An ecology of place in composition studies

Jonathan Scott Wallin, Purdue University


My dissertation, An Ecology of Place in Composition Studies, proposes a place-based approach to teaching writing in community engagement. My project addresses contemporary criticisms of ecocomposition by uniting the ecological foundations of the movement with pedagogical strategies used in philosophy and geography to teach students about place. Why is this needed? Students going to college resituate themselves, and often find themselves needing to adjust their compasses to find their place at the university. This contributes to a longstanding question that has been answered via rhetorical situation in rhetoric. It offers a practice of inquiry that serves to engage our students not solely with community partners, but also with the places inhabited by both the students and the partners they work with. In undertaking an immersive reflection of these places, students stand to move beyond a superficial consideration of situation and context, gaining an understanding of the nuance and details that encompass these ecological relationships. But it also has a practical origin in that students who are leaving their families and going to college must renegotiate their understanding of place in order to be successful in both the writing classroom, and as students and people. I contend that infusing writing instruction with a study of place is a step towards helping our students establish an ecological mindset, a mindset which recognizes how our actions interact with the actions and reactions of others, ultimately leading to outcomes that we cannot easily foresee. An ecological mindset favors empathy, understanding, and an acceptance of our role as constructive members of the communities in which we live. My dissertation reflects on the importance of an understanding of place in developing these attitudes as a writer, as a student, and as a citizen.




Sullivan, Purdue University.

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