberSalvatori, Mariolinamarsa@pitt.eduMARSA
Date: 30 January 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 6 October 2010
Approval Date: 30 January 2011
Submission Date: 10 November 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
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: commentary; interpretation; marginalia; reading; written comments; written response
Other ID:, etd-11102010-131133
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:04
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:51


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