This isn't business, it's personal: personal narratives in the field of composition studies

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University of Alabama Libraries

I focus on three critical autobiographies in the field of composition studies: Mike Rose's Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America's Educationally Underprepared, Keith Gilyard's Voices of the Self: A Study of Language Competence, and Victor Villanueva, Jr.'s Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color. When I analyze the three critical autobiographies, I break down the culture, language, and ethos integrated into the personal narratives. Culture is the behavior, attitude, traditions, and expectations of a group of people or of a particular institution (i.e., education, home, religion, workplace, and so on). Much of my analysis of culture derives from cultural psychology and relies on the theory of Jerome Bruner as well as Clifford Geertz: scholars outside of composition studies who talk about personal narratives mainly reference Bruner's works. Language is the vernacular, the discourse, the dialect, and the ideology of a people or institution. I realize that culture and language are intertwined, which explains my recognizing a person's culture by way of the language she uses. Much of my analysis of language comes from sociolinguistics. Also, ethos (or character or personal ethos) is the virtue, good value, and high merit an institution or culture sees in its members; ethos also is one's commitment to an institution's or culture's traditions and customs. Much of my analysis of ethos comes from classical and modern rhetoric. I have come to realize a necessity for the personal in order to understand various features of culture, language, and character--aspects Gilyard, Rose, and Villanueva, Jr. express in their autobiographies and aspects students may better articulate in their writing tasks.

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Language, Rhetoric and Composition, Higher education