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Title:Styling academic discourse: a sociocultural account of writing styles across disciplines
Author(s):Olinger, Andrea
Director of Research:Prior, Paul A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Prior, Paul
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hawisher, Gail E.; Mortensen, Peter L.; Koven, Michele
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):writing style
writing in the disciplines
language ideologies
sociocultural theories
Abstract:This dissertation advances a more rigorous theoretical and empirical approach to the study of disciplinary writing style. In scholarly and pedagogical conversations around disciplinary writing, there is a prevailing tendency to see disciplines as having singular, stable, agreed-upon styles; in the field of rhetoric and composition more broadly, empirical research on what styles are and how they develop is scarce. Definitions of style have been assumed, vague, or diffuse, without discussion of how and why they differ or how style is treated in other disciplines. Drawing on literature from fields such as sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology and from case studies of advanced academic writers in multiple disciplines, I contribute a new, sociocultural definition in which style is not a static, homogeneous artifact but a dynamic activity in which meaning is continually negotiated, often contested, and necessarily informed by the language ideologies of the writers, readers, and other interlocutors. Through analyses of writers’ texts, responses to texts, and talk and embodied actions (e.g., facial expressions and gestures) in literacy history and text- and discourse-based interviews, I show that the writers hold language ideologies that predispose them toward a belief in generic characteristics of good writing and universally accessible meaning and toward representations of styles as stable and discrete. But stylistic meaning, I demonstrate, is never stable: even disciplinary insiders disagree on whether a particular sentence is clear, change their minds over time about stylistic choices, and apply seemingly all-inclusive principles like “show, don’t tell” differently across genres, texts, and portions of texts. Challenging deep-seated notions that a person’s style knowledge and practices are established and uniform and that a discipline has “a style” that experts widely share and that can be mastered, this dissertation offers a productive framework for future research, teaching, and theory on style.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Andrea Olinger
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08
Related Item:Supplementary files are available at: http:/

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