Who cares? Rendering care readable in the 21st century feminist writing classroom

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Margaret R. Himley


Writing classroom, Care ethics, Feminism, Feminism & composition, Social justice education, Twenty-first century

Subject Categories

Rhetoric and Composition


My project analyzes how care can best circulate within economies of affect in writing classrooms to produce powerful and complex conditions for teaching and learning. I argue that writing teachers should create conditions of and for care to facilitate opportunities for global citizenship, where attentiveness, responsibility and connection are situated at the fore. I posit care is necessary to learning insofar as it creates opportunities for attentiveness, responsibility and connection; yet, desires to care (attach) and not care (detach) are historically significant and bound to our identities and experiences. I assess the limitations of multidisciplinary scholarship on care (as dispositions, moral theories, ways of composing, and labor). Further, I reread early scholarship in feminist composition theory that forges relationships amongst gender and care, and argue that these connections figure care in problematic ways. I utilize the postcolonial concept of encounter (Ahmed) in order to challenge this work, and to provide alternative methods through which to read classroom interactions.

My passion for this project emerges from the practical dimensions of teaching and learning. Thus, I explore what happens in a classroom when conditions of pain and suffering are evoked in order to bring about a kind of attachment to the other. I explore three different points of inquiry--classrooms, readings, and emotional work--to complicate the ways "others" make their ways into classroom practices through work in affect, emotions, and psychoanalysis. Finally, I argue students' voices and perspectives should challenge, revise, and strengthen our theories and our practices, as engaged and committed teachers. Thus, I discuss ways students experienced WRT 105 through informal interviews, as their knowledges function as resources that trouble theories rather than serving as objects of inquiry (Kumisharo).

My project re-vitalizes conversations about care in feminist composition theory and practice by offering new ways to think about the role of experience, identity, difference, and history in imagining new ways to care as responsible global citizens. I challenge ways to think about the relationships between care, composition studies, and ethics on a pedagogical, practical, and disciplinary level.